The Hebrides – Things You Have to Do and See

I spent three days working in the Hebrides this week. I’ve not visited in the summer before, only the winter, and what a fantastic place Lewis and Harris are in the glorious light of the sun. After doing a couple of digital consultations with some clients, talking websites, social media, cloud storage, mobile and tablet devices and the merits of having a mac or a pc, I got to take some time to explore the North Uists for the first time. So I’ve compiled a list of the things which I reckon are not to be missed if you ever find yourself over on these sunny isles.

1. Harris Tweed

There are so many amazing designers now making the most beautiful items from Harris Tweed these days, it has become a fashion must have for sure. Although I wasn’t able to get the jacket I really fancied (it was about £500), I was able to take a good look around some of the stores in Stornoway and around Tarbert.

Harris Tweed

Harris Tweed

Recommended Harris Tweed Outlets:

2. Firstfruit Tearooms

I had the most wonderful tea and scone, lunch and afternoon hangouts at the Firstfruit tearoom in Tarbert. It’s a fantastic family run summer joint where you can chill in the croft space or bathe yourself in the sun outside in their garden. It’s a fab place to meet other tourists and chat about travels around the island. Great value for money too.

First Fruits tearoom

First Fruits tearoom

3. Callanish Standing Stones

These amazing stones were pulled and heaved into place about 4,000 years ago by the inhabitants of the Hebrides. No one is certain why they were put there and for what purpose, but I imagine they would draw people in from all over the island as a place to come together as a community, for shared experiences, and perhaps even some form of worship – in someways its not changed all that much! There is a great little visitors centre there too with an exhibition, unfortunately the weather wasn’t that great when I went and two enormous coaches of tourists arrived just as I did, but it is definitely worth the visit and for a wonder around, it’s not too far outside of Stornoway either.

Calanish Stones

Calanish Stones, JM Barries Signature from the Harris Hotel, and looking over Tarbert

4. Hebrides Art Cafe

Hebrides Art Cafe

Hebrides Art Cafe

If you like your art, or colour, then a trip to Seilebost to see the Hebrides Art Cafe is an absolutely must. Not only is it an exquisite drive down to the South end of Harris, but the cakes and paintings are to die for. I would rank this gallery as one of my favourite of all time. It was relaxed, friendly, the location was amazing, and the talent of the artists and maker’s on display was incredible. All art in the gallery has to be inspired by the Hebrides and about 50% of the exhibits are from local artists. I was overcome by the beautiful colours on display – always have been a sucker for the colours of the sea. Will be saving my pennies for a piece from there soon (managed to buy a couple of postcards as a reminder!)

Hebrides Art, Seilebost, Isle of Harris, HS3 3HP.

5. Stornoway Black Pudding

If you are going to take a trip to Harris or Lewis then you absolutely have to stop and pick up some original Stornoway Black Pudding. The butcher who made the original pudding is based in Stornoway, not far from the high st. It is perhaps the most delicious piece of blood and guts I’ve had to date, it just melts in your mouth – we’re saving the piece I brought home for some Sunday black puddin’ rolls! Yummm.

Stornoway Black Pudding

Stornoway Black Pudding


Make Works Tour in Inverness #thisismakeworks

This morning I got out and about to attend the Make Works Tour and Creative Industries Information Day at Cowan House in Inverness.

The day was hosted by HIE and emergents, and led by the lovely Fi and Vana from Make Works.  Fi Scott founded Make Works during her final year studying product design at Glasgow School of Art, after an internship in Brooklyn Fi returned with a realisation that it’s not that easy to find the practical means  to get things made here. She found after talking to a number of designers, makers, artists, craftspeople, architects, creative practices and manufactures in Scotland, they also expressed a need to be more closely connected with industry, machines, materials and the whole design to production process.  And Make Works was born.

Make Works Tour in Inverness

Make Works Tour in Inverness

The organisation itself is independent and design-led, it aims to celebrate and debate making, manufacture and materials, while connecting design with local industry. Their big project is the Make Works directory. The goal is to create a digital platform providing practical and relevant information about how to get things made in Scotland – from prototype to wholesale manufacture, this would be a directory for makers, manufacturers, factories, specific machinery, material suppliers and workshop or studio space.

