The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands

Storytelling is an integral part of every culture worldwide. Through stories, we form timeless connections to nature, the land and its people which breathe life and meaning into the past, celebrate the present and share our dreams for a brighter future.

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Storytelling is an integral part of every culture worldwide. Through stories, we form timeless connections to nature, the land and its people which breathe life and meaning into the past, celebrate the present and share our dreams for a brighter future.

Since our initial call for stories opened in 2020, we have had the opportunity to hear a wide variety of responses which express what these connections are and, more widely, what the ‘Spirit of the Highlands and Islands’ means to the people who live, work and visit here.

One of the many joys of working on this project is not only being able to read these stories but also being able to take this one step further and curate a range o digital content inspired by community stories.  In April this year, we launched our Spirit: Stories archive site to showcase stories submitted to the project. With 175 stories live, and counting, the aim is for this digital space to be a living archive where people can continually share what the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands means to them.

Within our archive we also run our Spirit: Spotlight blog series. This is an ongoing series of blogs which showcase community projects and initiatives in the Highlands and Islands as well as digging deeper into the history associated with stories people have shared with us. Over the course of the last year, we have been creating a series of digital assets for the project, in addition to the Spirit: Stories archive, including:

  • A forthcoming visitor website – a new online platform to inspire visitors, both domestic and international, to explore the region influencing greater geographic and seasonal dispersal. This platform will include an interactive map, journey planner and community stories.
  • New film and photography which showcases both the natural beauty of the region and the work of individuals and local communities
  • Audio assets – interviews exploring the voices of local communities and their memories and stories about people and place
  • Two immersive portals which feature 360° films and interactive tours of the Highlands and Islands

The community response to the latter 360° immersive films, inspired by and featuring the favourite places that people have shared with us, has been overwhelmingly positive. The connections between a person and a place they love are some of the most poignant and meaningful relationships that can be formed in a lifetime and so being able to provide communities with a new way to experience and engage with these cherished places around the Highlands and Islands has been very rewarding. To date, our touring immersive portal has been used to support local events, storytelling projects and schools’ engagement bringing digital innovation with immersive technology to off the beaten track locations in the Highlands and Islands.

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(Left) The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands 360° immersive portal at St Duthus Collegiate Church as part of the 2022 St Duthac Book & Arts Festival © Ewen Weatherspoon; (Right) The return of our VR headsets, alongside our 360° immersive, at the City of Inverness Highland Games, July 2022 © Paul Campbell Photography

(Clì) Am portal làn-tumaidh 360° aig Spiorad na Gàidhealtachd is nan Eilean aig Eaglais Cholaisteach Naomh Dubhthaich mar phàirt de dh’Fhèill Ealain & Leabhraichean Naomh Dubhthaich 2022 © Ewen Weatherspoon; (Deas) Daoine a’ tilleadh nan VR headsets againn ri taobh a’ phortail 360° againn aig Geamannan Gàidhealach Chathair Inbhir Nis san Iuchar 2022 © Paul Campbell Photography

Additionally, in partnership with The Great Tapestry of Scotland Ltd team, we are also creating the Tapestry of the Highlands and Islands. The tapestry will tell the history of the Highlands and Islands through over 50 stitched panels, completed by nearly 650 local volunteers from all over the region. Each panel will contain design elements inspired by submissions to the Spirit: Stories archive and from the stitcher groups themselves. The tapestry is a visual vehicle for storytelling, a huge arts project bringing communities together to share in representing their local area.

The first stitch was officially completed at the Averon Centre, Alness in August and stitchers are now hard at work at all 52 stitching hubs established across the Highlands and Islands. Recent stitching workshops held in Gairloch, Ullapool and Strathpeffer have proved a particular success and met with great positivity in the community, offering guidance on stitching styles, revealing panel designs and allowing individuals to meet and share ideas with other stitchers in their area.

Tourism Minister Ivan McKee said: “A tapestry is an exciting medium for bringing to life the rich and remarkable history of the Highlands and Islands. The project is also a chance to unite communities as they stitch together their stories of the past into our present, leaving a valuable legacy for the future.”

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(Left) A sneak peak of a design for the Tapestry of the Highlands and Islands © Andrew Crummy and Kirstie Campbell; (Right) The colours and textures of the Scottish wool and Harris Tweed to be used by the Alness Stitchers Group © Paul Campbell Photography

(Clì) Plathadh beag de dhealbhadh Grèis-bhrat na Gàidhealtachd is nan Eilean © Andrew Crummy agus Ciorstaidh Chaimbeul; (Deas) Dathan is inneach na clòimhe Albannach agus clò na Hearadh a chleachdas buidheann obair-ghrèise Alanais © Paul Campbell Photography

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Julie, Norma and Anne, three of The Spirited Stitchers group, with designer Andrew Crummy (centre) and coordinator Kirstie Campbell (right) © Paul Campbell Photography

Julie, Norma agus Anne, triùir dhen bhuidheann The Spirited Stitchers, leis an dealbhaiche Andrew Crummy (sa mheadhan) agus co-òrdanaiche Ciorstaidh Chaimbeul (deas) © Paul Campbell Photography

Additional Information:

The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project is being delivered by High Life Highland, on behalf of The Highland Council, and aims to create and promote compelling and sustainable visitor experiences that celebrate the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands, past, present and future.

Through the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project, we will create assets including an interactive map and story archive to inspire greater exploration of the region. These will also establish authentic connections to local communities through their stories, engaging people with our rich natural and cultural heritage.

The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project is also delivered in partnership with VisitScotland. It is supported by a grant from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund (NCHF) led by NatureScot and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Reflecting the Spirit of the Highlands theme, it will encourage people to visit all parts of the Highlands in a sustainable way.

Get Involved

Do you have a story you want to share about what the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands means to you? Tell us at submit your story.

We also want to support community projects and cultural heritage venues especially during Scotland’s Year of Stories. If you would like to be featured on our story map or promote your event/project through our social channels please email [email protected].

Keep Updated

You can follow the work of the project at:

Facebook: @TheSpiritoftheHighlands

Instagram: @spiritofthehighlands

Twitter: @SpiritHighlands

Discover the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands through our Spirit: Spotlight series.

 

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Contact

Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund

[email protected]

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