A series of consultation ceilidhs took place a fortnight ago providing communities with a further chance to contribute to the development of Pròiseact an Fhìor Àite (the Great Place project).

The purpose of the Pròiseact an Fhìor-Àite (Great Place Project) is to develop for the Outer Hebrides a Place-based Heritage Strategy with a ten year vision and an accompanying Action Plan. Central to the work is identifying strategic approaches to support and deliver appropriate heritage-led economic development, infrastructure requirements and priorities.

Despite disruption caused by Storm Brendan, the ceilidhs were well attended by the communities in Harris, North Uist and Barra. Unfortunately, the ceilidh in Ness had to be postponed due to the weather, but organisers say they will look into rescheduling the event.

The ceilidhs saw members of the community contribute ideas and opinions to the project’s strategy and action plan, while enjoying the talents of local musicians and singers. The team delivering the ceilidhs included Great Place project manager, Catherine MacLean and Highlands and Islands based consultancy, StrategyStory, which has an office base in Stornoway and has been co-founded by Professor of Strategy Donald MacLean and former BBC Senior Producer, Kate Hooper.

Kenny MacLeod, Chairperson of Harris Development, who attended and introduced the ceilidh at the Hotel Hebrides, in Tarbert, Harris, said: “What a fantastic idea - a consultation that is also a ceilidh! So good to have such a wide representation and to hear all the talking at the various stations. Actually asking people for their views and getting them to shape the discussion – such a refreshing approach…and some beautiful singing and box playing as well! An enjoyable evening with a productive outcome.”

Catherine MacLean, Great Place Project Manager at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “Heritage is inherent in all that we do as islanders. On every island and in each community there is a wealth of knowledge, talent and cultural richness – each area and community has its own distinct story to tell – this came through loud and clear in our consultation throughout the different communities across the islands. What is truly impressive is the amount of passion and commitment of individuals in the communities towards the work of preserving and sharing our cultural heritage.

“Travelling through the islands - even in January - has been really important to do as it meant that we were able to experience and learn more about what is happening in each area. We had good engagement across the islands and feel we have a much deeper understanding of the breadth, scope of work, aspirations and potential held within our heritage across the islands.”

The two year project is led by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and partners include Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Outer Hebrides Heritage Forum, Scottish Natural Heritage, Outer Hebrides Tourism, An Lanntair, Taigh Chearsbhagh, Urras Nan Tursachan and Historic Environment Scotland. The project is overseen by a steering group with a representative from each partner organisation. The project is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.