Fi and Vana spoke very passionately about their vision to see Scotland’s craft and design industry, whether small cottage industries to large-scale manufacturing plants, showcased, documented and utilised by skilled designers and makers up and down the country.

I myself have come across a number of maker’s in the past who are looking to outsource or have products manufactured for them and simply can’t find, with ease, the right factories or companies in Scotland with the tools and know-how to do what they require. In one instance a maker ended up using an Indian based company despite her best efforts to want to use a Scottish company.

In some ways the Make Works directory will become our very own product design and producing online dating service. We want to be able, as makers and designer, to know who to approach, how to approach them and how to strike deals with manufacturers or people with the tools/skills we need to realise our design dreams.

Bashing out ideas for Make Works

Bashing out ideas for Make Works

What make’s the Make Works directory unique is its approach to collecting and displaying the data they are gathering at the moment while on their tour of Scotland. Instead of your bog standard name and contact details, Fi and Vana are visiting and meeting with the people who run these businesses, interviewing them, and producing short 90 second videos to accompany each entry into the database so we, the users of said directory, can actually see who the business is, what they do and how they do it.

The session today at HIE was looking at what our experiences are with production in Scotland and how we might want to use a directory like this. One of the things which was very much supported by all designers, makers and other interested parties at the session, was that we want to be able to say that our products are ‘Made in Scotland’ – completely. Not just that the company is  based in Scotland, that the materials might be from Scotland, but that the whole production process and therefore the making of the products are 100% Scottish.

Encouragingly Fi and Vana said they have been surprised and delighted by the number of creative businesses and manufacturers out there, and that there really isn’t any obvious gaps in the market. Which is fantastic for us makers, it’s just a matter of connecting the two together and making some beautiful work together.

The Make Works tour is currently under way, as Fi and Vana travel around the whole of Scotland in their Tartan VW camper called Rhubarb – you can follow the tour on their website and by following #makeworkstour

The aim is to launch the directory next April – so watch their space!

Inverness Castle and Ness River

New Beginnings

As of June HI-Arts, the cultural development agency for the Highlands and Islands, closed its doors after 20 years of providing support to the cultural and creative sectors of the Highlands, Islands, North East and beyond. I was privileged enough to work there for four years, where I was able to hone my skills, develop my knowledge and work with a talented group of individuals across Scotland.

This month I have set out on my own, as a freelancer based in Inverness, I aim to continue to work with the cultural and creative sector, as well as the tourism sector and with small businesses or all persuasions. My focus will be on marketing, promotion and audience (or customer) development, and after working so closely with numerous small businesses in the creative field on making the most of the digital and online world, there will be a slant towards taking advantage of the world wide web.

I’ve since started a 9 month contract with Strathpeffer Pavilion, a beautiful 19th century spa building in the lovely little village of Strathepeffer, about 30 minutes away from Inverness. The Pavilion is the UK’s most northerly Spa and now runs as a multi-purpose venue for the community, the Ross and Cromarty area, Inverness and beyond. The Pavilion puts on live music events, theatre, classical concerts, craft and food, arts and photography fairs, weddings and conferences. In the last couple of months it has doubled it’s staff members and has an eye to becoming the provider of choice for all types of entertainment and events in the Highlands.

I’ve been brought on board with Kris Reid to assist the team in developing and improving their branding, marketing and promotion, press and media relations, programming, sales and income generation, audience development, sponsorship and friends schemes – so quite a bit to do.

I’ll also be continuing to work with Pamela Conacher and Avril Souter on their crafts development programme, which has now joined with Peter Urpeth’s writing programme to form a new organisation; emergents. I am delighted to be able to continue to provide marketing and development support and advice to the many makers on the Making Progress and Made to Measure schemes over the next year.

