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Old Maps and New - Highlands and Islands culture and the economy

12 August 2010

A Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE)/Creative Scotland conference, celebrating the last and the next 20 years of communities and culture in the Highlands and Islands is to be held in Inverness in November.

In 1991 the newly-formed HIE organised a ground-breaking conference on the Social and Economic Impact of the Arts in the Highlands and Islands. Almost two decades on, and following the agenda that emerged at that conference, the cultural landscape of the area has grown beyond recognition.

Chris Higgins, head of culture and the third sector at HIE commented: "Much has changed in the 20 years since HIE organised its first conference to explore the social and economic importance of the arts to the region. Many parts of the Highlands and Islands now have access to levels of cultural and artistic provision undreamt of in 1991. Artists and cultural companies from the area are achieving national and international success. A report discussed then indicated that £1.34 million was generated by visitors to cultural events. Visitor expenditure for Highland 2007 was £6.1 million."

He added: "Faced with the prospect of shrinking resources we must nurture social entrepreneurship and look innovatively at models to grow creative activity in our communities. Bringing together the people involved in the sector will let us ask what the creative and cultural landscape of the Highlands and Islands will look like in 2020."

The title of the upcoming conference to be held on November 12 and 13 is 'Old Maps and New', the title of a Norman MacCaig poem. The event coincides with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great Scottish poet whose heartland is acknowledged to be Assynt, in North West Sutherland. Included in the programme will be events to mark this centenary, organised in association with the Poetry Library in Edinburgh and Top Left Corner, the literature organisation based in Assynt.

The establishment of Creative Scotland as the leading cultural agency for Scotland now offers an ideal opportunity to look to the future. Andrew Dixon, Chief Executive of Creative Scotland, will be a keynote speaker at the event. He commented: "The value of culture and creativity to Scotland's communities cannot be underestimated and developments in the Highlands and Islands have shown it adds socially, culturally and economically to the region. Creative Scotland will play a role in investing in 'places' around Scotland and I welcome the chance to be part of this future look at the cultural and creative strengths and sustainable models of development for the Highlands and Islands."

The conference programme will combine presentations, case studies, commissioned papers, debates and panel discussions. As well as Mr Dixon, speakers will include Willy Roe, Chair of Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Seona Reid, Director of Glasgow School of Art, who was a speaker at the original 1991 conference in her then role as Director of the Scottish Arts Council.

November 2010 also marks the 20th anniversary of HI~Arts, the arts development agency for the Highlands and Islands, which was originally established by HIE, and whose early work was closely guided by the outcomes of the 1991 conference. HI~Arts is acting as coordinator of this event on behalf of HIE.

Booking for the conference will open on 30th August, when a fuller programme will be available. For booking details or more information please e-mail

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