I’ve just put some protective frames around Gill Thompson’s print panels in preparation for gifting them to the ward next week. The hospital requires art pieces to be infection control friendly and wipe clean.

They are ready to go now. We will gift them to the ward after the ceilidh on Tuesday 5th June.

Firemen and a wind cockerel

5 people from the wards, three staff and a visitor joined me for the ward ceilidh today, after I managed to get to the ward – there was a fire alarm.

We still started on time and enjoyed the open windows in glorious weather. I brought along summery treats – strawberries, raspberries, scones with crowdie and cream, lemon meringue pie and some seasonal irises and roses for the table.

We had a go at making a wind cockerel and a badag. There was no wind to make it fly outside but it was still interesting to talk about.

We talked about where we are from – Leverburgh, Glasgow, Portsmouth, Stornoway, Geocrab, Taransay!

One gentleman was born in 1922 and thinks he is the last man standing from Taransay. I’d have liked to record his recollections but the lawnmower was enjoying the good weather too!

I picked up some tips on my peat cutting, which was helpful 🙂

See you all next week for the ceilidh.


All week 4th – 8th June – Lucy Robertson is gifting the #sonicflock to local people living with dementia (see event and please get in touch if you know somebody who would like one).

During the week – Memory Tree is being installed at Western Isles Hospital Stornoway Sanctuary Space. This piece by Chris Hammacott in collaboration with Western Isles Hospital, is to support people with emotions of loss and hope by offering a hand made, textile Memory Tree with leaves, butterflies and dragonflies to hold your memories and wishes.

During the week – Sanctuary Space wallpaper image installation. This image, by Alf Sludden, is selected by the Chaplaincy Team to support quiet contemplation within the Sanctuary Space. An opportunity to look ‘out’ across water and reflect.

Monday 4th June – gifting #SonicFlock birds across Lewis & Harris

Tuesday 5th June – Lucy Robertson meets up with Margaret Joan MacIsaac in North Uist to continue gifting the #SonicFlock birds across the Uists and Benbecula.

Tuesday 5th June 2-3pm – Tuesday Ceilidh on Erisort Ward.

Tuesday 5th June 3pm – Gill Thompson gifts the bird panels everyone on the ward made with her to Clisham Ward.

Wednesday 6th June – Euan Macleod sings on Clisham Ward 2.30pm.

Thursday 7th June – Memory Boxes on display at Lews Castle Museum for the Tea Dance event organised by the Nicolson students for Alzheimer Scotland.

Friday 8th June – Euan Macleod sings Gaelic songs at Horshader shop and cafe, Shawbost 2pm. FREE. All welcome!


Caring Hands planting in Ness

Chris Hammacott offered a lovely session making outdoor planters today, for the carers at the Dementia Friendly Cafe run by Alzheimer Scotland (usually) on the first Friday of each month.

These planters featured a gorgeous Geranium centrepiece with Lobelia, Nasturtium, Busy Lizzies, Begonias, Pansies and little seeds to drop between. I am hoping we get to see some pictures of when they all start blooming.there was much laughter about the Ness wind and how we were going to support the little plants to survive in the gales (where is the summer, by the way?) and we decided that we might need to bring them in to porches in cold spells until we are properly in to summer.

Every care partner is in a unique situation, by the very nature of caring and we have been supporting people who care in many different ways.

With kits made with the kinds of techniques taught at evening classes, made by the Artists themselves, to support people who want to come to evening classes but are unable to find ways to be freed up to do so. Everything needed to complete a project is included in the kits, along with an instruction sheet and often a video.

With teaching in towns and villages where people live, such as on Scalpay and in Ness, because travel can add to the time needed to participate and removing this barrier can support people to learn new skills or reconnect with past pleasures.

With gatherings, offering a space to gather and support each other.

With supporting other organisations and partners, where possible and where needed, in order to support community cohesion and support each other to achieve more and to reach more people.

Alzheimer Scotland run a series of dementia friendly cafe sessions across Lewis and Musical Memories travels around Harris venues.

This session was recorded on camera by Chris and she will be writing about it for a gardening magazine shortly.

Human Rights, Citizenship and Dementia Conference 1st May 2018, Life Changes Trust

img_1084This was an emotional day. I was grateful for the Paths For All walk at lunchtime around the park in Perth and I was grateful for my habit of not wearing mascara.

So often, we hear about people doing their utmost to stay positive and live well with dementia (often against so much to fight with internally and externally) and in my work, I am enabled to focus on the bright moments that art can offer, the facilitation of communication that relationships offer and it all feels quite positive.

