Inspired by Islay

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Over the past wee while, I’ve been working with Kate Davies and her team on their latest venture: Inspired by Islay. A quick scroll through old posts on this blog will show lots of content from Islay; I lived and worked there for a year in 2012-2013. My job involved Gaelic cultural-heritage with particular projects I initiated being about the connection between the landscape and language. It is on this topic that Kate asked me to contribute an essay to the book being produced as part of the project (sidenote: the book has gone to the printers!).

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Kate’s work has long impressed me, and I’m chuffed that she has come to me to contribute small bits of work to other projects over the years, where she has wanted to use Gaelic. Gaelic aside, as a knitter  and general culture/history-enthusiast I’m always impressed by the thought and consideration that goes into all she (and the wider KDD team) does and produces. Other folk contributing to Inspired by Islay include really astonishing artists, craftspeopleavian experts and photographers, so it is an honour to be included alongside them.

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Anyway, the photos here are some snaps from my archive of pictures from Islay. My time on the island wasn’t always a song and a dance so it’s been really lovely revisiting parts of the island I fell for, and exploring further the rich Gàidhealach culture I am part of.

For all of Kate’s blog posts to date on the project see here.
In other news, I started a facebook page for my work. Like, share, comment, etc.

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Holidays on Skye: Loch Coruisk

Fifteen years of visiting Skye and last week I went to Loch Coruisk for the first time. Accessible only by boat from Elgol or a long, long trek from Sligachan on the other side of Skye, it’s something of a feat to get there at all. Add three toddlers, a dog and some adults into the equation and the logistics go out the window. We made it, though, and it was worth every ounce of effort.

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We went with Misty Isle Boat Trips – a local company operating tours daily from Elgol. Going in an uncovered boat was great – 360 degree views there and back. We saw a basking shark, gannets, common seals. Apparently minke whales had been seen the day before. It was busy but the atmosphere was great. What a beautiful bit of the world this is! It’s humbling to be in a landscape where people are rendered so insignificant by the sheer scale of their surroundings.

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Note to self: don’t run out of camera batteryhalfway through the trip. Thank you to my sister who kindly loaned me hers instead.

Canalside – Edinburgh

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Leamington Wharf

As I write this, I’m occupying a small space in the canalside area of Edinburgh. The canalside is within the city centre, occupying a space within the neighbouring areas of Fountainbridge, Polwarth, Viewforth and Tollcross. The canal offers a space within the city that is quiet, green and community-driven.

I’ve been living in this area for a few years now and have seen radical changes in my surrounding landscape. Abandoned and derelict brewery buildings have been demolished to make way for shiny new student accommodation;  a new school is in the early stage of being built; a community garden has been opened in a former wasteland. Community-led initiatives are in place to hopefully stop mass office space being built and left empty like in so many other areas of the city, and instead develop some projects which will be of social and cultural value for the area.

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New heritage panels

While this area of Edinburgh has lots of individual neighbourhoods, the canal itself acts as a cohesive entity between them all. People from all the surrounding areas feel a sense of ownership over this place, contributing to community events and using as a fundamental part of their everyday lives. I really hope this continues as the area is further regenerated.

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Shawl detail from illustration on the textile panel

It’s a pleasure to have been a resident here for the past few years, and while I’m largely living and working away from the area at the moment, I take great joy in when I am able to return for a visit. One such visit earlier this summer coincided with the annual canal festival: a day of music, local producer and business stalls, boat trips, raft races and many, many dogs.

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I saw these interpretive panels for the first time at the festival having been told about them by my partner, and assured that I’d like them. He was right – I do. There have been semi-regular exhibits along this stretch of cladding for a while now, usually contributed by local school or community groups. The RCAHMS and Lost Edinburgh sites have good records of how the canal once looked (with this area near the basin looking particularly different now from how it did a generation ago) but there is scant information about the historic industry available along the canal itself. These panels are a great step, then, in making some of that rich history available to locals and visitors passing through.

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The panels are nicely presented – clear, concise, beautifully illustrated and well-used subtle colour to differentiate pockets of information. They are exclusively visual, though. It’d be great to see more of this kind of work employed as the area continues to redevelop and grow, hopefully with some audio or hands-on elements to engage different audiences.

I’ve not long left in Edinburgh before flitting again, but it’s an exciting prospect to come back and see more changes next time I’m here. For some photos of just further along the canal, see the gorgeous blog at Reform Lane here.

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Boats on the loch

One of my favourite blogs has a semi-regular feature called Ships in the Sound, detailing recent sightings of various kind of vessel passing through the sound of Mull. I always really enjoy these. As is evidenced by this very blog, I love being on the coast and like seeing what’s doing on the water, wherever I am. To this end, I thought I’d share some boats that have been moored and passing by out on Loch Indaal. There’s not been a lot of activity for most of my time here, beyond the regular big tankers that serve a nearby distillery, but the good weather recently seems to have brought my wee section of the loch to life.

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A few nights ago I saw what looked like a long strip of disco lights on the horizon between the mouth of Loch Indaal the tip of Rathlin Island. A peek through the binoculars showed it to be this boat, fully lit up on her way to Portree. No photos unfortunately but take my word for it – massive!