January 30, 2013
The town is the venue
Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe is well known for converting every nook and cranny in the city into a temporary venue. Perhaps not so well known is the Aberdeenshire town of Huntly where arts group Deveron Arts is taking this concept a stage further – with the whole town being treated as a venue. Its new project, Walks for Life is as much about health as it is about art and it’s won them national acclaim – as the most creative place in Scotland.
The town is the venue
Huntly has won a Creative Place Award which will enable it to develop an ongoing walking and art programme, Walks for Life.
The project will be spearheaded by Deveron Arts, an organisation that has been a galvanising force in the town for over a decade.
The £100,000 award is one of three that were presented by Creative Scotland at a ceremony in St Andrews on Wednesday 23 January 2013. Huntly won the award for a town with fewer than 10,000 residents.
Over the past 15 years Huntly-based Deveron Arts has been in the forefront of socially engaged artistic practice. Its residency programme has seen artists from as far away as China, Africa, South America and mainland Europe coming to the town to undertake projects with the community.
The town’s Room to Roam branding was also developed through an artist residency. More recently much of the organisation’s work has begun to focus around notions of walking through such projects as 21 Days in the Cairngorms (with renowned walking artist, Hamish Fulton) and Slow Marathon (with Ethiopian artist Mihret Kedebe) and ongoing initiatives such as Walking Lunch. Walks of Life will take forward this work addressing a range of issues including health, the environment and rural economic development.
Deveron Arts director, Claudia Zeiske, said: “Over the last decade Huntly, in common with many areas of the UK, has experienced a notable economic downturn and an increasing number of health problems.
“The Creative Place Award will mean that we are able to roll out a programme of walking and art activities in the coming months that will build on our previous projects, help the town to increase its profile as a cultural and outdoor tourism destination and the town’s residents to address certain health issues all through the medium of walking.”
In Walks of Life Deveron Arts will examine how “slow travel” can act as a counterpoint to the pressures of today’s fast moving world; how walking can help with both physical and mental health; and how the town can make the most of one its greatest assets, the striking countryside, in its efforts to support the local economy. An 18-month programme of activities will include regular local events, research residencies and commissions in the vicinity of the town as well as further afield.
Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Education, Learning and Leisure Committee, Councillor Isobel Davidson, said: “This is fantastic news for Huntly and the wider Aberdeenshire area.
“It is great to see part of Aberdeenshire’s creative community being recognised with such a prestigious award.
“The Creative Place award with help Deveron Arts to spearhead some exciting new projects in Huntly, including the Walks for Life initiative.”
This is the second time that Huntly has been recognised in the Creative Scotland Awards. Last year Deveron Arts won support for its The Town is the Menu initiative which saw leading food specialist Simon Preston working with the community to identify and create a signature menu for the town. Using many local ingredients and incorporating dishes of historic and personal resonance to local people, the dishes are now being served in hotels and restaurants offering visitors a real taste of Huntly.