However, for so many people, unpaid carers people living with dementia, it is such an immense struggle, highlighted by the TiDE carers presentation today. I would be surprised if anyone could hear that powerful session from brave and resilient carers without feeling a deep sense of hurt alongside them. I was almost holding it together until Anna Buchanan gave her emotional contribution at the end of the morning.

Oh my goodness, we all feel for you, we are all supporting you and we all want to help.

Lucy Robertson came along and showcased her sonic flock work with us, and I also took along the memory tree from Chris Hammacott for the Western Isles Hospital Sanctuary Space. We showcased the bar reel from Cuimhne and the Uist Quadrilles film. See below.

I was honoured to speak on a panel about Dementia Friendly Communities after lunch. We took several questions and I hope that the island perspective helped.

The academic viewpoint also supported the day, it was enlightening to hear such academic support and it parallels nicely with our own work with Universities and academic partners.

I saw lovely Moira Lamont there, I’m sure we will catch up with her on Uist soon.

And a little video of our view from our lunchtime stand

Uist Quadrilles project film

Scottish Ballet three times in one day!

Well they say you can’t have too much of a good thing and it was certainly the case with Scottish Ballet on Friday 4th May.

The wonderful team (in various parts) joined us first at Solas Day Centre, where we were joined by the group from Grianan for some beautiful group dancing to live piano music based on the Highland Fling production touring right now. We did some ceilidh dancing, some partner dancing, we introduced ourselves with our names and actions to go with it and we learned some storytelling moves with scarves and a set of bells.

Next, it was back to the office to complete the financial year and end of project accounts and then a speedy walk to Dun Berisay. Here, we enjoyed piano music again and as many residents needed to be seated, we shared a parachute dance together, which was a lovely group activity to live music, along with some scarf dancing and each taking turns to dance with Miriam.

Finally, we went to Dun Eisdean, where we met Principal Dancer Beth, who shared her point shoes and passed them around, had a little dance with everyone one to one and then we did some arm warm up movements, followed by some scarf dancing. Then Beth simply danced for us, to gasps, exclamations of ‘oh, wow’ and ‘amazing, isn’t she beautiful?’ and even ‘Oh, HeLLO!’ to fits of giggles. The most adorable question was ‘if I had a pair of those shoes, would I be able to do that?’.

Maggie and Louise joined all of the sessions, to learn from the process and to facilitate and support everyone to participate with familiar faces.

Here is Beth in slo-mo, dancing around Dun Eisdean:

And here is Miriam at Dun Berisay, enabling everyone to dance, even a gentleman seated in a wheelchair with the use of one of his hands was enabled to fully participate, which he appreciated, enjoyed and it was just perfect.

Cuimhne event

Youtube film by Kate Macleod of Cuimhne 

Finally, I have time to sit and write about the amazing Cuimhne (Memory) event over the 23rd, 24th and 25th April – the exhibition continues at An Lanntair until 26th May. Take a look at social media for #Cuimhne for more accounts and images.

I will break it down into the areas where each part was held, as the event, looking back, was so extraordinary, I don’t think An Lanntair has ever seen anything like it (or ‘ambitious’, as our CEO Elly Fletcher called it :-).

Enormous thanks to our wonderful volunteer Maria, who manned Registration for hours, with the most beautiful welcoming smile.

Enormous thanks, also, to the incredible An Lanntair team, especially Christine, who stepped in to support late in the day and for everything that everyone did to create a delicious, engaging, visually captivating, inspirational event. I could list a million tasks which were undertaken to the highest level of dedication such as gallery hanging, food design, preparation and hosting but all of you were fantastic, so I’ll avoid that.

Thanks in abundance go to our entire community, who enabled this to happen. Your generosity of spirit and time and your eagerness to engage with us made all of this come together. You have been leading this project and we thank you enormously for the direction that you took with it.

In the Gallery:


The #sonicflock from Lucy Robertson flew in here just before opening day, with Lucy Robertson launching them during the two day event (photos Mhairi Law, films Paula Brown). Lucy also spoke in the Auditorium about her PhD project, to support communication through textiles and in particular with sound.

There were many workshops from Caroline Dear, Dawn Susan, I definitely saw Stephanie Bunn making a marram horse collar, and a live waulking songs performance from Laxdale Choir.

The museum exhibits were outstanding – in particular, a puffin snare from St Kilda from the Highland Folk Museum, which inspired a new ensnare and enfold memory snare from Caroline Dear, a public art piece which was completed during the event.

