Summer Newsletter

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The World Cup is well underway and the summer is gloriously back here in Lewis! How about a summer newsletter to keep the good feeling going?

First of all, all of the Spring news:

Cianalas begins

This two year body of work is called Cianalas, a Gaelic word relating to a deep seated sense of belonging to the Hebrides and encompassing all of the culture and the place.
The project is funded by Life Changes Trust and Big Lottery as a partnership and is a dementia friendly community project, which encompasses tackling loss, isolation and loneliness.
The work will not be quite the same as the last three years because our new remit is to root our work in research and academic partnerships. We will be working with academic partners to explore a handful of specific projects, for example Barvas Ware, Dance, Intelligent Textiles, Ceilidh Culture and the memory in song, Photography and Portraiture. We are also looking at digital connections between groups and individuals.

Sonic Flock
Lucy Robertson’s Internship through the Scottish Graduate Placement Scheme is over now but we do hope to continue working with her in the near future. We certainly remain part of her PhD research into how intelligent textiles, in particular sonic textiles, can support communication with dementia.
Lucy and I undertook a five-sites-and-two-islands-in-one-day (Solas, Harris House, Leverburgh Home, Blar Buidhe, Dun Eisdean) gifting tour of Lewis and Harris as part of our Dementia Awareness Week events
before she hopped on the ferry to meet Margaret Joan MacIsaac the other side to visit Taigh Chearsabhagh arts centre, a school and Sacred Heart Care Centre in South Uist to gift the remainder of the birds.
Other textile projects have involved collaborating with the Hospital Chaplaincy Team to create a memory tree piece of textile art with Chris Hammacott to support people with bereavement  and hope at the Sanctuary space, and a wall vinyl. This is now installed and we are completing the project with a door sticker and a hanging textile piece for behind the lectern area to give it a focus. Harris House residents have been working with us on three interactive wall hangings for the second lounge area walkway, which will have lights to switch on, illumnating fishing boats.

Mhairi Law_Cuimhne-130

Cuimhne Symposium
Our Cuimhne Symposium was a massive success with over a hundred people joining us in An Lanntair for the main two day event and a further 30 at Scalpay Community Centre for the Me Time Craft Fayre, including the Psalmboat Project meeting and the DEEP group. The Scarista Piper played for us there, which was such a treat!
You can see the blog post about it here
You can look at the Cuimhne film by Kate Macleod here

Life Changes Trust Human Rights, Citizenship & Dementia Conference
Lucy Robertson and I attended this event with some of our more recent films and textile pieces. It was an emotional one. We may have come a long way but this event served as a stark reminder of how much there is still to do. Human Rights, Citizenship and Dementia Conference 1st May 2018, Life Changes Trust

Scottish Ballet
We hosted three different sessions with Scottish Ballet and their dementia specific dance sessions on Friday 4th May. The team were wonderful and there was an opportunity for intergenerational working in Grianan/Solas in the morning, with two different groups sharing the fun.
Scottish Ballet three times in one day!

Me Time Project is over
The Me Time Project, funded by Wm Grant Foundation and administrated by Life Changes Trust is over now and I have just submitted a final report to Life Changes Trust for passing on to Wm Grant Foundation. The two Grand Finale events were particularly wonderful, with the Scalpay Craft Fayre and the Community Ceilidh at Horshader Shop, where the Me Time guitar group played to a crowd of 40! Here is a blog post about a planting session we did just before the end of the project, in Ness.

DEEP Dance is over
We eagerly await the completed Cultural Movement Film from Maggie but here is the film from the Uist Quadrilles, where we worked with the Uist Quadrilles group, Ceolas and Uist Film to create this intergenerational, community piece.

DEEP Hills of Home project is over
We are waiting for Lorraine at Hebridean Graphics to install the final vinyl at Benbecula Hospital but the images on Erisort Ward, Blar Buidhe and St Brendan’s Home in Castlebay are all in place and looking wonderful.

DEEP Digital Dining is underway!
We have undertaken a trial of digital dining and it looks like it has immense potential. The team is working on a guidance document to support this work going forward and we will be holding more trials this summer. The idea is to link groups to keep in touch with food as a common theme, although language lessons, growing, picnics and cooking are all going to feature.

Inverness Creativity in NHS/Social Care Symposium with Issie McPhail
John and Maggie attended this event in Inverness in June and we had a great deal of interest in the work we are doing, with some people from health and social care teams planning to visit us shortly.

