Autumn newsletter 2019

This summer has been the busiest ever! Have a look at what we have been doing before looking ahead to the Autumn season.

Eyes as big as plates

An Lanntair hosted the international photography project Eyes as Big as Plates over the early part of the summer. The team worked from South Uist to Ness, in peat bogs and rocky landscapes, creating natural, wearable sculptures and taking portraits for an exhibition in the Spring. It was part of 2019’s Luminate Festival.

Exhibition to follow early next year!

Care home open day

Margaret Ferguson and I took some art materials, natural materials, fruit and flowers in to Blar Buidhe Care centre for their Care Home Open Day event earlier in the summer. We spent time together drawing from the items in front of us, exploring watercolour and pastels.

This event supported Margaret Ferguson through An Lanntair’s Artist Support Co-ordinator Sandra Kennedy to continue to work on her artistic practice since her Iolaire portrait work from photographs, by drawing portraits of the people living in the care centre, while spending time talking together.


I wrote A Day in the Life blog for BOLD Bringing Out Leaders in Dementia project.


Curious shoes

An Lanntair supported Curious Shoes with their Hebridean Tour this summer. An interactive play created for people living with dementia and their family, friends, neighbours, those who care, this was joyful and playful and the talent of the cast was most obvious in their flexibility and their ability to embrace full audience participation. The original music was wonderful, too!


Nevis Ensemble Hebridean Tour

An Lanntair supported the Nevis Ensemble with their Hebrides Tour. We welcomed them through the project to Western Isles Hospital yesterday and oh my goodness – I had never imagined a full orchestra in a hospital cafe before! I heard musicians afterwards describing the ‘transformational’ effect on the audience, many of them arriving in wheelchairs from the wards, the tears, the singing along. I would say that the transformation also reached the performers. Barely a dry eye in the house! These incredible people treat their tour as a holiday and don’t receive payment for the performances. I heard stories of being chased off St Kilda by a storm after the incredible high point of being the first orchestra to ever play there, barely getting back safely, and of sleeping on community hall floors, and of G&T on the beach. A grand adventure! The orchestra learned some Gaelic to perform a waulking song together, which was a whole new experience, adding a choir and full, rich orchestral sound to a traditional basic beat working song. I had to go along and see them again at the Callanish Stones last night, sadly rained off to the visitor centre but the vastly diverse repertoire offered some massively thought provoking listening experiences and it was wonderful to see people of all ages gathering to enjoy people of all ages performing. Check out the ensemble website and YouTube videos!



Lucy Robertson and Creative Clans

Have you noticed the craft bombing decorations outside An Lanntair and Solas this week? Go and have a look, because they are in place for a limited time only. They are part of Creative Clans, An Lanntair’s partnership project with Dementia Friendly East Lothian through Lucy Robertson’s PhD research into Intelligent Textiles for wellbeing. These pieces were made across the community in hospital, day and care centres and in open public sessions at An Lanntair, from a mixture of washed marine waste and thermochromic thread and some UV reactive beads. The project supports friendships made between the communities through DEEP gatherings and has been funded by DEEP. The installations will come down at the end of the Scottish DEEP gathering on 11th September.

Tuesday Ward Ceilidh

We had a couple of mentions in the Slainte staff magazine this Summer. Next week at Western Isles Hospital, Margaret Ferguson brings her Iolaire portraits to talk about at the Tuesday Ceilidh, following on from initial care home ‘bedside exhibition’ sessions.


Play and DEEP gathering

We have been recording in Wee Studio recently and are there again tomorrow, recording music and a Flash Briefing for Ron Coleman’s play and voice over for a film for Life Changes Trust’s three day conference event later in September.


The cast and production/tech team has been developing and rehearsing the play since June.


Ron Coleman’s play is called Caught in a Moment of Time and comprises Act One of a wider three act play that he has written to showcase his funded research into self-management of his cognitive impairment through AI/Alexa and to imagine our future relationship with such technology. The play has some gritty moments but is ultimately hopeful and features a beautiful Gaelic Waulking song from Alice Macmillan, folk songs from DEEP’s Paul Thomas, Contemporary and tango dance and poetry from Ron within the script. The play is free to attend on 10th September at 8pm but you need a ticket so grab one while they last!

The play is the cornerstone of the Scottish DEEP gathering at An Lanntair over 10th/11th September.

