Oct/Nov Newsletter

This is the Arora Dementia Friendly Community newsletter for October into November 17. Spoken word version on Soundcloud here.


DEEP Hills of Home Project
Duncan Mackinnon has been working with every resident at St Brendan’s Care Centre in Castlebay, Barra, to select and frame an image that means a great deal to the person. Working one to one, conversations were about favourite parts of Barra and why they are important. Here is just one image from that body of work.



We also installed Alex Boyd’s image from the same project at Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, on Erisort Ward in the Day Room.
I’ve heard so many conversations in the space since – ranging from why people are quite reverent about abandoned houses, being protective of them, to the pool in the neck of the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ hills beyond. I don’t remember hearing many conversations about the space before, so it feels as though the image is working hard to support people already. Of course, I have seen several people just sitting quietly and gazing ‘out’ through it, which is what I anticipated, after the initial conversations, so that was lovely to see as well.


Work continues on the Benbecula Hospital project – this final DEEP image will support people in hospital to feel more like eating in a homely environment.

Tuesday ceilidhs at Western Isles Hospital featured a spinning session, enjoying the new vinyl on the wall, home baking and some spooky local stories for Halloween, as well as celebrating harvest with some seasonal produce.


Ceilidhs continue across the islands – Duncan Mackinnon offers a weekly ceilidh at St Brendan’s home and at Cobhair Bharraigh and he also hosts some sessions with the Men’s group locally, reminiscing over military and seafaring life.

DEEP Dance
The dance project, funded by DEEP went to Harris House and was a riot of colour and traditional singing. We used the scarves to link ourselves together in song and through the movement and music. Louise Davidson and Maggie Smith led the session with joy, exuberance and cultural music, which was so well received.


En route to this session in Harris, I took Cathy on a photography walk.


We went along to the Museum’s first cultural music session, which was wonderful and our amazing Maggie sang.


The Art Ceilidh at An Lanntair featured Gill Thompson’s print making. We made some gorgeous Christmas cards, bags and tags. Art celidhs are happening in Benbecula and South Uist, this month some coiled pots were made with Kate.


The Me Time Day at An Lanntair featured Dawn Susan’s natural weaving, where we made some Christmas decorations and even started on a basket. Me Time Days at Taigh Chearsabhagh were spent print making with Margaret Joan.

Kellie Anne Keltie from Tagsa Uibhist came to visit and she joined in with our print making day at An Lanntair, while we had a chat.



The team had some diversity training with the Bird of Paradise Theatre Company.



Kate has undertaken Intergenerational learning training, Paula’s International Certificate in Intergenerational Learning has come through too.

Mhairi Law, Photographer, held a session at Dun Eisdean Care Centre, to work on cyanotype images with residents. We played with some feathers, which reminded a lady of her crofting days, some personal items such as glasses, plus some models of boats and snowflakes, which triggered memories of travel and childhood.


Mhairi Law then accompanied the wonderful Bella on her photography walk to Point.
Mhairi’s images will be exhibited later but in the meantime, enjoy my snaps of the day.


Chris Hammacott held a fantastic Me Time Day at An Lanntair, working on textiles with a gorgeous cushion kit, some patchwork and a worry doll. We gave out several kits to carers.




We have been featured in Luminate’s Late Opening publication as a case study in the arts.
Have a read of it here
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Friday 3rd November, Chris Hammacott held a Me Time session in Ness with carers, featuring textiles, flowers, worry dolls, patchwork, silk painting and we made plans for coming back to make duff and arrange flowers.


Weds 1st Nov, we launched our first two memory boxes in Stornoway Library and had a touchy/feely/bubbly session there over tea and cake.


Tuesday 14th Nov, we held a Fishing Memory Box session at Harris House. This box is available to donate to there until mid December but we will be holding another storytelling and song session around fishing at the end of November.



Late November, date to follow shortly, Tarbert Library is hosting the final launch of our first two memory boxes before they go out on loan through the library to anyone who would like them. These are the Crofting and Sensory boxes, but there is also a Transport box, a fishing box, an exhibition box and a seasonal box in progress.

The Deep Dance project continued with a session at Dun Berisay Care Centre in Stornoway. There were feathers, brides, shy maidens and egg shakers. There was even some dancing.



Kate has been working with the Cothrom Og Nursery and Trianaid Care Centre intergenerationally, to create sensory books together. This month, they have been working on clay buttons and fabrics and they are about to work on some cyanotypes printed on to fabric. All of the residents and children have lunch together on their intergenerational days.