Highlands event with Life Changes Trust
Life Changes Trust is looking to create a collaborative approach to longevity and a Dementia School of Leadership. Paula attended and showcased some of our recent films, while learning about the plans for a united, collaborative way forward.
Highland Collaborative Learning Event

The Material Culture of Basketry
We have been accepted for publication in a Bloomsbury book The Material Culture of Basketry, which is utterly thrilling, that our academic and community work is supporting a wider body of work across Scotland.

Birds flew back to roost on the ward
Our bird print panels, created by people on Clisham and Erisort wards at Western Isles Hospital with Gill Thompson, have been framed and donated to the ward. The gorgeous high resolution images taken by Alex Boyd are going to be printed up for the home where the gentleman now lives, who was heavily involved in creating the images but then went back home to the Uists.

Coming up this Summer

Saturday 30th June, we are holding a peat cutting picnic for anyone who misses getting out on the peats. We have been lucky enough to have my neighbour, Iain T, turf a bank right by the peat road in Shawbost for us, for easy access and we have booked some sunshine after two wet weekends for the occasion. See you there and I will broadcast some of the event through the facebook live event feature.

We are going to be re-making some Barvas Ware Pottery and this will lead to an exhibition and community workshops.

We are planning a Summer of Photography Adventures, so if you fancy a boat trip, a wildlife walk or have other ideas, please get in touch.

After all of the summer holidays, we are planning a ceilidh trail across all of the islands to celebrate and preserve village versions of local songs and dances. This will be a series of community, interactive performances and it may result in a song book or recordings/films as well.

Next year

We are undertaking a collaboration with the international photography project Eyes as big as Plates. It’s the first time it has come to the UK and we are very excited to support older people in our community to create art pieces and to enjoy their own photo shoot.


We are also looking at fishing terms, to build up our fishing memory box.

We will be continuing our ‘In Conversation’ series of podcasts and if you missed Jack & John, please click on the link and have a listen to the glorious conversation, split into bite sized chunks, where Jack Manchester shares thoughts on engineering and life with John Maher.

Screen Shot 2018-04-21 at 17.07.04

At the end of this two year body of work, there will be a showcase event.

That’s it for summer news and I will make another newsletter for you in the Autumn.


The Material Culture of Basketry

Bloomsbury Publishing will publish the book of the second Woven Communities’ symposium held at the University of St. Andrews in 2017, which we participated in as a project team.

The book will be titled ‘The Material Culture of Basketry’.

Our section of the book will be along these lines:

Collaborative essay: Memories in the land, the sea, animals and in people’s stories on Lewis, Jon Macleod, (Artist, An Lanntair, Lewis). Hand memories in basket-work and net-making among people with dementia in Uist and Lewis, told through life-moment stories and associated images, Paula Brown (Arora, An Lanntair, Lewis).

This is such an exciting development for the Woven Communities work we shared with the University of St Andrews and other partners and for our research development in this phase of the project.

Memory Tree & Vinyl in the Sanctuary

In collaboration with Western Isles Hospital Chaplaincy Team, the Cianalas Project team have been working with Chris Hammacott to create a unique piece of interactive textile art in the form of a memory tree. This is now available in the Sanctuary Space for people to use to celebrate the memory of loved ones.

There are rings on the bottom to use to leave personal mementos much like the ‘Clootie Well’ and specially created gifts of leaves and butterflies, dragonflies and flowers to pin to the tree. Public or private messages/names can be included on the items.

Alf Sludden from the NHS IT department donated a beach image from Uig, as part of the development of the Sanctuary space and our Cianalas/An Lanntair team shared skills to create a wall vinyl and install it, rather quickly, as you can see!

Thank you to everyone involved. We will now be working on a welcome sign and a hanging textile piece for behind the lectern area.

North Tolsta

Last week, we supported the North Tolsta dementia cafe run by Alzheimer Scotland to enjoy some fabric printing with Chris Hammacott.

I took along some home made scones, home made jam and crowdie and cream, fresh strawberries and some Palmiers for some summer eating.

Everyone created tea towels and bags with fabric paints and some block printing shapes, which were then ironed to seal them.

There were some very creative designs with bright colours and neat borders, symmetrical patterns and some freestyling.

It was wonderful to work in a new area with a new group of people and to extend our project reach into a location that we have not yet worked. 14 of us joined together and Lynne MacIver was there with her film camera.

The food went down well I didn’t have much to bring home! We have been enthusiastically invited back!




Highland Collaborative Learning Event

Earlier this week, I went to Inverness to attend the Highland Collaborative Learning Event as a project funded by Life Changes Trust.

Life Changes Trust is looking ahead to sustainability and longevity and aims to facilitate a collaborative effort moving forwards, creating a Dementia School of Leadership and Forum.

There will be many more events over the next year to offer opportunities for local stakeholders to gather and collaborate on sharing knowledge as a whole for dementia across Scotland.

