From 2013 to 2018, our programme was led by the concept of North, exploring our distinctive identity through our unique location. Directed and curated by Anna Vermehren and Frances Davis.
North is a direction, a relative placement; it is defined by climatic conditions, by cultural richness, economical remoteness and described in myths and legends. Each year we investigate and explore these ideas through a focus on an annual theme:
2017 – 2018: Deep Time
It is difficult for us to imagine the far-away past and the distant future. We have little reference to this time, and commonly few emotional ties. It is Deep Time: hidden, nuanced, imaginary, yet real and always there. We can perceive it in our genes and our identity, we can see it in our landscape, in each step we walk, and in our imagination. We have little facts about the distant past and few shared ideas for the equally distant future.
2016 – 2017: Making
Embedded in our programming paradigm North, the theme of this year is Making. In our remote location we are used to make-do and mend. Amazon, Tesco and Ikea deliver to our homes, but local knowledge remains an important resource to find practical solutions in work and everyday life. In an environment where old skills are still present, we revisit the historic objects in our collection, and highlight the relationships that materials and tools have with the people who use them. In an ever increasing disposable material culture it has become very important to adhere to the principles of sustainability and to rethink what we make and how.
2015: Re-writing History
In 2015 we undertake a digital journey around the globe on the 58th latitude, visiting six similar villages to Helmsdale, close to the sea and of similar size. On our journey we think about the weather, the stars, celebration of the seasons, local food and our natural environment. We are inspired by similarities and differences of the climactic impact on our Northern Culture.
Remoteness is often aligned with a lack of absence – this is not our focus, nor is it our experience. Instead we look at the connections and relationships that exist within, and emanate from our remote location. We will explore past and future ideas of trade and travel, and investigate what remoteness might mean in a contemporary context of high speed broadband.
Translocation – a programme of events around our local identity, addressing local needs, testing North as a paradigm, rethinking our approach, commemorating the Clearances of 1813 and understanding them as central to the current identity of Helmsdale and the Strath of Kildonan.