To top all this off, I’m going to continue to work with HIE on their IT Engagement Programme, as a specialist advisor and trainer, specifically in social media. In the last year I’ve delivered workshops in Dornoch, Orkney, Oban and Caithness.

Over the next couple of months I’m also working on setting up a social media marketing  business – so watch this space!

If anyone is interested in finding out more about the services I can offer please do get in touch

The Conundrum of the Workshops

When the flush of a new-born sun fell first on Eden’s green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves, “It’s pretty, but is it Art ?”

Wherefore he called to his wife, and fled to fashion his work anew –
The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review;
And he left his lore to the use of his sons — and that was a glorious gain
When the Devil chuckled “Is it Art ?” in the ear of the branded Cain.

They fought and they talked in the North and the South, they talked and
they fought in the West,
Till the waters rose on the pitiful land, and the poor Red Clay had rest –
Had rest till that dank blank-canvas dawn when the dove was preened to start,
And the Devil bubbled below the keel: “It’s human, but is it Art ?”

They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart,
Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: “It’s striking, but is it Art ?”
The stone was dropped at the quarry-side and the idle derrick swung,
While each man talked of the aims of Art, and each in an alien tongue.

The tale is as old as the Eden Tree – and new as the new-cut tooth –
For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth;
And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart,
The Devil drum on the darkened pane: “You did it, but was it Art ?”

We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg,
We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yolk of an addled egg,
We know that the tail must wag the dog, for the horse is drawn by the cart;
But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: “It’s clever, but is it Art ?”

When the flicker of London sun falls faint on the Club-room’s green and gold,
The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mould –
They scratch with their pens in the mould of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start,
For the Devil mutters behind the leaves: “It’s pretty, but is it Art ?”

Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the Four Great Rivers flow,
And the Wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago,
And if we could come when the sentry slept and softly scurry through,
By the favour of God we might know as much – as our father Adam knew!

Rudyard Kipling — 1890

This is it. This is Craft.

Made It! Exhibition 2010

Made It! Exhibition 2010

 Intellectual, physical, unique, challenging, beautiful, useful, tactile, extraordinary, cutting-edge, innovative, aesthetic, visual, thought-provoking, handmade, multi-disciplined, cultural, designed, artefacts, visual, sensitive…is this contemporary craft?

In recent years contemporary craft makers have been challenging our perceptions of what craft is, pushing the boundaries of traditional craftsmanship and emerging to represent a new, innovative and exciting art form. Jenny Deschenes, Laura West, Lucy Woodley and Daniel Kavanagh, four makers from across the Highlands and Islands, demonstrate in their joint exhibition Made It! the ingenuity, passion and creativity that contemporary craft is today.

The Highlands and Islands have long been a natural home for craft, its inspiring landscapes, rich mythology and wealth of natural materials, have contributed to the rise in interest and desire to understand, see and own Scottish craft, from both the traditional and contemporary sides of the spectrum. Craft is an integral part of the economic, social and cultural life of the Highlands and Islands, and its diversity combined with the increasing professionalism of the sector has opened up greater opportunities for growth, both for makers and for craft audiences. 

In order to sustain, grow and advance such a culturally rich and engaging art form, contemporary craft has been the focus of a number of initiatives set up and delivered by the HI-Arts Craft Development team. To support the emerging professional contemporary crafts makers in the Highlands and Islands HI-Arts launched the Making Progress programme back in November 2009. The mentoring and business support scheme was designed to support mid-career makers, demonstrating exceptional potential in their chosen field, and enable them to develop new work, be supported by talented and established Highland makers through mentorship, to exhibit their work, and develop their understanding of curating, marketing and management. 

Ceramics, textiles, wood and jewellery are the dominant disciplines for the Scottish craft scene; however the four makers selected for the Making Progress programme represent the diversity of contemporary craft today.

Jenny Deschenes A Chair

Made It! Jenny Deschenes

 Drawing together vintage fabrics with textile design, Jenny Deschenes’ work highlights how a maker can bring the old and the modern together with style and exciting flair. “I am interested in the intimacy of old fabric, to keep the character of old cloth but yet to infuse it with a new modernity and style.”

