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

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:

Jack & John – new podcast playlist for #Cuimhne event

Our playlists on Soundcloud

New for #Cuimhne our Jack & John Playlist goes live.

Listen to the conversation between John Maher (Buzzcocks Drummer, Photographer and Engineer) and Jack Manchester, split into short bursts of particular stories for ease of listening.

We sadly lost Jack a short while ago but his wonderful family (Including ‘Our Graham’) have given us permission to share this treasured conversation. Thank you.

Click here for the Jack & John Playlist. 

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Cuimhne exhibition

The Cuimhne exhibition has been installed by skilled hands and we are ready for the main event! Registration begins at 9.30 on Monday 23rd April.

Just a reminder that the An Lanntair building is closed to the public until late in the afternoon on both days, so head to the website or box office to book tickets for any events, workshops or days that you wish to attend.

Lunch and dinner is ticketed over the event and tea/coffee is free to ticket holders during refreshment breaks. The bar will also be open for you to buy any additional drinks.

There is so much to enjoy at Cuimhne, so please use the hashtag #cuimhne and share everything that inspires you.

See you there!

Cuimhne Delegate bags

Gill Thompson has created an original Lino cut tile print design for our delegate bags for Cuimhne. You still have time to book and get your hands on one of these… which will contain a beautiful book about memory in Gaelic and English created by Maggie Smith and our wonderful community.

Studio visit


I popped in to Gill Thompson’s Brevig Harbour studio today, to drop off the Symposium bags for printing and to also drop off some samples of thermochromic ink for Gill to experiment with.

Gill is going to create a new lino cut tile for printing up our bags for delegates with an original print.

Gill has made an Artist Special Edition Sonic Flock goose that she will sew up to complete and it may have some friends by next week.

She is going to mount the collograph pieces that we made together on the ward at Clisham last year and they have now been used to create colourful panels of moorland, shoreline and garden birds (shoreline and garden birds shown here, the completed machair/moorland piece will be ready by Friday). These will be photographed to be printed on to waterproof panels for the Hospital garden and the originals will be framed (after showcasing at the Cuimhne Symposium) and will be donated to NHS Western Isles.

Gill has also created her own Artistic response to the work in a panel of collograph printed geese.

Gill will be offering workshops in creating collograph pieces at our Cuimhne Symposium on the 23rd and 24th April and she will be bringing a portable press so that the work can be completed there and then. Please book on to the workshops you want at registration because the places are so very limited.


Tuesday Ceilidh

Today’s Ceilidh on Erisort Ward saw 4 staff and, Ellie from Alzheimer Scotland, Chris Hammacott and myself gather with three visitors and five people coming from the wards. Talk was about a family accordion player, who composed reels for each person in the family and for special groups and occasions such as graduations and weddings, and the nurses on the medical ward.

We also had some conversation about who knew who, as is usual at these gatherings – one lady had been a teacher at Stornoway Primary and was remembered well by most people at the gathering – one gentleman mentioned ‘it’s okay as long as there is only one!’ It seems two teachers would be just too much.

We passed around Chris’s base for the Memory Tree in progress for the hospital Sanctuary space, letting everyone know that this precious resource will be available to everyone shortly.

Chris Hammacott taught some drop spindle techniques with a vivid orange fleece and this time, even I almost managed it. She must be a truly wonderful teacher. One of the nurses tried to convince me that she was a worse quilter than I am a spinner – she failed. It can’t be possible but I am improving slightly.

I left the tulips with a lady on the ward who had attended last week but was asleep this week. She woke up just at the end of the session, so I left the flowers with her. Her face lit up that she had been included and remembered. ‘They are lovely thank you.’

The ward has a collection of resources to use at the weekly gatherings and Ellie from Alzheimer Scotland always has some interesting news. Today, she was talking about the cruise ship, which came into Stornoway but was unable to dock, which raised a lot of interest among the gentlemen at the end of the table, while munching ginger cake and Stroopwaffels.