There is also a tender opportunity through Life Changes Trust to apply to offer the infrastructure for these collaborative efforts and this skills/knowledge sharing.

I shared a couple of films of the dance and Cuimhne events that we have completed recently but the best part of the day was gathering around a table with such a broad spectrum of stakeholders including Community Safety, NHS, UHI, DFC Rural, DEEP, TiDE, Life Changes Trust, Alzheimer Scotland, the local authority and many more are keen to participate.

Votes for women


I was feeling a little conflicted around the time of the Banners project, celebrating votes for women with an immense public art work in Edinburgh recently.

At the time the banner was being created, I felt uneasy that people living in care centres aren’t always supported to vote and the physical toll of a trip to Edinburgh is immense on frailer bodies.

How do we participate and contribute to such a once in a lifetime opportunity?

Well, I have noticed that Artists who come to teach us new skills are equally learning skills from us. During the Quilter in Residence project, Chris learned to print images and text on to cotton paper. This was a technique I learned in Portsmouth for a community project in 2007. And the design of the worry doll carers kit was amended to create the dolls on the banner too.

Women from across the islands contributed squares based on women who inspire them. The completed piece included Gaelic and the phrase ‘No Woman Is An Island’. Some women provided images, which were printed on to cotton paper.

Our project work and shared skills contributed to the Western Isles banner and it made me realise that skills and ideas influence widely. I enjoy the knowledge immensely that people living in care centres and attending day centres locally are joining with us and offering valuable contributions to our community.

You are my sunshine

What a ceilidh on the west side on Friday!

The event was billed as 2-3pm but they were still going at 4.30! ‘Let’s do it again, maybe every month or two!’ , I heard from at least three people.

It was the Me Time guitar group’s first support gig and they were fantastic. Hadie gently supported everyone to have a wonderful time with it and everyone wanted to do it again. We had a violin, cello, ukulele, guitar and many voices.

The age ranged from a two year old girl dancing to every tune, to a lady in her nineties. Families joined young people from the guitar group (which has always been very intergenerational) and a group from Blar Buidhe joined us too.

Euan, our Museum Development Officer sang local Gaelic Bragar songs and a few favourites on request. The guitar group sang the Eriskay Love Lilt in Gaelic and there were several other Gaelic songs Balloch an Iasgaich and Eilidh.

It felt important to hear the Bragar songs so close to Bragar. They are precious local songs that completely suit Euan’s distinctive tone and style and he sings them with gentle compassion and respect. These songs need to be sung to preserve them.

That wasn’t the only beautiful moment though, there were many.

Seeing the little girl dance was particularly joyful. Euan’s uncle dropped by to join in, which was a surprise for Euan. We had 40 people enjoy the music, most people caught most of it and many stayed for all of it, whether by intention or happy accident. Holidaymakers, young and older alike.

One moment that had me in tears was when Euan played ‘You are My Sunshine’ for the Blar Buidhe group, inspired by a lady on the hospital ward’s favourite song that he learned to sing to her on Wednesday. The lady I was sitting with had been caught in a moment of missing her mother and was crying. She suddenly lit up and sang the rest of the song with me, saying ‘That’s an old, old song. I sang it as a wee girl. My mother sang it to me. How lovely. Thank you.’

It struck me how one lady, from her hospital ward, had communicated through a song, to another lady, living in a care home, through our amazing Museum service coming on tour to offer the singing session as an outreach offering.

Moments like this are truly special and I’m humbled and honoured to be part of such a wonderful community. It reminded me of a project theme of celebrating and respecting the valuable contribution local people make to their community from their beds and hospital wards. Islander to islander.

Thank you to everyone who participated, you all brought something to the event and made it really special.

Julie, from Horshader shop said ‘I’ll never, ever forget it and there will be more.’

Ceilidh on the ward

A little ceilidh on the ward at Clisham today with Euan on lead vocals and all the ladies joining in. We had a few requests and a good singalong. There were 12 of us altogether, including the staff team who came and went as they were able.
We enjoyed several local songs from Bragar, a couple of favourite Gaelic songs and a couple Euan learned especially for this session including a request for ‘You Are My Sunshine’. I’m pretty certain he’s never had a request for that before 🙂
It’s like New Year!
You’ll have a wee dram?
Come back any time!
One of the nurses actually shed a few tears at the way people were singing along. The cultural aspect of a ceilidh, where everyone interacts, talks about where they are from, where they are living now, local songs from the area and placing the singer to a village or town is particularly meaningful and highly personal.
Envious? Don’t worry, you can catch Euan singing Gaelic songs for FREE at Horshader Shop on Friday at 2pm this week (June 8th).