Laura West has reinvented the way bookbinding can be infused with art and craft. West has created her own signature range of unique artefact books which take inspiration from historical and multi-cultural book structures, “they are unique and contemporary artefacts meant to inspire the user and enhance them or their surroundings.”  

Daniel Kavanagh works with fine art ceramics which demonstrate both a classical and contemporary style, and is developing a fusion of bronze and ceramics to create unique and inspirational sculptural forms. 

Working from her studio in Tain, Lucy Woodley takes inspiration from her local environment, the sea and its many creatures finding itself as Woodley’s muse. Woodley’s jewellery brings together silver, gold, slate and sandblasted glass to create the sense of the flotsam and jetsam of the ocean. 

Made It! Spotlight Show Laura West

Made It! Spotlight Show Laura West

I was able to catch up with two of the Maker’s; Daniel Kavanagh and Laura West, to talk about their experience of the Mentoring Programme. The programme was designed to give these maker’s the freedom and support to explore their full potential, as West explains; “the mentoring process was like being given ‘permission’ to explore new materials and ways of working in order to come up with a whole new collection of work”. 

As maker’s based and working in the more remote and rural areas of Scotland it was important that through the mentoring programme there was a greater sense of community around their own artistic craftsmanship. Kavanagh felt he had really benefited from the experience as the “opportunity to be part of a collective group of makers has been a new experience … and one that has provided a lot of insight and reflection, just being able to share ideas about your work and the practical parts of exhibiting and applying to shows as well as the more humanistic opportunity to talk about the stresses and positives that being a maker can present has provided support and guidance that has allowed me to feel less isolated and more informed”. 

Made It! Mentors and Mentees

Made It! Mentors and Mentees

If anything the mentorship programme not only enabled these maker’s the time and space to focus on their craft and develop beyond their comfort zones, but gave them the confidence to face the future as a professional craft maker. “I feel excited by the future and what I have learnt on the programme and believe that this is a valuable experience for any maker at any stage of their career, it is easy to get bogged down by the day-to-day commitments and to have an opportunity to work in a structured way has allowed me to view both my work and my development in a new light”, Kavanagh explains. West echo’s this sentiment, admitting that the pieces she created for her Spotlight show “opened up a whole new range of possibilities in my work…No binder that I know of has attempted to move into the world of fashion in the way that I am attempting”. 

But the experience also had a profound affect on the mentors involved; Gilly Langton and Eileen Gatt. Gatt worked with Jenny Desenches and Lucy Woodley who felt the mentoring programme ‘has been a very rewarding experience, seeing [Lucy and Jenny] develop and become clearer about their career path. The mentoring process has been a very positive experience for everyone involved and it has proven to be a two way process, as I have gained a lot in terms of networking opportunities and the exchange of ideas and contacts has been valuable”. 

The theme of the exchange of ideas is a prevalent one across the Made It! Exhibition, with works on display, courtesy of the Craft Council, from notable maker’s such as Rupert Spira and Tord Boontje, the four maker’s were able to draw on collection items which have inspired their own practice, to exhibit alongside their work. 

Immersive Recordings

Immersive Recordings

Another exchange of ideas culminates in what might be perceived to be a video installation, but on closer inspection are videos of each of the maker’s and their mentors working from their own studios on their craft. HI-Arts partnered with Distance Lab to create these immersive and extraordinary insights into the world of the craft maker. Distance lab is a creative research institute bringing together digital media technology, design and the arts to redefine and overcome the issues and problems of distance. This collaboration required each maker to wear immersive recording devices (HD bullet cameras) around their chests, to have the freedom to move around and work in their studios. The overall effect is one of feeling very much a part of the craft and artistic work which you are viewing, rather than simply being a passive viewer. These recordings bring a totally unique and innovative insight into the world of the maker, their talent, skills and creativity, enabling you to appreciate the incredible works on display. 

The Made It! exhibition is a showcase of  four talented Highland and Island makers and works which have inspired their craft and runs until the of July 2010 at the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery.