Life Changes Trust three day conference event

Life Changes Trust are holding a three day event on 16th/17th/18th September across the islands with a live link to the conference at An Lanntair on 18th September through the Life Changes Trust facebook page. The event includes storytelling sessions for people living with dementia, people who care and people who work in the field of dementia, to tell their stories to feed in to the conference.

Life Changes Trust have been holding regional events in all areas of Scotland and launching a new local grants programme in each area. Sign up for the free conference on eventbrite now to find out all about it.





Travelling Gallery to Barra on Thursday 17th October – more news about where shortly.

Duncan continues his reminiscence, photography, Transport Memory Box work on Barra but he has recently been branching out by including volunteer musicians in his performance work on Barra and he has started making monthly trips to South Uist to perform at Sacred Heart Care Centre. Sadly, we couldn’t quite meet up last time we were there because ferries were on yellow alert but he followed our session with Lucy Robertson and Margaret Joan MacIsaac by a day or two with another much loved performance.

The Material Culture of Basketry

The Bloomsbury book The Material Culture of Basketry through the University of St Andrews is almost finished. I sent my bio in today for my section of the book, detailing Woven Communities work across the Uists and other hand memory work. It will be wonderful to see this in physical book form – a permanent record of the wonderful contribution that this community has made to academic research. Jon Mcleod has also written a section of the book.

Dementia Inclusive Choirs Network event
Luminate are holding a dementia inclusive choirs event at the end of September at An Lanntair. More news about that shortly from Luminate.



Goodbye for now!

These newsletters are a labour of love, which take an entire day but I am sad to say that this will be my last one!

I’m stepping away from the project to put a roof on my Aberdeenshire house for a while. Managing a project house while renting here has proven too much of a juggle and winter will be approaching inside the cottage unless I go and roll up my sleeves! In the new year, I will think again about where to work/live and have no immediate plans except to see what comes up.

2019 has been unbelievably hard work but equally inspirational. It has been an amazing five years working on the project, across communities and within a dedicated and talented An Lanntair team and with funding partners who have all been so much more than funders.

Our project achievements have all been collaborative.

I have learned so much and made so many friends here. Thank you all for your support and massive contributions. Keep in touch because I’m not going far!

With love,



Facebook @cianalas

Twitter @dfclanntair

Instagram @cianalas_an_lanntair


Spring newsletter


This is the Cianalas project An Lanntair newsletter for Spring 19

I’m Paula Brown

Purvai, drumming, singing and a potential new project
Since last summer’s Purvai South Asian arts festival at An Lanntair, where we toured festival performances around care and day centres, we have continued working with Dal on developing this work.

Best practice teaches us that doing something to or for people is not quite as good as doing something with people, so we developed the work into participatory drumming and singing sessions. The height of best practice is to facilitate work by the community, and when Gaelic speaking elders started leading the session with their own songs, we recognised the value of this work and we are actively working towards a new project along these lines.

Working with Lucy Robertson and Dementia Friendly East Lothian

Work funded by DEEP between two friendship groups in Lewis and East Lothian has continued this Spring. The Cianalas project is rooted in research this time and Lucy Robertson’s PhD research at Duncan of Jordanstone into textiles for wellbeing has brought us wonderful opportunities to look at personhood, our past, present and future through soft circuits and thermochemic inks. We are looking in to how we share what makes us unique and connected through creating books to share, filled with our new designs.



The Material Culture of Basketry, Bloomsbury

Our Woven Communities project work with Dawn Susan and Dr Stephanie Bunn has flourished into an academic book, which will be published later this year. Jon MacLeod and myself have each written a section of the book. It is called The Material Culture of Basketry and will be published by Bloomsbury.

Lewis Hou has been back

He held a well attended double session at Western Isles Library for Science Ceilidh and in collaboration with our project with Maggie Smith, fresh back from speaking for us at Skye at Aros with Luminate.

I had a lengthy Skype meeting with Erica on the Science Ceilidh team, to contribute to their evaluation.


Barvas ware

Beach firing day – Our Barvas Ware project in collaboration with Museum Nan Eilean and Western Isles Libraries had a paper kiln firing day on Bosta Beach. Ceramicist Jana Grimm joined us with Helene from the Library team.

For Dementia Awareness Week 2019, 3rd – 9th June, we will be showcasing some pieces of this work at An Lanntair.


