Issue 196
Winter 2016

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Jun 25, 2017
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    Iona My Life – in pictures

    The Abbey, from Hugh Buchanan's sketch pad

    ON A WARM summer evening in the last week of April, twenty six Scottish artists and their associates gathered around a dinner table in the hostel of the remote Hebridean island of Iona to launch a unique experiment to try and help reduce the impact of type 2 diabetes.

    They included well kent artists such as Hugh Buchanan and Kate Downie from Edinburgh, Bill MacArthur from Orkney, the sculptresses Leonie Gibbs and Deirdre Nicholls from Inverness and Edinburgh and the water colourist and fashion consultant Brenda Martin from Edinburgh.

    Other supporters included the painters Rab Fairley from Glen Uig, Iona Leishman from Perthshire and the noted surgeon Prof David Purdie.

    The project, led by this writer, aims to put together a collection of Iona related art which will be exhibited and sold at Summerhall in Edinburgh in the autumn* to launch the Iona My Life project which aims to support those following the radical diet and exercise regime which is being led in Scotland by the Prof Michael Lean, head of nutrition at Glasgow University.

    Working closely with Prof Roy Taylor of Newcastle, the two have been pioneering a radical new process in which sufferers are encouraged to lose a great deal of weight (aiming at perhaps a BMI of around 21) through undertaking a very radical diet followed by maintaining a low weight and a higher than average exercise regime.

    The experimental initiative has been seeing a considerable percentage of those undertaking this extreme process putting their diabetes into remission, although they stress that they are still at the experimental stage of their work.

    However, such has been the success of the initial work that £2.3 million pounds has now been invested by medical trusts into further evaluation of the thesis.

    One of the main problems with the scheme has proven to be the proscriptive nature of the initial diet and the stress of then maintaining the weight loss and exercise regime once the initial fear and excitement has passed.

    The Iona My Life initiative, which is not directly associated with the medical research, aims to provide a support community social structure through which those attempting to put their diabetes into remission by this radical approach can be supported through education and community activities. Should the exhibition prove a success it is planned to hold four Iona My Life residential cookery workshops on board luxury barges on the Caledonian Canal this October.

    The core concept of the initiative will be to provide the participants with a lifestyle that includes better food and fun than the sufferers had before their diagnosis, so that the treatment is not so much an ordeal as an opportunity to get fit and healthy.

    Iona island resident John Maclean, who was the first supporter of the initiative through renting out his hostel at a north end of the island at a reduced rate, was fulsome in his praise of the project.

    "I was genuinely amazed at the high quality of the art that was being produced. Much of the art that was produced by the earlier Iona Colourists such as Cadell and Peploe was created on what is now my croft and I found it rather moving to see these artists working from the same spots that they did."

    The initial funding for the project came from a Trust established by the late George MacLeod of Fuinary who served in the trenches with Cadell and who also knew him when he lived in Edinburgh.

    Paintings gifted to George MacLeod by Cadell will be amongst those hanging alongside the Iona My Life artists' works this autumn.

    Details of the project can be found on the Iona My Life facebook page.


    The Iona Exhibition will run from October 2 - 28 at Edinburgh's Summerhall.

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