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Locals embrace plans for arts celebration at John O'Groats

23 June 2011

Hundreds of residents and visitors in Caithness and North Sutherland are playing their part in an arts project to celebrate the start of the transformation of world famous tourist destination John O'Groats.

Three renowned Highlands and Islands artists have already been working with schools, community groups and at local events in the run up to a festival weekend of arts in the village on July 2 and 3.

The event will also feature the largest street art project the Highlands and Islands has seen, as the iconic John O'Groats hotel becomes a giant canvas, with six additional artists descending on it from Sunday night (26th June).

Nick Scroggie, of HIE, which is organising the Transform weekend, with funding support from LEADER, as part of the longer term masterplan for John O'Groats, said:

"When we spoke to local people about how they wanted John O'Groats to grow and develop they were very keen that art played a part. The design for the future look of the village, adopted by developers Heritage Great Britain and Natural Retreats, reflects local views and the environment, and in the longer term we plan to incorporate artistic input into later phases of development at John O'Groats.

"The Transform Weekend is a way for local people and visitors to take part in a celebration of the culture and heritage of John O'Groats before building work starts. There will be a whole range of activities each day and a ceilidh on the Saturday night, which will be followed by a midnight projection display."

Allan Leech of Heritage Great Britain said: "We welcome the programme of arts and events and the fantastic enthusiasm from the community to be involved. The continuing efforts by the HIE team in organising these unique cultural experiences must be commended."

Ewan Kearney of Natural Retreats added: "Consultation and input by the local community is a vital part of the successful development at John o'Groats. An early focus on arts reinforces that there is a real need to deliver not just high quality tourism businesses and products but more importantly a true "sense of place" that reflects the heritage and culture of the Highlands and Islands."

Over the past few weeks artists Gavin Lockhart, Alexandria Patience and Allison Weightman have been working to develop projects for the Transform Weekend focusing on local people themselves and reflecting the heritage and culture of John O'Groats and the surrounding communities.

Gavin was a popular attraction at the Canisbay show where he was capturing images of local people for use at the event.

Alexandria is a storyteller whose work with the National Theatre of Scotland on the 1918 Portskerra sea fishing disaster has already been in the media this week,. She and Allison Weightman, who is basing her work around the local 'Groatie Buckies,' have run workshops in Canisbay, Keiss and Crossroads Primary involving the youngsters in the preparations for the event.

Follow the artists' progress on www.hie.co.uk/blog/john-o-groats


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