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John O'Groats hosts world class arts festival

30 June 2011

The Highlands largest ever street art project; giant sails; Groatie Buckies; projections; the launch of one hundred tiny ships; and storytelling - all features of an arts festival this weekend marking the importance of the heritage of John O'Groats as it looks to a new future.

Locals and visitors are being invited to come along for the two days of activities which form part of a larger long term arts project shaping the vision for the tourist destination.

A range of community groups have been involved in workshops over the past few weeks and it is hoped there will be a real party atmosphere at the event, which includes a street art project on the John O'Groats Hotel and a ceilidh on the Saturday night at the Seaview Hotel.

Social and economic development agency for the north Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has led on the wider masterplan which will transform facilities available at the village for tourists, many of whom have traveled the length of the country to get there.

Nick Scroggie, of HIE, commented: "This temporary arts project plays a part in the changing face of John O'Groats. A lot of the work by the artists highlights fascinating aspects of John O'Groats' heritage and culture - its people, the beauty of the coastline and its links with the sea, and traditional stories. It is also a chance to look forward to a John O'Groats which, while reflecting these traditions, also provides a tourist destination where people will want to stay longer."

"John O'Groats offers enormous social and economic potential to the wider Caithness and Sutherland economy. A private and public sector partnership is bringing about the first £6million phase of the project - which is set to start by the autumn."

HIE is investing £1.8 million to support leading tourism businesses Heritage GB and Natural Retreats to redevelop and extend the derelict John O'Groats House Hotel site providing high quality self catering accommodation. In addition, an exclusive development of luxury self catering lodges will be created.

Allan Leech of Heritage Great Britain, commented: "The people who live, work and visit John O'Groats have been involved at every stage in planning how it should develop. As destination specialists we are delighted to be creating something which local people see as reflecting their heritage, and at the same time offering a quality provision for visitors to enjoy.

"We hope people enjoy the temporary street art installation at the hotel - it will provide a final dramatic attraction as we head towards the start date for building work."

Ewan Kearney, of Natural Retreats added: "The temporary art project is another major step towards revitalising this iconic location and creating a true sense of place that transforms the visitor experience."

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