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June 29, 2011

Artists and scientists set out on island odyssey

Island communities seem more vulnerable than most to the effects of climate change. Next month sees the start of a unique four year collaboration –  with groups of artists and scientists coming together to learn from each other and most importantly to learn from island communities about how they are adapting to climate change and what impact this has had on their cultures and ecology. The first voyage of discovery sets sail for Eigg via Mull, Rhum and Skye


Cape Farewell marks its tenth anniversary with a new focus, investigating how environmental and economic change impacts on communities and individuals. In relation to the Scottish islands, this includes investigation of the innovative use of local resources, the effects of environmental change on marine ecosystems and wildlife, the preservation of local culture and language, and cultural interventions to support and reflect life on the islands. 

42 artists, researchers and scientists including acclaimed Gaelic singers Julie Fowlis, Mary Jane Lamond and Mary Smith, poets Rody Gorman and Jo Shapcott, artists John Cumming, Ian Stephen, Andy Mackinnon, Stephen Hurrel, Annie Cattrell, Anne Bevan, chef Oliver Rowe, playwright Iain Finlay Macleod, novelist/filmmaker Xiaolu Guo, Eigg Heritage Trust spokesperson Lucy Conway, writer Sara Parkin and sailor Jo Royle – best known for sailing from America to Australia in a catamaran made entirely from plastic bottles – along with oceanographers and environmental scientists, will travel through the Inner and Outer Hebrides this summer as part of a series of voyages organised by Cape Farewell, in partnership with Cove Park. 

The four week-long expeditions will investigate the impact of a changing climate on the cultures and ecologies of Scotland’s island communities, and consider some of the grassroots adaptation projects being designed and implemented in response. A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warned that rising sea levels are likely to have a ‘severe impact’ on much of the UK’s coastline in coming decades, in particular across Scotland’s outlying ‘bellwether’ islands which face the full force of increasing extreme weather events. Scotland’s Highlands and Islands are, however, exceptional in the range of pioneering sustainability programmes, adaptation projects and knowledge transfer schemes being developed at both local level and at the forefront of EU sustainability policy.  They offer new imaginative approaches to the relationship between place, stewardship and community agency.

The voyages celebrate the value of local knowledge and connection with place, and are themed around the Gaelic language, island musical tradition and story-telling, marine and environmental science, local resources and the connection between people and place. Ideas and practice ranging from the Eigg community buy-out to the use of seaweed as a biofuel will be explored as a starting point for a longer term, four-year project which will include artists’ residencies across the islands, the documentation and dissemination through exhibition and public events of the experiences of artists and islanders, in particular stories of cultural resilience and survival, and the bringing together of local communities, artists and scientists across the Scottish islands to create a meaningful extension of the voyages.

The project is supported by Creative Scotland, Arts Council England, Lighthouse Foundation Germany, The Bromley Trust and the Compton Foundation.

The voyage takes place on a high-tech, low-carbon impact dolphin and whale research boat skippered by Jim Compton (Marine Conservation Research). 

The four week-long trips are as follows:

Week 1: 15 – 22 July: Oban, Mull, Rum, Eigg, Skye, Mallaig 

Theme: Community buy-out, food, energy, stewardship

A community event will be held at the community hall on Eigg on the evening of 20 July. Everyone welcome!

Week 2: 22 – 29 July: Skye, Soay, Canna, Mingulay, Pabbay, Barra, S Uist, Benbecula

Theme: Ecology, wildlife, energy, climate impacts and local resources   

A community event/ceilidh will be held at the community hall on Barra on the evening of 26 July. All welcome!

Week 3: 29 July – 5 August: North Uist, Berneray, Monachs, St Kilda, Harris, Lewis

Theme: The Gaelic language, song, currents, and story telling

An informal community event/ceilidh featuring Julie Fowlis, Mary Smith and Mary Jane Lamond will be held at Taigh Chearsabhagh on the evening of 30 July. All welcome! 

Week 4: 5 – 12 August: Lewis, Shiants, Skye, Eigg, Mallaig

Theme: Ideas of home, culture and its living context

Community event tbc


For further information please contact:

Ruth Little

07792 598855

Natasha Freedman

020 7620 6235