Me Time
The next Me Time day is at An Lanntair on 29th Nov, print making with Gill Thompson.
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Art Ceilidh
The next Art Ceilidh day is at An Lanntair on 22nd Nov with Mhairi Law, making Cyanotypes and inspiring our photography.
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Photography Walks
Mhairi Law will be supporting some more photography walks in reasonable weather.
Some will be open to the public, so please have a look if you would like some pointers with your own photography. The dates will be on our facebook page.

DEEP Hills of Home Project
Duncan Mackinnon and his brothers have been working hard on an image to mount at St Brendan’s Care Centre entrance area this month. Here are a couple of images of the framing process. More pictures when the completed picture is unveiled later in November!


We have just had the brilliant news that we have been successful with our application to welcome a PhD student into our project formally for the ne4xt year. Her name is Lucy Robertson and her funded place will mean that she can continue working on the innovative Intelligent Textiles work that she has been doing with us over the past few months. Welcome, Lucy and we are looking forward to working with you again.

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The first project for December is DUFF DECEMBER – poster and dates coming soon.
As Clootie Dumpling or Duff is talked about so often during our sessions and because the food festival at An Lanntair has featured this heavily with a duff-off a year ago, we wanted to record some oral history of the local duff making and to create some sessions for hands-on making as a community. The first session will be at the ward ceilidh late in November but the first community session will be in the old cafe space at the front of Stornoway Library.  This will be 10am-4pm on Thursday 4th December. Bring your memories, stories, recipes, cloot cloths, and let’s have a go together!

Christmas film in the Pocket Cinema – Weds 6th Dec 1.30pm.

Me Time comes to Scalpay with a textiles session in the morning at Scalpay Community Centre. Date to follow shortly. This could become a regular group.

There will be a textiles session at Harris House in December.

Mid December, the Fishing memory box goes to the Library service, completed, for booking out.

Me Time Day in December – Date TBC

Art Ceilidh day in December – Date TBC

One of the Tuesday Ceilidhs at Western Isles Hospital will be the Christmas party. Again, date tbc.

Work begins on the joint DEEP funded digital dining project. This was created by people with dementia at the Inverness DEEP gathering in the summer and will involve people eating together using tablet computers to connect over a meal. There will be some group and some one to one events.

Intergenerational work continues with Trianaid and Cothrom Og Norsery.

Weekly ceilidhs continue across the islands.


Our conference and exhibition is in planning now. The conference dates are 23rd and 24th April but the full programme and exhibition details will be available in January.




Fishing Memory Box session

Maggie and I started a new Memory Box off at Harris House on Tuesday afternoon. We celebrated it’s birth with a storytelling, song and reminiscence session with residents, where we made some recordings of recollections relating to the box contents of images, ropes, the lovely knot board Maggie brought along and the creel.

We spoke about cooking fish as well as fishing. Ceann Cropaig, (in this case made without onions!), oatmeal herring made with soft oatmeal and there was a lovely story about a man who brought fresh herring around to sell, held together by a piece of string, but when he sold the herring, he always wanted the string back!

One gentleman could still tie a mean and speedy reef knot and he knew what all of the knots were used for. A lady was tickled by the monkey fist knot and slightly upset by the Turk’s Head (‘poor Turk!’).

We checked the quality of the creel making, ten out of ten, apparently. One gentleman was happy to hear that the knot board was made for Maggie by his brother. Maggie’s cork float from a fishing net, retrieved from her fence, was donated to the box, and eagerly sniffed by everybody, collectively deciding that it wasn’t actually that pleasant an aroma.

The box will remain at Harris House until Mid December, when it will go to the Library for booking out to anybody who would want to share it with friends, relatives, neighbours and people that we work with. For example, a Care Centre or a person caring for somebody at home can borrow it from the Library as though it were a book.

Other boxes in the series include a sensory box, crofting box, exhibition box and seasonal box, which is currently Harvest related. A Transport box is in progress on Barra.

While the box remains at Harris House, please contribute to it with stories, songs, fishing related memorabilia, images or artefacts. Maybe there is a fishing map pf the best places to fish locally? Maybe somebody has a special fishing hat or feathers they would like to share images of. Please email paula@lanntair.com or drop things off at Harris House.

We will be holding another session at Harris House in 2 weeks time, date to be announced, to offer more work around this, and to share songs, stories and memorabilia, so please come along and join in. Anything you know about fishing locally is very important to this project and will be supporting many people as the box is shared.


World Kindness Day

It was World Kindness Day yesterday. I was just thinking back to how my day, filled with funding applications, expenses claims, evaluations, finance spreadsheets, meetings, how my day gave me an opportunity to be kind.

