Last chance to Luminate

As October and the Luminate festival draw to a close Doug Anthoney reflects on what’s been and what’s till to come.

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Age Scotland’s Jo and Brenda ready to embark on a vintage MacBrayne’s bus as part of ‘The Big Sheep’ event in Helmsdale.

On Saturday I saw a performance of Natasha Gilmore’s new community dance production; Ultra Violet, the culmination of a residency working with a range of performers from 3 to 63 years old commissioned by Luminate and Stirling’s Macrobert.  By turn exuberant and intimate, beautiful and funny, it lived up to its promise of taking the audience on a journey through the cycles of life and a celebration of the joy of connecting across generations.  You can catch the final performance of Ultra Violet on 31st at Macrobert.  And while there, why not visit the Greenhouse Gallery which is also part of Luminate.

If you are in Stranraer tomorrow why not drop in to a Creative Arts Festival Day of free arts and crafts activities, taking place at the North West Castle Hotel from 11am to3.30pm.  Try your hand at knitting, painting, floral art, exercise classes…and much, much more.

Up until 10th November you can still enjoy Re-Collecting Home, a fascinating, free exhibition in Inverness developed as part of Luminate.  Re-Collecting Home brings people’s memories, life-experience, insights and creative responses together with items from Inverness Museum and Art Gallery’s collections and photographic archives.

Unfortunately the talk planned by artist and photographer Aidan Kelly on 1st November at Street Level Photoworks has been cancelled.  Thanks to Hurricane Sandy is looks like Aidan is stuck in Chicago without a flight!

Age Scotland Regional Trustee Brenda Nicolson and Development Officer Jo Cowan reported back from the Big Sheep event in Helmsdale earlier in the month.  This was a community celebration of the work of Margaret Tait, a writer, poet and filmmaker who lived at Slowbend, Helmsdale in the mid-60s at the time of the release of her films ‘Caora Mor – The Big Sheep’ and ‘Splashing.’

Jo says: “It was a beautiful day as we headed up to Timespan for a quick lunch before embarking on day filled with creative experiences and discoveries. The afternoon programme – “The Sheep and the Land” kicked off in Helmsdale and District Community Centre with a welcome cup of tea and the screening of the first Margaret Tait film of the day “ Land Makar” – a landscape study from 1980 of Mary Graham Sinclair’s Orkney Croft. The visual experience was nostalgic stuff for myself, a farm-child of the 60s, the listening experience enriched by the wonderful Orcadian dialect in the soundtrack.

“Cara Tolmie’s sound workshop involved all participants, including some of the young people of the area who are helping with a recording project led by Oliver Mezger. Ollie is involved in a two-year programme designed to engage the older community across East Sutherland with digital technologies through the contemporary visual arts.

“During the workshop, we created a haunting “sound loop” of individual reminiscences drawn from a short session of sharing memories associated  with artefacts chosen from Timespan’s archive.

“The tour of locations related to Margaret Tait’s stay near Helmsdale was enhanced by our magnificent conveyance: a vintage MacBrayne’s bus. It also presented another great opportunity for reminiscence and for learning more about the history and culture of the area – ably related by local Portgower crofter, Esther McDonald, and Jacquie Aitken from Timespan. For the bus-spotters amongst you, it is a 1967 Bedford SB5, body by Plaxton – and is now part of the Macbrayne Circle Fleet.

“Following the tour it was back to Timespan for a traditional “high tea” and a chance to look around. The evening programme, “A Film and A Poet’s Voice”, first set the context for the time and work of Margaret Tait through talks by Dr Sarah Neely and Peter Todd and short performances by sound artist, Cara Tolmie and Lesley Harrison, poet.

“The film itself drew lots of local reminiscences from the audience – for myself, even just the sound of a “real” projector was enough to transport me back to that time. Scenes of the local lamb sales, school sports, highland games and numerous buses were so full of nostalgia for me that I still haven’t quite got round to thinking about it as a creative piece or about the “Clearances Context”. The mark of a good creative work – I’m still thinking about it and all its significance!

“To round up a great day, Brenda even managed to win a book of Margaret Tait’s poetry in the raffle!”

Luminate has shone a torch on many fantastic arts initiatives across Scotland, so what better way to keep yours in the spotlight than to enter it for the Epic Awards.  The Epic Awards, which are free to enter for amateur art and craft groups in the UK, are looking for groups that can demonstrate ‘Epic’ voluntary arts activity in 2011-12. This could mean improving life in their local community, working across generations, using technology in a creative way or simply achieving something really special with their art-form or craft.

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