BBC Alba news An La

In March, the BBC Alba team filmed us for an An La slot about our memory boxes in collaboration with Western Isles Library and Museum Nan Eilean. Maggie Smith worked with the box, talking about the project and the contents.

Aros on Skye for Luminate with Maggie

Maggie and I travelled to Aros on Skye to give talks on ‘what makes a good art project for older people and people living with dementia?’

It was a thought inspiring day with a great opportunity to catch up with the local Alzheimer’s Scotland and NHS team as well as local projects. Caroline Dear was exhibiting, so I managed to get a personalised Artist’s talk!

Maggie gave a wonderful talk about her cultural Gaelic project work, complete with scarves and we enjoyed a q&a time at the end, before meeting for dinner to continue conversations.

The event was supported by Luminate and we will be welcoming Luminate back in June, when we will have Eyes as Big as Plates on the island, as part of the Luminate festival.

DEEP gathering in Inverness is this weekend, on Sunday  28th April at Evanton Woods, our dementia friendly woodland.

In September we will be hosting a DEEP gathering as we did last April – let me know if you would like to attend. DEEP can be a friendship group gathering or it can be grass roots campaigning. If you have dementia and want to be part of a national network of friends, let me know.

Life Changes Trust local events

Aberdeen – the Aberdeen event was very helpful to start imagining what the Western Isles event might look like in September. Representation from local government, housing, police, local groups, services. It was an informative, inspiring and helpful day.

Life Changes Trust work began with a meeting on our event in September. Meetings in Benbecula mean spectacular flights! There will be a three day event across the Western Isles in September. Work on planning continues!

New Play Based on Research about Self Management for Dementia

Ron is creating a new play with support from  An Lanntair, Louise for dance choreography and Rachel for performance direction  – additional funding from DEEP has been awarded to support performance and set design. This play details Ron’s research project around AI and self management of dementia.

Ron’s research work features in the Journal of Dementia Care right now.


New Deep Ness Group

There is a new Deep group coming in Ness headed up by Ron Coleman,  with a jewellery making class and a tango class from An Lanntair.

Tuesday Ceilidh

As ever the hospital ceilidh continues each Tuesday. The Chest, Heart and Stroke Association have joined the partnership with NHS Western Isles, Alzheimer Scotland and An Lanntair Cianalas Project.

Lucy Robertson has been including the ward ceilidh in her sessions of intelligent textiles, including thermochromic ink and soft circuits.

Valentines – this ceilidh featured love poetry, roses and chocolate. We had heart shaped balloon decorations too. Chat was about love, marriage and sweethearts.

Dal & 3rd birthday

We had 20 people at the Tuesday Ceilidh 3rd birthday party this week! Dal offered a fusion of Gaelic and Swahili folk songs, with everyone offering their recollections of lyrics and requests for songs. Dal drummed to a waulking song and Mull of Kintyre, while we heard tales of singing men in Glasgow pubs, ceilidh gatherings at homes at 9pm until gone 1am the next day ‘and we didn’t mind getting up early the next day because we remembered the night before’.
Romantic lyrics were discussed, giving voice to all kinds of experiences. ‘you had one man for life’…… ‘there were sailors and when they were gone, we’d be cheating on them!’…. ‘you had to try them ALL out’
(Raucous laughter)
That was a party 🎈
with NHS Western Isles, Alzheimer Scotland – Western Isles, An Lanntair

Barra and South Uist

Duncan has been working on local music, singing and imagery, photography and reminiscence on Barra for us for almost three years. He is working on the Transport Memory Box and podcasts with the community now, as well as ceilidhs across Barra and South Uist.

We have also been linking our Between Islands work at An Lanntair with Sacred Heart Care Centre and the beautiful yarns and patterns between the two islands.  We have been working with traditional Shetland and Uist yarns and patterns and connecting the two communities through work and family ties.

Winter 18/19

Over the winter we offered several screenings and sessions around local crofting films

Celebrated the old new year at the museum on 12th January with Maggie Smith and Euan Macleod.

We worked with Dawn Susan and Dal over several sessions

Lots of ceilidh trail sessions and studio recordings of local village songs and tunes. CD and podcast will be available in the Autumn.

Coming in the Summer/Autumn:

Nevis Ensemble – live music at Western Isles Hospital, August Bank Holiday. Click link for Nevis Ensemble

Curious Shoes performances in care centres – click to visit the website  27th and 28th June

Eyes as Big as PlatesLuminate brochureportrait photography project and exhibition


Would you like to take part in one of our latest art projects and have your portrait taken?

