January Feb 17 Newsletter

This is the Arora Dementia Friendly Community at An Lanntair Newsletter for January into February 2017.

You will be able to find a link to a spoken word version of this on our Soundcloud account.

Is it the end of January already? I can’t quite believe it. 2017 is making its mark in a big way.
I’ll start by telling you about the things that happened in January.

We are excited to announce the beginning of the contracts of our two Artist Practitioners in North and South Uist and Benbecula. These two wonderful Artists are Margaret Joan MacIsaac, who has a block of hours and an Artist Commission to support carers and people living with dementia in the Uists and Benbecula and Kate MacDonald, who has a contract with us and an Arts Commission until the end of March 2018. There will be much more news about this work as it gets going.

The 10th January saw the Western Isles Hospital Tuesday Ceilidh sessions start up after Christmas and the sessions are being evaluated by the NHS through Heather Baillie. I went along to the first evaluation session and it was a wonderful opportunity to share everything that has come from these much appreciated sessions through the past year. It was also a fantastic ceilidh session. These continue each Tuesday on the Erisort ward.

Later on 10th Jan, I met with Mairi MacIver, the Post Diagnostic Support Nurse and she brought a lady to meet me and talk about the events and opportunities that are happening locally.

January 12th, I was back at Solas with the incredibly talented Chris Hammacott, working on the Quilter in residence project there. Alzheimer Scotland has taken over Chris’s contract to continue the work to create a piece for everyone at the Centre and for a few people supported at home too. I still support these sessions when I have a matching time slot and the pieces that are still coming from these sessions are exquisite in their art form as much as the nature of the personal storytelling and support they offer. This project is being featured in the March edition of British Patchwork and Quilting.

On 16th and 17th January, Dawn Susan, Maggie Smith and myself went along to the Museum Education Centre at Lews Castle to work on Woven Communities to share the knowledge of basket making and grass weaving with Stornoway Primary School and groups from care settings and day centres. We had a wonderful time making willow fish, marram grass rope and bailer twine rope, and looking at baskets in the museum itself as well as Dawn’s own beautiful baskets.

The rest of the week was spent travelling to and attending the University of St Andrews Woven Communities Symposium through the department of Social Anthropology, hosted by Dr Stephanie Bunn. What a wonderful experience, sharing our knowledge and project images with other Basketmakers and Anthropologists. We didn’t really see the Anthropology connections before this Symposium but now we feel like accidental Anthropologists because of the very strong parallels and links with what other people are studying in the field. We hope to attract some excellent speakers for our own Conference in 2018 from this incredible group of people.

Monday 23rd January, Maggie hosted her first Cultural Movement session at Blar Buidhe in Stornoway, assisted by the wonderful Pauline, who is the Activities Co-ordinator there. There is a blog about this too. See CULTURAL MOVEMENT blog. Maggie has also composed three new Gaelic rhymes to support these three sessions that she has created to support people in care centres to exercise and reminisce in culturally specific sessions.

On Tuesday 24th January, we recruited a wonderful man, Duncan Mackinnon as our new Barra based Artist Practitioner. After an induction period, he will be working with the Barra community on community and music events to support people living with dementia and their carers.

On 25th January, we celebrated Burns Night a tad early with a Burns lunch, featuring the wonderful home made haggis at An Lanntair, along with traditional neeps and tatties and a wee dram (for those not driving!). This came just after our monthly dementia friendly screening, which was The Sound of Music this month. 14 people came along and enjoyed the film and we had 12 at our lunch. Some of the wider An Lanntair team came along to enjoy lunch with us because it was a fun and sociable occasion and because it is lovely to give people different social opportunities with new people to share a meal with. It also helps the team to understand the work we do and to understand the audience and their interests. (Picture from An Lanntair Facebook comment)


26th January, Maggie Smith was in a Lewis Care Home and has written a wonderful blog piece about this called MOMENTS. Have a look.

Also on 26th January, I supported the Alzheimer Scotland Carers Group Dinner at An Lanntair. We chatted about the next Dementia Friendly Film screening options, how carers would like taster sessions of music lessons and crafts and the most recent funding applications.

27th January saw the start of the Chinese New Year. It is the year of the Rooster. We didn’t plan anything specifically for this because, sadly, the Reverend Dr Iain D Campbell, the Chair of the Alzheimer Scotland Lewis & Harris Branch was seriously unwell in hospital and a celebration seemed untimely. Sadly, news came on Saturday 28th January that he has passed away. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

By way of tribute to Rev Iain D Campbell, I would like to say that I greatly enjoyed attending Alzheimer Scotland local branch meetings that he chaired, the project was immensely grateful for the funds that supported our South Isles Post from the Branch and I know that he was immensely proud of the local community and worked very hard to support it. The last time I saw him, he was visiting our Quilter in Residence exhibition at An Lanntair with his wife, just before Christmas. He was so keen to express his gratitude for the project and his joy at the joy the personal pieces gave to the people at Solas and their families.

On Saturday 28th January, Alzheimer Scotland Lewis & Harris Branch held their Soup & Pudding Fundraiser, which I supported by baking and volunteering at, and we all shared a few words and thoughts about the sad loss of the much loved Branch Chairman. I think he would have been proud that the fundraising spirit continued in his honour and that those who felt able under the circumstances, came along to support the event and each other.


Tuesday 31st January, I am attending the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group for Dementia at Holyrood. Any questions about the islands’ provision for dementia or about national dementia policies, please pass them on and I will put them to the policymakers.

Jon Macleod is now in Senegal for five weeks, at a UNESCO Heritage Site Island, researching culture, memory and oral tradition there. I will pass on any news from Jon as he sends it throughout his residency. Jon’s exhibition DEISEAL is going to Taigh Chearsabhagh next, so check that out if you are in North Uist.


Jon has also been working on the DEEP project work with a gentleman living at Blar Buidhe Care Centre. They have together come up with an image they worked on during visits to Stornoway Harbour called ‘Lazy Corner’. It’s a beautiful and timeless image and I hope that the vinyl wall image supports and engages everyone there.


We are just ordering the cases to hold the Memory Box work that will be shared across the islands via the Mobile Library vans. Museum Nan Eilean is collaborating with us by offering their Handling Collection to go along with our Sensory Collection. Maggie is going to be working on the Gaelic element of this work and the project should be live by the end of February.

We have started work on a ‘One Stop’ poster listing everything that is on offer for people living with dementia and their carers in the South Isles. Life Changes Trust design team are working on this, which we are so grateful for.


8th February at Pocket Cinema, the next Dementia Friendly Screening will be at 1pm. It will be a musical, we are finalising the title this week.

Tuesday 21st is the next Life Changes Trust Gathering in Perth.

Thursday 23rd Feb is the Alzheimer Scotland Carers High Tea at An Lanntair, please book through Bells Road local branch 01851 702123

Each Tuesday afternoon on Erisort Ward, there is a Tuesday Ceilidh to support people in hospital with memory and socialising. Please ask your nurse if you would like to go along.

More news will be added to Facebook and our Blog as it happens and is confirmed.

That’s it for now, I’ll make another newsletter for the end of February.