Saving Our Woodlands Promoting Our Art

Let's go for a walk

Let's go for a walk

On Friday afternoon I was invited up to Milton, near Alness, to attend a joint networking meeting of the Woodlands Community Association, Voluntary Arts Scotland and a variety of artists.

The networking event itself was held to discuss the concept of bringing together Arts and Nature, how the Artistic and Cultural sector can support the growth and sustainability of Scottish Woodlands, through Arts Projects based within Woodland Communities.

The Community Woodlands Association, established in 2003, was set up “to help community woodland groups across Scotland. It provides advice, assistance and information, facilitates networking and training, and represents and promotes the benefits of community woodlands, both in the political arena and wider world” (CWA, 2010).

At present there are 150 member groups with 15,000 participating members across the country, but the future survival of these woodland communities are under threat. Whether it is from the modernisation of the world or apathy towards saving our environment, CWA recognise that this is a time in which action to engage wider audiences and therefore members is necessary to support all the hard work of the few devoted individuals who work, live and protect their communities woodland areas.

Voluntary Arts Scotland (VAS) on the other hand offers support, advice and information to groups and individuals who take part in the voluntary arts and crafts. This partnership between the CWA and VAS may well ensure a future relationship between socially motivated Artists and the woodland communities, towards providing socially engaged artistic projects right in the heart of the Woodland areas across Scotland.

The concept of ‘Community Arts’ has always been a tricky one in my mind. I have had the most amazing opportunities in the past to work alongside community art projects, and see the impacts and benefits that communities have from engaging the arts and an Artist to deliver something unique and special to these groups. Community arts projects definitely have an important role to play in fostering participation, partnership and greater respect for local communities or for arts in general.

However, I have struggled with the idea of a ‘community artist’. Does this really exist? A community arts project by definition involved local community members, it is a collaborative project between the artist, the community and the local area. Many socially motivated projects require specific and measurable ‘outcomes’, what will the legacy of this project be, what skills will the local community have learned. It is vitally important to define your goals, have an idea of what you hope to achieve, to leave a legacy for the local community. But how much of this infringes on the creativity of the Artist? Especially if the socially motivate outcomes are already predetermined by either the local community or organisation(s) involved? Where does ‘community art’ stop being about Outcomes and more about Artistic practice?

Govan Beacon

Govan Beacon

It is afterall a balancing act, and there are so many incredibly talented and inspirational artists who work with community arts projects across the country, one such artist I met on Friday Tara Beall, who had worked on the Govan Graving Beacon project in Glasgow for the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art.

The Graving Beacon is an automated light placed on the Govan Graving Docks which flashes messages in Morse Code. People are encouraged to send their messages to the Beacon via text message, and wait to see their message translated into Morse code and flashed out across the docklands, and then wait for a reply. So see more check out the beaconcam at

The meeting on Friday was designed to give both parties an opportunity to talk through their needs and requirements to make sure this partnership has a successful future, and I believe much ground was made in the few hours we had.

This is early days still for the partnership, and I’ll be sure to keep you all up to date on all the developments.

Milton Community Woodland Trust:

Promote Your Art

Promote Your Art

Promote Your Art

 Are you an artist based in the Highlands and Islands? Perhaps you’re an art gallery or a theatre company, maybe your a musician.

Whatever your artform I invite you to be part of my Highlands and Islands Art Blog. Every month I’d like to change the Banner on my Blog to promote the great work, design and events that happen across the Highlands and Islands. This month is the Belladrum Festival, a fantastic festival in the heart of the Highlands! 

If you would like to promote your art why not send me a ‘Blog Banner’. Images need to be 700 x 200 pixels and in a jpeg or gif format. Include your website or any relevant contact details that we can promote you through the Banner. 

If you’d like to ‘Guest Post’ for the Highlands and Islands Art Blog please do get in touch with me. If you have a great event running, a inspirational story to tell, or want to write about an arts and cultural issue, then please consider this your portal to a wider Arts community. 

