Research trip fuels ideas for Staffin Crofters’ Memorial

A RESEARCH visit to public artworks in the Central Belt – which will aid the creation of the much-anticipated Staffin Crofters’ Memorial – has been carried out the Staffin Community Trust (SCT).

The fact-finding trip to Edinburgh, Lanarkshire, Lothian and Perthshire, which was funded by Creative Scotland, was led by Emma Nicolson, the director of the Skye-based arts organisation ATLAS. Emma was accompanied by SCT director Sine Gillespie and local development officer Hugh Ross.

ATLAS is working in partnership with SCT on establishing a permanent memorial to acknowledge the 19th century crofters’ land struggle in Staffin which involved notable figures like Valtos man Norman Stewart, who was dubbed “Parnell” in recognition of the Irish land campaigner. Uprisings in other Skye communities, like Braes and Glendale, have been marked locally. But SCT and members of the Staffin community have long felt that there should be a lasting tribute to the efforts of their forefathers so their contribution in a hugely importnat historical period is never overlooked and younger people are made aware of the efforts to secure security of crofting tenure. More details about the struggle and the project can be found here

The group, who were also accompanied by Highland Council’s development and infrastructure officials Ann Hackett and Emma Whitham, viewed the James Turrell Skyspace structure near Loch Rannoch and the late artist Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Little Sparta Garden and the hugely popular Jupiter Artland, which are both south of Edinburgh. More than 50,000 people visited Jupiter Artland in 2014. A trip to see the Pig Rock Bothy at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh – which had been earmarked for a permanent home in Assynt, Sutherland – and a tour of Calton Hill’s monuments for a lively and illuminating political and historical audio trail were also carried out. Fruitful meetings with several creative people from the national arts world in Edinburgh were also held as SCT attempted to soak up as much knowledge and suggestions about public art as possible.

The trip allowed SCT to develop an understanding and appreciation of the contemporary artworks currently on display and ideas for what may, and may not, work in Staffin. A second and final research trip abroad will be organised later this year. ATLAS and SCT will then work on a brief which will invite artists from Skye, Scotland and overseas the opportunity to submit their designs. The “context-specific artwork” will be designed so that the artist contributes to the awareness and understanding of the local community of the potentially positive impacts and benefits of a commissioned public artwork/contemporary memorial. SCT would like to thank Emma Nicolson for her and her ATLAS colleagues’ efforts in organising such a varied and comprehensive schedule.