We live in one of Europe’s remotest areas, in the Far North of Scotland. What effects does remoteness have on our lives? Has our region always been remote? What were the travel and trade routes of the past? How can we understand connectedness over the centuries and today in a technological age? What are the opportunities that remoteness provide us with? We want to share our quality of life with the buzzing centres of Scotland.
Remoteness is relative. In Helmsdale, a fishing village of 600, located in one of the ‘remotest’ areas of Europe measured by population per square metre, people do not feel remote because their lives are built around this location. As an organisation with a national reputation we feel remote in relation to Scotland’s Central Belt. It takes us more than 7h by train to get to Glasgow, or 1h flight from Wick to Edinburgh for £250 return. From a Norse perception our location is far away from the centre; Sutherland – Suðrland meaning “Southland” was once connected via the North Sea, a busy thoroughfare of trade and travel. Drove roads, military roads and bridal paths tell stories about an infrastructure that is largely forgotten.
Diefenbaker: Jan- April 2014
In 1958 John Diefenbaker, Canadian Prime Minister (1957-63), visited Scotland and went on a pilgrimage to Kildonan from where his maternal ancestors were cleared in 1813. This project explores the story of John Diefenbaker from Kildonan to the Commonwealth, following theme of Remoteness: the Northlands.
In the speech “A New Vision” at the Civic Auditorium, Winnipeg, 12 February 1958 John Diefenbaker announced “I see a new Canada – a Canada of the North. […] We will open [Canada’s] northland for development by improving transportation and communication and by the development of power, by the building of access roads.”
The Fifie Restoration Project: April – July 2014 (details tbc)
Themes to explore: Evolution of boats and how it impacts life and infrastructure; boat building in Helmsdale, boat building techniques, fishing, sea force highlanders and navy
The rare Fifie Collann, built in the late 19th century was used as a fishing boat in the Moray Firth till the mid 1960s. It was gifted to Timespan in 1990 and has been on display on the shore of the old HelmsdaleHarbour. As part of the Moray Firth Partnership it received a weatherproof coat in 2006 but has since fallen into a state of disrepair. To preserve this valuable boat the project has two main aims:
1.to bring a group of volunteers and a local joiner together to restore this rare fishing boat, and 2. to research and highlight the evolution of fishing boats in our area and to place this evolution in a wider assessment of socio-economic impact throughout the centuries.
St Donan’s Pilgrimage – September – December 2014 (details tbc)
The Strath of Kildonan is named after St Donan who came on a pilgrimage in 580AD with his followers to convert the native Pictish population who lived in this area to Christianity. The prefix ‘kil’ means a saint’s cell or place of retreat. A cross inscribed stone marks an early preaching place or an ancient ecclesiastical site. Which links existed between Kildonan and other places in Scotland such as Applecross and Iona? What relevance do they have today?
Pilgrimage is a physical journey to a special place that often considers an inner spiritual passage. Modern pilgrimages continue to explore the significance of place and journey whether with a specific faith or in search of an idol, a place or oneself. Modern day tourists are not unlike the pilgrims of the past who felt a sense of withdrawal from everyday life. Are we all pilgrims?
Our Modern Pilgrimages project will look at the historic connections of Helmsdale and will rejuvenate the old ways, and engage people to travel in new ways.