Amidst deadlines and pressure, I had an unexpected call from the front desk about a visitor for me. 

As I peered over the stairs, I saw a smiling face under a gorgeous pink, woolly hat. A lady who has been part of the project for over two years, recently a carer and sadly recently bereaved, had popped in for a chat.

She asked if I was busy and of course I was but I brightly said it can all wait and she can help me play ‘hooky’ while we get a coffee. 

She ordered the most playful hot chocolate with a massive swirl of whipped cream, marshmallows and chocolate dusting and we had a lovely catch up in the cafe bar.

What a lovely reminder that amidst the pressure of deadlines and admin, we need to take time to be kind to each other and ourselves by taking a break. 

Carer’s group in Ness

On the first Friday of each month, Clan Macquarrie Community Centre opens its doors to Alzheimer Scotland to host a group for carers of people living with dementia in the Ness area.

I took Chris Hammacott along this time, to deliver some crafting kits of worry dolls and stencilled, quilted cushions and to talk about what we might do next time we meet.

Seven of us gathered for tea and home baked cakes, while enjoying Chris’s examples of her work.

We looked at silk painting, floristry, patchwork, worry dolls, stencilling, and some brooches. We decided to have a go at floristry nearer Christmas, to create natural decorations for our homes.

The conversation also led to the session we are planning at the library in Stornoway to have a Duff Day. We thought we could do that near Ness as well, plus other areas, to get a complete flavour of the art of duffery. We talked about the trepidation of the peeling of the cloot or cloth from the dumpling, taking care not to damage the much loved skin. It’s not a crust, mind. The mortification of a collapse – made worse if somebody saw! And how the peat stacks were herringboned beautifully with the best pieces but only the side facing the road. Family pride in all things.


To make a duff or clootie dumpling, oh yes.

Recipe? No! No need for that.
Handfuls of flour, spoonfuls of fat.
Never apples, tut, but treacle, oh aye.
And sugar and dried fruits and spices we buy.
You tell it by touch, bind it by hand,
Wrap in a cloth with room to expand.
You tie it all up and set on a plate
In a roomy old pot on the Rayburn hotplate.

Don’t let it boil dry, don’t leave it alone,
It boils for three hours and steams out your home.
At last, when it’s ready, it’s lifted all hot
to the table, uncovered, success or a flop?
The cloot cloth is peeled delicately pried
from this golden orb, privately, safe from eyes
Judgemental to collapse, oh the shame if it slid
But it tastes just the same on the plate if it did.

Covered in custard, demolished in a second
The skin, dried by the fire, is the best bit, we reckon.
Recycled for breakfast, in thick slices with bacon
No better aroma on a dark morning to waken
The family once again round the table
With steaming hot tea in our bellies we’re able
To stack up our cruachs, best side to the fore
To stoke up the fires to make us some more.

(a playful rhyme constructed from conversations at this gathering).


Moving Culture

“Well I don’t know what the news was, but it must have been good” This comment gave me a moment of realisation today. Yes it did feel like a celebration right enough.

We were in the dining room at a Stornoway Care Home exploring cultural movement with residents. As the melodeon Danns an Rathaid tunes flowed, risqué lyrics were sung in the corner, shakers were jiggled, arms and bodies swayed, engaging smiles and giggles were in abundance.

Louise Davidson the dancer had previously commented on the lack of response to jazz music and accompanying movement. I knew, the response I got to melodeon tunes with: words, recognition, feet tapping and stories. So we were off on a journey with Louise the movement specialist and me with the dualchas giving me wings.

How deep is melodeon music in the psyche of Hebrideans of a certain age?

I had brought chiffon scarves in vivid colours, they became veils, beannags and rainbows. One lady wanted a big yellow bow on her walking cane. Another purple cloud was wrapped in a napkin and secreted away. At the end of today’s session I was delighted to watch a lady with a feather in her hair, two contrasting scarves tucked under her and the distinguishable tsh. tsh. of a shakey egg from the folds of her chair, as she was whisked back down the passage to her room.

Mental note to self. Order more chiffon scarves and more shakers.

Louise brought large vivid green feathers and one lady rose out of her chair on the far side of the room and crossed the circle to tickle me with her feather. Was this affection? The gentle feather caressing, of the hair of the person next to you, went round the circle, several times. Is this an underlying emotion with scant opportunities for expression?

The smaller feathers were hair pieces, greens, purples and blues, a fetching feature in the grey.

Keeping an eye on the clock I wondered how long the vibe could be kept up. It must be waning now, I thought .But half an hour later, we were still going. One and a half hours of tunes from Roddy MacDonald, fortunately it was his indefatigable CD Fasan a dh’fhalbh.

