On Tour with ‘Shore: How We See the Sea’Posted on 10.12.2018
In 2016, 20% of the seas surrounding Scotland became designated as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). These areas, as Marine Scotland state are ‘used to ensure protection of some of the most vulnerable species and habitats…and ensure they are safeguarded for future generations to enjoy.’
In a cultural response to the greater development of the MPA network Invisible Dust has curated the project ‘Shore: How We See the Sea,’ funded by the Arts Council England and Creative Scotland. The project brings together filmmakers, curators and marine scientists across nine locations in Scotland to ‘inspire, explore and share coastal communities’ responses to MPAs, thinking about the human and non-human impact of them.
The main aspect of the project has been the commissioning of two films ‘Cladach’ by Margaret Salmon and ‘I WALK THERE EVERY DAY…’ by Ed Webb-Ingall. These were both shot in close proximity to MPAs on the west coast of Scotland. This blog post will recount three screenings of the films in Gairloch, Ullapool and the Isle of Skye, it will explore the community elements attached to the screenings and how the films encouraged communities to come together to think about the issues that are affecting their shoreline; both above and below the surface.
The first stop was Gairloch, a settlement located on the shore of Loch Gairloch, its coastal climate is affected by the Gulf Stream meaning warmer waters and often a high proportion of jelly fish in the summer months. The screening day in Gairloch was cold and blustery, but this did not dampen the spirit of the attendees, who came out in force to see the films in the Screen Machine, a purpose-built cinema inside the back of a lorry.
Post-screening the audience were invited to take a walk down by the loch edge, led by local Peter Cunningham. Peter shared his expertise on the marine environment, informing us directly about the MPAs in the area and the threats that the coastline and also fishing industry is facing. The weather meant that wildlife was minimal, but we did manage to spot some seals and gannets braving the elements. The GALE centre hosted us after the walk; a community café, shop and tourist information hub. Here we were able to have copious amounts of tea and cake, whilst discussing the two films and people’s relationship to the sea. Mairi Mcfadyen from Local Voices was recording these conversations, and has been at all previous screenings, all in order to create an archive of memories about the sea which will be unique to each screening location.
The next day we headed north to Ullapool, located on Loch Broom, it is the largest settlement for many miles around, and was initially founded in 1788 as a herring port by the British Fisheries Society.
The films were again screened in the Screen Machine, but this time were accompanied by a post-screening discussion with filmmaker Margaret Salmon, Noel Hawkins from the Scottish Wildlife Trust and singer, writer and Ullapool resident, Lisa Macdonald. An interesting debate was had, with each speaker able to offer different perspectives on the sea and our relationship to it. It should also be noted that Ullapool had a particular significance for Margaret Salmon, as this was where her film ‘Cladach’ is set, so it was rather poignant for her to revisit the face and places with which she had previously worked so closely alongside.
After the screening, the audience headed to the Ullapool Ferry Terminal, here refreshments were provided by the Ceilidh Place, Ullapool, and we were treated to a performance from Lisa Macdonald. She told some traditional Scottish tales and then sang a number of songs in Gaelic. Alongside this there was underwater footage of the Scottish coastline being screened, provided by Sea Change, and it acted as a reminder of the vast and complex ecosystems that co-exist below the surface of the sea.
The local community also provided some decorations for the space, local primary school children had responded to a project ‘Food in My Belly’ and created reusable tote bags which explored issues of marine plastics and had also created jelly fish made out of plastic bags. Noel Hawkins also brought along an interactive banner, that had also been created by local school children and encouraged people to get thinking about the varied dangers affecting the seas.
Broadford, Isle of Skye
The last stop in the October series of screenings was in Broadford, the Isle of Skye, and specifically the picturesque setting of Corry Lodge. Originally built in 1790 as a Georgian Laird’s House, it sits on the banks of Broadford Bay. The screening would be taking place in the main living room, so a mismatch of antique chairs and sofas were assembled and a screen put up, creating what was a very cosy and communal atmosphere. After the screening there was chance to discuss the films over homemade seaweed soup and breads, provided by Atlas Arts, a local award-winning contemporary art producer and commissioner.[iv]Once fed and watered a Q&A session commenced with filmmaker Margaret Salmon, and Dr. Raeanne Miller and PhD student Texa Sim from The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).
The three screenings, although in different locations and with different audiences, all cemented the dynamic and fluid relationship that many people have with the sea. The passions that it can demand and the debates that it can provoke. Through Mairi’s recordings, these voices and opinions have be captured, and alongside the two films will act as a permeant record of how ‘we see the sea,’ in at least a small snap shot of time.
Image: © Margaret Salmon, Shore, 2018. Photo Margaret Salmon