Eyes as Big as Plates is an ongoing collaborative project by the Norwegian-Finnish artist duo Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen.

Over the course 27th of May to the 4th of June Riita and Karoline will be inviting older islanders to have their own outdoor portraits taken using the different landscapes and materials around them. If you would like find out about having your portrait done please get in touch with Jon Macleod at

On Thurday the 30th of May Eyes as Big as Plates will be giving an artist talk in the community room at An Lanntair. The talk is free but booking is essential.

Luminate: Scotland’s creative ageing organisation

#creativeageing #anlanntair #luminate #festival #highlands #stornoway #olderpeople

DEEP gathering for summer on the mainland in June

DEEP gathering 10th/11th Sept in Lewis

LCT engagement and conference in Sept across the Western Isles 17th/18th/19th Sept.


Links and social media

Instagram @cianalas_an_lanntair

Twitter @dfclanntair

Facebook @cianalas

Deep website

LCT website

Big lottery website

Life Changes Trust gathering in Perth today

Today, I had the wonderful opportunity of not only meeting up with lovely fellow awardees from cohort 1 of the Life Changes Trust Dementia Friendly Communities but meeting many of the new round of awardees as well.

The Station Hotel was so full, we had no room for tables!

I tweeted from the event from @dfclanntair so please go and have a look at our twitter feed and follow us.

My break out group was all about the islands, which was a brilliant opportunity to meet Libby from Tagsa Uibhist, who has been working with our lovely Kate plus the team from Orkney! 

The AFC Aberdeen team mascots were in the house and posing for photographs, always great fun!

We heard wonderful talks from Tide carers, Alzheimer Scotland, MECOPP,  see our Twitter for all speakers, plus an exciting update from Life Changes Trust, relating to future opportunities.

We are speaking at the next gathering on 11th December.  See you there!

The Podcasts

The idea for the Gaelic language lesson podcasts came from a local care home, initially, where carers without Gaelic were struggling to understand people with dementia, in particular, who had reverted to using Gaelic through the progress of the dementia.

Carers tend to be busy people and island life often dictates that people have several part time posts, leaving little time for language lessons yet it remains vitally important to understand people’s needs and language preference in care settings. The Dementia Friendly Communities Project team at An Lanntair, funded by Life Changes Trust offers creative engagement and creative problem solving to people living with dementia across the Western Isles.

I remembered hearing Italian lessons, motivational speeches and poetry in toilets in England and across Europe and I thought that it might be a fun idea to record language lessons on care and conversation themes  with Maggie Smith to offer to carers to listen to in the car, on headphones and to be played in care centre toilets, to offer ‘Gaelic without trying’. So far, Maggie Smith and myself have recorded two of these podcasts and this will continue to grow.

The idea progressed to Gaelic Culture podcasts, which was based around our developing Box Scheme project, to offer boxes of culturally specific memory tools, which will be distributed through the Mobile Library system across the islands. The oral tradition of the island culture is heavily steeped in storytelling, songs and poetry learned by memory, rather than written down and it was important for us as a project to share it orally, somehow, to a wide audience.

Maggie Smith and Donald Saunders have recorded a series of Gaelic Culture podcasts at Wee Studio, relating to island life and culture, in Gaelic and English, to be downloaded and shared by people across the islands. These can reach people in their homes, in groups, care centres and day centres and offer Gaelic language and cultural celebration, which has been highlighted as being particularly important and meaningful to people living with dementia. “Oh the Gaelic singing was wonderful, it meant so much to me, I had tears in my eyes. My culture, my language…” (from a lady attending Cobhair Bharraigh centre in Barra, on hearing Maggie Smith sing). “Oh I love the Gaelic, it’s who I am. It wasn’t fashionable when I first went to school but I’m so glad it is now.” (from a lady living at Blar Buidhe Care Centre in Stornoway during a project Gaelic chat and singing session with wool spinning).

The Dementia Friendly Communities Project is also working on a collaborative project with the NHS and Alzheimer Scotland to reach people in hospital with podcasts, Playlist for Life, personal digital libraries, project popups and dementia cafe  sessions.

Forthcoming podcasts will include personal stories from people living on the islands, project news (in particular the Woven Communities project work with Dawn Susan, the Museum and Dr Stephanie Bunn) and the development into some local radio work.

Paula Brown

Life Changes Trust



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