When I co-ordinated that particular CD production I just knew it was the product of a moment of time and that I had to save it for the future. Thank you for sharing the tunes in your own inimitable style, sir. So grateful for the mix of barn dances, highland schottische, Gaelic airs and Danns an Sabhal tunes you learned, passed down by those who played by ear. Every track has a distinctive Gàidhlig blas and Hebridean-style timing from the 1950s.

What a privilege today to bounce around a room where everyone was in the moment, recognition of the music which is part of who they are. The result was the open mirroring of movements, impromptu playful participation and the light of joy in their countenance.

A visitor joined us for the session and sat by her mum and sang along to all the songs and tunes today. Was this a lady who had sang to her children and was the bond strengthen by this sharing today?

This visitor commented “I have had such a terrific afternoon and I have never seen so many smiles and heard so much joyful laughter in sharing, before”

When we closed the door of the care home and braced ourselves further into hoods in the chilly November wind, I heard myself say “Where are we going next?” Like an adolescent on a night out not wanting the party to be over just yet.

Dance with Louise and Maggie

Our dance project funded by DEEP continued today at Dun Berisay Care Centre in Stornoway.

Maggie was there bright and early and started with some Gaelic and traditional Scottish songs as well as some Melodeon playing.

We were focussing on traditional tunes and playful ceilidh style interaction.

Each person had a preference for the kind of prop that Luise had brought along. One lady was a menace with a feather, tickling everyone in sight, another loved the egg shaker and liked to shake it towards people, another lady loved the scarves, enjoying linking together with them and waving them towards a friend across the room.

We found people developing their own signature moves and styles, interacting with each other.

8 people got up and danced on their feet, while a further six remained seated and participated as they chose to from a seat.

Comments included

‘oh, she doesn’t need to be so shy!’ (about Maggie feigning coyness behind her scarf).
‘There’s nothing wrong with having a laugh from time to time’
‘Oh, this is so silly but it’s fun’
‘I had the best time’.
‘Thank you, I loved that.’
‘She’s very light on her feet’ (about Louise)
‘Come back soon!’


Dementia Friendly Communities

A lovely blog from uephebrides.wordpress.com about the session they did for us at the NHS Tuesday Ceilidh with our crofting memory box.

UEP Hebrides

Alzheimer Scotland tells us that in Scotland, around 90,000 people have dementia, and around 650 of those people live here, in the Western Isles. Although it doesn’t just affect older people, the chances of getting it increase with age which makes it especially important that communities such as those in the Outer Hebrides, which have an ageing population, think about how to include people with dementia in everyday activities to help them remain a part of their community.

Our Understanding Everyday Participation research is all about exploring the activities that people engage with and the values that underpin their participation, but equally important to understand is what might prevent people from participating and how this could affect their wellbeing. Dementia Friendly Communities, an Alzheimer’s UK initiative, goes to the heart of this question, encouraging everyone to take some responsibility for ensuring that people with dementia feel that they can participate…

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Guest blog from Dr Louise Senior, working on the North Harris Trust Oral History Project

I am just reblogging this guest blog because we have some wonderful images from Dr Issie McPhail from the session.


Issie and I were delighted to be invited along to the Tuesday ceilidh at Clisham Ward. We helped out by making tea and coffee for everybody and distributing the cakes and biscuits that Ellie had provided, and we enjoyed a bit of a chinwag as everyone got themselves settled in and comfortable.

Issie and I took along lots of visual information from the Community Land Scotland oral history project exhibition. It all relates to the history or land ownership in North and West Harris and the community buyouts. As none of the men and women who came along to the ceilidh had any Harris connections, we didn’t spend much time talking about it. It seemed better to focus on things that interested the people who were there. Luckily Paula and Kate had arranged for us to borrow their crofting memory box as it links in with our own project insofar…

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Memory Box Rummaging

Today’s Stornoway Library launch of the memory boxes and tablets was great fun with lots of sniffing and smelling, plenty of hand cream massaging, a little plasticine modelling, tea and coffee drinking, biscuit munching, chatting, laughing, plenty of rummaging and exploring and we even managed to fill the Library with bubbles and acquire  promotional  balloons!

Next stop Tarbert, and then everyone can book the boxes as they wish! 

We showcased the crofting and sensory memory boxes and the archive film tablets.

Three more boxes are in progress, a fishing box from Harris House, an exhibition box starting at North Harris Trust and a harvest box starting with Kate. Duncan is working on a Transport box from Barra with  Calmac and Upstream.