As always contact me at or drop me a comment below. You can always find me on facebook and twitter as well. I look forward to hearing from you!

Tour of Scotland: Orkney Day 1


Orkney Sunshine
Driving across to Kirkwall

Yesterday morning I set off in earnest Orkney bound, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better journey up the road. A 3 hour drive to Gills Bay, to embark upon the Pentland ferry to St Margarets Hope, and a smooth, wave free crossing was on the cards – hurray. I’d visited Orkney back in October last year, and it was amazingly good weather then, however I was not prepared for what awaited me once I’d cautiously disembarked from the ferry, it was absolutely stunning. Orkney has a reputation for capturing people’s hearts, and I can completely see why, instantly I was surrounded by beautiful crystal clear bays, blue skies which seemed to go on for miles, and white cotton-like clouds floating peacefully above.      

Orkney has an incredibly rich culture and history, and seeing the wrecks of WW2 ships emerging from the sea bed, rusty and broken, it is a stark reminder of the reality of life the people of Orkney endured during that stressful and violent time. And then sitting atop of a hill is the stunning Italian Chapel on Lambs Holm. Small, but oranately designed, this is testement to the character of the Orkney Islands. Built by 550 Italian prisions of war, brought to Orkney in 1942, they were charged with the task of constructing the Churchill Barriers to the east of Scapa Flow. The chapel was constructed from very limited materials, joining two Nissen Huts together, using corrugated iron, plasterboard, and painted by a POW Domenico Chiocchetti, the prisoners created a santuary for themselves and their religion. Chiocchetti remained on to finish the chapel, even though his fellow prisoners were released shortly after the war. In 1958 the Chapel Preservation Committee was set up by a group of local Orkadians to preserve this beautiful church, and in 1960 Chiocchetti, who had left Orkney sometime after the end of the war, returned to assist in its restoration. It stands now in Lambs Holm for all to take some form of santuary within.      

So aside from being distracted by the scenery and history, I did eventually make it to Kirkwall. Easy bit over, now to find the B&B. Now, unless you know anything of my past scottish travels, then you’ll know that I have a terrible ability to find my final destination, no problem getting to the area, but find a specific road, a specific place, be it an art venue, someones home or a B&B, maps and my iphone just don’t seem to do the trick. So I ended up on a car-tour of Kirkwall before I was able to get my bearings, after several 3 point turns and driving past the St. Magnus Cathedral numerous times, eventually I arrived at the Eastbank House.     

It was then off back into the town centre, to soak up the rays and enjoy the summertime vibes. What strikes me about Kirkwall is its obious unique character, and this is so prominent along the main drag. Yes, you’ve got the obligatory Boots and newsagents, but other then that the shops here are all independent and definately Orkadian. Something which I think larger towns and cities have lost, their own identities. Two such shops sum up this independent culture, Sheila Fleet, the award winning jewelery designer and Tait and Style, a crafts and needlepunching designer with a reputation for using innovative and unique fabrics. Both are clearly influenced by their natural and cultural surroundings, reflecting the sky, sea and landscape as well as the folklore and traditions of the Orkadian way.      

What struck me was the ingenious of Tait and Style’s Wool and Wine idea. What a brilliant way to shop, oh I want that wool, and while I’m kniting I’d like a wee glass of wine – oh I can buy them both in one shop – ace!   

Craft is a major element of what makes Orkney so unique. The Orkney Crafts Association demonstrates the influence and attraction of craft for many people across the UK and beyond. The OCA designed a Craft Trail across Orkney and its many outlying islands. What I feel sets the Orkney Craft Trail apart from other arts trails is that you, as a visitor, have the opportunity to see these craft makers work in their own studios and workshops, you get the chance to see behind the scenes, set against the backdrop of this beautiful and inspiring island. But I was saddened to see that the Craft Associations shop, which was once full of craft and design, now sits empty along the Kirkwall coastline. I will need to investiagte further tomorrow to find out why, 6 months on from my last visit here, their shelves are now bare. (NB. Turns out the OCA rent the shop space over the summer months, so to my relief the shop will be open once more.)

