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Artworks linked to community landownership are to be showcased throughout Galson Estate.

Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (Galson Estate Trust) say they are delighted to present ‘Stories of Radical Landownership in North Lewis’, a public art project produced in collaboration with artist Virginia Hutchison.

The project, created as part of the ‘Artists and Community Landowners’ commissions, will soon be physically accessible in locations throughout the Galson Estate in north Lewis.  Recordings from the project are currently available to listen to via the Galson Estate Trust website:

https://www.galsontrust.com/clsartproject/

The ’Artist and Community Landowners’ project, led by Community Land Scotland and The Stove Network, aims to raise awareness of community landownership, telling the stories of post-purchase community landowners and the wider story of community landownership in Scotland.  Working in collaboration throughout the COVID pandemic in 2020 and 2021, commissioned artist Virginia Hutchison and Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn created a project that brought together the narratives surrounding the community land buyout of the Galson Estate in 2007.

Announced as the appointed artist in residence in late August 2020, Virginia, who works between Glasgow and the Isle of Lewis, created six bronze cast artefacts which were moulded from cut peat and embedded with digital QR codes.  When scanned with a mobile phone, these artefacts link to historical recordings and interviews with members of the Galson Estate community, weaving together local audio archives with contemporary conversations surrounding community landownership. With access and social distancing measures in mind, these artefacts are to be sited throughout the landscape of north Lewis, and a walk and talk event hosted by Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn to visit these artworks and hear the recordings is scheduled for Saturday June 26.  Two out of six of the artworks will remain open as future audio ‘project spaces’. This is to provide opportunity for other community members to come forward and contribute their voices to the project.

Virginia works within a predominantly social context and her practice draws on the processes involved in collaborative creative production, exploring how different forms of artistic engagement influence the interaction we have with our environments.  Speaking on the ‘Artists and Community Landowners’ project, she said: “Countering a fractious history of private landownership in Scotland, community landowners like Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn have embarked on a strategic programme of development that involves the whole community in the processes of decision making. It’s been an empowering experience working alongside the Trust to find creative methods of recounting the collective experiences of the buyout and the events that led up to it. How this narrative is developed alongside The Stove Network and Community Land Scotland will be invaluable to the development of the Urras and to other communities who are about to embark on the process."

The artworks, which were produced in conversation with artist Stephen Hurrel and local artist Fiona Rennie, will be touring around the Isle of Lewis.  They will then head to the mainland in the latter part of 2021, before finding a permanent home in the Galson Estate. The artworks will become part of a permanent, living audio archive for the Galson Estate community, weaving in ongoing conversations, stories and recollections. 

Katharine Wheeler, Partnerships and Projects Development Manager at The Stove Network, said: “The work that Virginia has made with the Galson Estate is an example of one of those rarer times when two different languages can come together to tell the stories of a place in new and deeply moving ways. The Stove has been delighted to co-ordinate the ‘Artists and Community Landowners’ project for Community Land Scotland and have the opportunity to build a relationship with the Galson Estate. We will be putting out material about the project as a whole and its work across the six community trusts involved in mid-June.”

Lisa Maclean, Chief Executive of Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn, added: “The whole process has been so positive and thought-provoking. We are delighted to make this new connection with not only Virginia, but so too with The Stove Network. It’s a very different way of working, and one I feel has supported us all to consider what makes community landownership so special. It’s been almost cathartic and the artwork itself certainly provides the opportunity to reflect and take stock of the landownership journey of the Estate.”

Linsay Chalmers of Community Land Scotland said: “As part of our tenth anniversary celebrations, Community Land Scotland supported a number of projects where artists worked with community landowners to help tell their story. We are delighted that, through Virginia Hutchison’s work, people will be able to walk around the Estate and get an insight into what owning the land means to the community.”

Other land trusts involved in the ‘Artists and Community Landowners’ project include Abriachan Forest Trust, Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, North Harris Trust, South West Mull & Iona Development and the Bridgend Farmhouse in Edinburgh.  Linsay added: “Community Land Scotland is now looking at ways to take the works from all of the creative projects out to a wider audience.”


For further information on ‘Stories of Radical Landownership in North Lewis’, please visit:

https://www.galsontrust.com/clsartproject/

If you would like to book on to the ‘Walk and Talk’ event on Saturday 26th June, please visit:

www.bookwhen.com/uogevents

Virginia Hutchison is an artist based in Glasgow and the Isle of Lewis. Working within a predominantly social context her practice draws on the processes involved in collaborative creative production to explore how different forms of artistic engagement influence the interaction we have with our environments. Virginia currently runs the bronze casting facilities at Edinburgh College of Art and is one part of the duo ’In the Shadow of the Hand’ with artist and film-maker Sarah Forrest. A graduate of the Royal College of Art, Virginia currently sits of the board of directors at An Lanntair Arts Centre in Stornoway.

For examples of Virginia’s other works, please see:

https://vimeo.com/246946875

https://vimeo.com/72722947

https://vimeo.com/127040069

The Stove Network is an arts and community organisation based in the centre of Dumfries. They hope from this project to foster some really meaningful connections between the Trusts and local artists, create some brilliant material that shares theses diverse stories of community land ownership, urban and rural, across Scotland and inspire others to work with creative people in this collaborative and co-developed as a way of having different and possibly more inclusive conversations about our places at every stage of their journey.

As a successful social enterprise, The Stove is the first artist-led Development Trust in Scotland, providing regular employment for 25 people. A kitchen-table style of practice and developing work is one based on the values of risk-taking, collaboration, emotional openness, empowerment, positive disruptive change, innovation and inclusion. They are committed to finding locally led solutions as part of our place and community.  

Community Land Scotland is the representative body for Scotland’s community landowners and has over 100 aspiring and post-purchase communities in its membership. They collectively own over 560,000 acres of land and a huge range of assets including estates, forests, community centres, High Street buildings, affordable housing and former MoD bases.

Community Land Scotland supports communities through their journey to ownership and beyond; we act as a voice for the sector and raise awareness of the benefits of community ownership.