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History, heritage and the landscape to feature prominently in the work of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s arts residency programme.

The four new appointments to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI’s arts residency programme were announced today (Tuesday 20 May). A wide-ranging and intriguing programme of work over the next twelve months will use drama, literature, music and the visual arts to explore various threads of Gaelic culture and heritage and the landscape of the Highlands. 

Renowned Skye musician Blair Douglas is the new Musician in Residence. Dramatist Kenneth Lindsay, originally from Oban, has been appointed Writer in Residence, and artists Dr Kirsten Norrie and Murray Robertson will each complete a six-month residency at the College as the Visual Artist in Residence, a post which is run in partnership with the Royal Scottish Academy.

The College’s Arts Development Officer, Kath MacLeod, commented: “We are absolutely delighted to be welcoming four new artists in residence who all have particular project ideas for the coming 12 months. The writer, Kenny Lindsay, will focus on playwriting, continuing the development of Gaelic drama which has taken place here at SMO in recent years. Taking inspiration from the song ‘An Eala Bhàn’ renowned musician, Blair Douglas, plans to develop a project based around one WW1 soldier’s experiences and life-story through song, music, poetry and drama.

“The visual artist residency will be shared by two artists working for six months each. Dr Kirsten Norrie, a performance artist, will be working in film with a live soundtrack, utilising and referencing works in the College library. Murray Robertson, the artist and master printer, will focus on exploring the cultural and human response to two areas in Skye – the Cuillins and Duirinish – which have recently been identified as areas of ‘wild land’ on SNH’s  map ‘The Core Areas of Wild Land’. Murray is keen to discuss with Gaelic writers, poets and musicians their reactions to the SNH map and collaborate with any interested groups or individuals.”

Blair Douglas was a founder-member of Runrig and has since gone on to forge a successful solo career as a musician and composer. He made his solo debut in 1984 with the cassette recording ‘Celtology’. Four years later he teamed up with Arthur Cormack, Shona MacDonald and Cailean MacLean to record Skye: The Island, a celebration of music and song from the Isle of Skye. He has worked on numerous projects and recordings which include, ‘Beneath the Beret’, ‘Mairidh Gaol is Ceòl’ and Lasair Dhè.

Commenting on his appointment he said: “This is a unique opportunity for me – not just to create a major piece of new work, but to be artistically and creatively involved with the students at the College. I thank SMO and look forward to the coming year.”

Kenneth Lindsay has worked as an actor with several theatre companies across Scotland, including seasons with Dundee Rep, Perth Theatre, The Brunton and two seasons with Mull Theatre as well as work at the Tron, the Pavilion in Cumbernauld, Kings Theatre in Glasgow and the Tosg Gaelic Theatre Company. He has also worked as an actor/deviser with Theatre Hebrides on ‘Roghainn nan Daoine’ and his most recent tour was with Stoirm Òg in ‘The Idiot at the Wall’. As a playwright he has worked with Mull Theatre, Grey Coast Theatre and Perth Youth Theatre. His play, ‘The Dogstone’, set in his hometown of Oban, was presented as a co-production by the Traverse Theatre and the NTS in 2008. His short Gaelic play, ‘Fon Choill’, was seen at an Lanntair in 2009 and his most recent play ‘The Wrapping in the Hide’, was performed at Queen Margaret University.

Dr Kirsten Norrie, is a performance artist also known as MacGillivray. She has exhibited across Europe and recent performance art exhibitions have included a tour of England with ‘The Wolf in the Winter’ which was shown in Birmingham, Oxford and Dorchester. Kirsten intends to produce a silent movie with a live soundtrack inspired by her time at SMO and in the process embark on a journey which will allow here to explore her own Highland and Gaelic roots.

She said: “Being given the opportunity to make a silent Gaelic Highland film by Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is tantamount to opening a previously sealed room in your house to find it filled with wonderful and fundamental things you thought only possible in a dream. For me, this truly is a homecoming.”

Following on from Kirsten’s residency will be Murray Robertson. He studied at the Glasgow School of Art and lives and works in Glasgow. Although Murray has maintained an interest in traditional fine art and printmaking through many years of association with Glasgow Print Studio, his current professional practice is influenced by the research, development and application of new technologies, specifically digital imaging and printing. Murray has exhibited widely over the past 25 years in the UK and internationally. Of particular influence have been residencies and exchange programmes including: Künsterlhaus Bethanien, Berlin (1989-93); Yamanaka Fine Arts Centre, Kyoto, Japan (1995); JJ School of Art, Mumbai, India (2001/2003); Museo Grabado, Zacatecas, Mexico (2004); and most recently Lewis, Outer Hebrides (2013).

He said: “The SNH map is objective analysis and entirely based on the interpretation of satellite geographic data. Of course in reality no definitive ‘boundaries’ exist between ‘core wild areas’ and the remaining landscape. However, my interest lies in investigating the ‘borders’ and ‘overlap’ of these spaces, in particular the reactions and perceptions of those people who live locally or have occasion to visit the ‘core’ locations for pleasure and recreation.”

The residencies are funded as part of Creative Scotland’s Creative Futures programme, Creative Scotland’s programme supporting the development of Scotland’s creative individuals. This partnership between SMO and Creative Scotland has been ongoing for a number of years in order to promote and encourage literature, drama, music and the visual arts at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture.

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