Absorbed in the nature of this place, we spent time recently playing with words and lettering made during residencies, to express something of the connection, comfort and wonder that can be felt just walking around here. With thanks to Louise Mor and Geoff Sawers for their lettering art and participation. More to come! Read more about the Resting Heart Project.
(3 minute read)
Textures of Wildwood, A.Durbin 2021
Moidart is a jewel of a place on the West Coast of Scotland. It’s my family’s adopted home, where we have been putting our roots down since 2010. On our doorstep, there's a world-class landscape, a beautiful tapestry of rugged mountain, coastal and woodland habitats. The area is rich in biodiversity and complex in geology. An abundance of mosses, ferns and lichens cloak the ancient oak trees. Wildlife including otter, deer and pine marten share the area with a smattering of humans, whose homes are mostly well hidden behind trees, preserving the atmosphere of wild remoteness and peace.
"Aspen Leaves" photograph (L),"Aspen Sky over Rois Bheinn", mixed-media collagraph (R) A.Durbin 2019
Artists, naturalists and writers inspired by Moidart have included Liz Lochhead, J.M. Barrie, John Singer Sargent and Mike Tomkies. Glenuig, just down the road, is famous for its traditional music and dances. Lochailort, just up the road, was known for Inverailort Castle, a “Gaelic Camelot” that had been taken over by Special Forces for training during World War 2. In more recent years, the area has been the focus of the "Ardnish" trilogy by author Angus Macdonald. However, the artist most strongly associated with the immediate area is Jemima Blackburn, a talented and distinguished Victorian illustrator, who influenced Beatrix Potter, was described by Ruskin as "the best artist he knew", and whose ornithological observations were cited by Charles Darwin.
Although a nearby land plot recently sold for an astronomical sum, housing opportunities for young families are non-existent. We were very lucky to be able to buy a reasonably priced plot and build our house here over a decade ago. Still pinching ourselves, we pause often to gaze in wonder over the loch, or watch the clouds moving across the mountain. As custodians of our small “patch”, we have been slowly developing our permaculture-inspired forest garden, with a few beehives and a small flock of hens and ducks. The hazel, gean and soft fruit bushes that we planted are now bearing a yield that the wildlife often beat us to. For me, getting outside is essential for health. Gentle physical activity, learning while doing, with calm focus, care and connection with nature take me well along my “Five Ways to Wellbeing”. The patterns and textures of the landscape are a source of inspiration and materials for my art.
Despite relishing those quiet, solitary moments when I’m walking or working in the garden or studio, I also enjoy welcoming visitors who come to join one of my husband’s wilderness skills courses, or stay in our airbnb spaces. At the moment we have a young family staying with us for a while. It is our pleasure and privilege to host them while they experiment with "tiny house" living, growing food and surviving! They seem like kindred, creative spirits who share a strong connection to this wild yet peaceful place. My hope is that theirs will be the first in a series of "Wildwood Arts Retreats”.
Find out more about my work at www.wildwood-arts.uk and sign up to my mailing list for more details of a new collection of art and writing made by people connected to - and by - this special place.
The Woodsman's Hut, 2021
Do you care about arts and culture in Lochaber?
If you live in the area and have a spare 15 minutes, I’d really appreciate your help completing this short survey.
Here's the link: https://uhi.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/arts-culture-lochaber
The study is part of my MA in Art and Social Practice at the University of the Highlands and Islands.
Could an Arts Centre be of benefit to such an extensive, rural region?
Do we need to make a home for the Arts in Lochaber?
The region of Lochaber (population c.20,000) spans a huge geographical area, centred on Fort William but including many remote rural communities ranging from Invergarry to the Small Isles, Morvern, Ardnamurchan, Kinlochleven and Ballachulish.
Public engagement in cultural activities occurs locally via village halls, leisure centres, and a number of arts-based organisations. There is no existing physical centre dedicated to the development of multi-disciplinary arts, serving the wider community of Lochaber. Local arts professionals have expressed frustration at the lack of co-ordinated facilities for theatre, visual arts, performances and workshops.
I have lived in Lochaber for over 10 years, and have more than 20 years experience working in participatory arts, including being on the management committee of an arts centre, and working for, and organising, community arts festivals. As part of the “Research Skills and Methods” module on my Masters Course, I have the opportunity to undertake a small research project. I would like this to generate some useful information for the region where I have made my home.
I am interested to find out more about the levels of public participation in arts and cultural activities in Lochaber, especially bearing in mind the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. I would also like to investigate how opportunities for involvement in arts and cultural activity can affect people’s wellbeing, quality of life and attitude to a place. I hope to identify some of the challenges and issues that may be faced by an arts centre serving a rural, dispersed population. Fundamentally, I hope that my study may shed light on the question of whether the region would benefit from an arts centre.
I am inviting members of the public to take part in an online survey, asking for their views on the subject. I will also be interviewing a small number of individuals with specialist knowledge of this subject. Along with the surveys and interviews described above, I will also be doing desk-based research to source background information on the region, issues relating to public participation in arts and cultural activities, and comparable situations elsewhere.
For more information on this study you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Those lovely people at Ewen's Room have asked me back to run another creative zoom art workshop.
For more details check out the Facebook Event page here: www.facebook.com/events/812481556280613
It will be another relaxing, friendly session where we experiment with simple printing and painting techniques, combining the results with LED lights, to create a unique piece of lit-up art to brighten the winter.
Join me for this workshop as part of Ewen's Room community project, Light Up The Dark 2021
Sign up by emailing email@example.com (places limited!) and I'll send a kit out to you! #lightupthedark
I'm looking forward to running a zoom art workshop for Ewen's Room on Thursday 11th February 2021 at 6pm.
For more details check out the Facebook Event page here: www.facebook.com/events/408032077193567
It will be an easy-going session where we experiment with simple printing and painting techniques, combining the results with LED lights, to create illuminated window-art!
Join me for a relaxing and creative evening as part of Light Up The Dark 2021
Sign up by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send a kit out to you! #lightupthedark
Alison Durbin is an artist, beekeeper and small-scale homesteader, based on the West Coast of Scotland since 2010.