After my ramble along winding narrow streets and dodging cars on single track lanes, I found myself inexplicably in a bookshop. The Orkadian Bookshop to be precise. I love books, and i wanted to see if there were any interesting books about the island I was currently a guest off. My word, I hadn’t anticipated the wealth of literature on Orkney, everything from your typical tourists guide, to books on the bird life of the island, to Island writers. I could have spent an age browsing, but then something really unique took my eye: ‘The Mermaid Bride and other Orkney folk tales’ told by Tom Muir. What better way to gain an insight into the nature of this beautiful island, then reading about the folklore and fairytales thought up and told for generations to the children and people of Orkney.   

The Mermaid Bride - folkstories

The Mermaid Bride - folkstories


After a much needed cup of tea and a bite to eat, in the Trenebies Bistro, it was back up the road to the Eastbank House. So here I am soaking up more rays while rooks gobble up the bits of leftovers thrown out by the landlord. It’s a far cry from the wet, wild and wintery picture painted of the North over the last few months, and it has revitalised me in a way which was much needed.      

But, I am not here to gush about Orkney, and I am not here to wile away my time between tea and cake and crafts. No, tomorrow is the second web marketing workshop, lets hope that tomorrow is just as beautiful. Perhaps if we’ve got sufficient power cables we should move the workshop outside and do a bit of online work, offline and in the sun.    

A Tour of Scotland: Inverness

This time last week I was putting the finishing touches to the first web marketing workshop presentation. With all the information, resources, tools, advice, tips and tricks out there to make sure you’re getting the best results from your web presence, it really was a matter of filtering down to the most relevant and essential tools and tips.

With all the information floating about in my head, it would be a lie to say I wasn’t nervous about my first workshop. But I need not have worried, because the first workshop went down a treat with the first group of web marketees.

The discussions, stories and tips shared by the group demonstrated how the web sits firmly within the domain of the user, and that by bringing this unique group of people together we had created a new network, a new community, one who wanted to continue the conversation and share their experiences.

But the conversation does not stop with the end of the workshop, oh no! Let’s keep the conversation, sharing of stories, ideas, tips and tricks going…

Follow HI-Arts Audiences on Twitter (@HIArtsAudiences)

Or become a fan of HI-Arts Audiences (

Next Tour Stop: Orkney 14th April, Pickaquoy Centre, Kirkwall.

Voluntary Arts Scotland – Conference

Voluntary Arts Scotland Logo

Voluntary Arts Scotland Logo

Tomorrow morning I’m heading down the road to Livingston to attend the Voluntary Arts Scotland Conference (VAS).

VAS is a fantastic organisation, with a wealth of information online, and a supportive and friendly team behind the scenes. Seeking to promote participation in the arts and crafts by supporting the development of the voluntary arts sector, VAS offers help and support to organisations, groups and individuals who engage in the voluntary arts.

There are an estimated 2 million people in Scotland who participate in arts and crafts, 9,400 organisations and 263,400 volunteers in the voluntary cultural sector. Volunteer work within the arts sector is imperative to the future and sustainablity of organisations and groups. I myself spent six months volunteering for Stills Gallery in Edinburgh between 2008 and 2009. As a volunteer you have to be dedicated, committed and passionate about what you can do and need to do as a volunteer. There are obvious downsides, no pay, although you are now able to sign on to job seekers allowance if you are volunteering, and there is the risk of being taken advantage of. However on a positive note, volunteering and volunteering for the arts is a right of passage we all must pass through, if you envisage a career within the arts and cultural sector.

Howden Park Conference Centre

VAS Conference Location - Howden Park.

So, on Friday and Saturday this week I’ll be attending a number of workshops, talks and seminars looking at issues such as the new Creative Scotland body, how we can measure the impact of arts and crafts on communities, fundraising, the protection of vulnerable groups and the legacies of the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

I’ll be online and active throughout the conference, so hopefully there will be some interesting items to report!  

Check out VAS at