The gallery was filled with commissioned pieces from our contracted Artists Margaret Joan MacIsaac, Gina MacDonald, Kate Macdonald and there were films from Kate’s Uist work relating to Gaelic toy making and Uist Quadrilles.

One wall was filled with the international photography project ‘Eyes as big as Plates’, which will form part of our project work in 18/19.

Level 3 walkway:
Academic posters were on display here, with the poster presenters on hand to answer questions about their work. Harris Oral History Project from north Harris Trust featured a new memory box of their work (in collaboration with ourselves), a film and a display of some of their work. Our other memory boxes (available to book for free through the library service) were on display here. Our Jack & John series of podcasts was also displayed as a film on this level. Check them out on our Soundcloud.

Community Room and out on the forecourt:
This room was host to Maggie Smith’s Gaelic working songs workshop until the beautiful weather took everyone outside to sing. It also hosted Kate’s Gaelic toy making workshop.

In the Harbour Room Restaurant:

Lunches – we enjoyed home made soup, wonderful bread and meat/cheese platters on both days.


Conference Dinner

The conference dinner on Monday 23rd April was a wonderfully sociable affair, with people from all walks of life gathering and there was even a birthday celebration.

50 of us gathered and dined on An Lanntair’s own vegetarian haggis or local roast beef with an abundance of veg and some whisky sauce. The dessert was Kenny’s own carrageen pudding with rhubarb soup, which surprised everyone with it’s deliciousness and texture. Check out the wobble!

Island Food Tasting:
Cllr Alasdair Macleod led a wonderful food event, which featured Guga from Iain (from Ness), Maggie’s Crowdie, herring, oatcakes and kippers, Alasdair’s Mother in law’s duff, scones and we made some butter together, illustrating how hard the churning is on the arms. Stepping Stones Restaurant sent some carrageen pudding to try and some fresh carrageen to handle.


In the Auditorium:

Nancy Macadam BEM opened the conference along with Cathy Parkin on Monday, assisted by Maggie Smith with a Gaelic welcome.

On the Tuesday, we were welcomed by Agnes Houston MBE.

Rhoda Macdonald supported the entire event with her MC skills, ensuring the event flowed around the building, weaving around the talks and films.

Mhairi Law_Cuimhne-3

We heard from many speakers, Caithlin Macaulay from the School for Scottish Studies, showcasing the voice of islanders. Our Keynote Speaker was Tim Ingold on ‘The Sustainability of Everything’. Dr Stephanie Bunn, Dawn Susan and Caroline Dear spoke about Woven Communities. We screened the film The Mystery of Angus MacPhee. We also screened Aldona Watts’ film Land of Song, with her Directors’ Talk, and offered live traditional music from local musicians. The DEEP group spoke with Paul Thomas and Philly Hare, and showcased Dementia Diaries as well as the work of DEEP.  We did some live video of this very personal and insightful section, as it was the words of people living with dementia, who had travelled great distances to come and speak with us.

Our funders Life Changes Trust and BIG Lottery Scotland in the shape of Anna Buchanan and Lesley Galbraith came along and spoke kindly about us and about how we fit into their work.

In the Education Room:

Chris Hammacott taught everyone how to spin with her home grown fleeces on a spinning wheel and a drop spindle. Gill Thompson shared her techniques on collograph printmaking here too.

In the Green Room:

The Scottish DEEP group held their Spring Gathering.


Our delegate bags were designed and printed by Gill Thompson (individual works of art, each one!) and were filled with postcards of island foods from the valued knowledge of our community and with the gorgeous book from Maggie Smith and the community Toil Inntinn (The Will of the Mind).

In the Bar

The bar area showcased our DEEP Hills of Home project with the image from Blar Buidhe and Norman Mackay/Jon Macleod. Gill Thompson’s prints were there too, which we made in collaboration with people staying on Clisham Ward. The bar television screen showcased a reel of images from the past three years of dementia friendly community project work.

The words of people from our community were on the walls in the gallery, on the stairwells, in the bar, everywhere.

Dementia Diaries had a bit of an upload frenzy with so many enthusiastic delegates diarising about their experiences. Here is one from Nancy Macadam:

And one from Agnes Houston:

Scalpay Community Hall and a road trip:

To finish the event, on the Wednesday, we offered a trip by mini bus for the DEEP group delegates to see Callanish Stones and the Visitor Centre, Scalpay Community Hall and the Craft Fayre, compete with Scarista Piper and then on to Harris House to meet people there, where Paul Thomas sang for us and I delivered the silk painted cushions back to their thrilled and grateful owners after the exhibition.


Nancy talks about it here: