KIOSK – BÙTH – Souvenirs of the Past and Future
From the late ‘60s to the early ‘90s, Nicolson’s Kiosk stood on the plot of land now occupied by An Lanntair. A staple of Stornoway life and an early example of the small businesses servicing the tourist trail through the Hebrides, the kiosk sold the “Gifts, Souvenirs & Fancy Goods” which featured in its annual catalogue. Entirely reliant on local suppliers and makers, its range of items was a testament to Hebridean ingenuity and idiosyncrasy.
As visitors return to Scotland’s post-pandemic landscape, shopping for new memories, a collective (group) of artists, designers and makers speculate on what the Kiosk might have in stock today, or in some distant and better possible future: material and immaterial thoughts on the creation and storage of memory; experiments with the possibilities of local manufacturing in the 21st century; objects that ask awkward questions about authenticity and belonging; attempts to recreate some long-lost items from the Kiosk’s glory days.
The 2021 collection, and its accompanying catalogue, is in turn unexpected, funny, surreal and beautiful.
Artists Philippa C Thomas and Hector MacInnes have been relishing the chance to dig down through the layers of local history, stories, myths and memory that surround Nicolson’s Kiosk.
“Souvenirs are such potent, magical objects – we all give them these special powers over our memories and our sense of place, but often the objects themselves seem arbitrary and mass produced. The items that used to be on sale at the Kiosk totally went against the grain in that respect – they had a real locality, and a complete lack of cynicism, which they perhaps carried forward from earlier traditions like Barvasware. But they also had no pretensions to being more than ‘just’ souvenirs.
“Clearly, these qualities emerged from a time when the islands were scrambling to come to terms with an explosion in tourist numbers and a collapse in more traditional ways of earning a living – and this actually played to the strengths of island communities: improvisation, hospitality, multi-tasking and humour. So, with tourists who can’t get abroad flooding to a fragile post-covid Hebrides seems like the perfect time to rekindle the spirit and the attitude of Nicolson’s Kiosk.”
“We’ve been so excited to see how different artists, makers and thinkers have responded to being asked to restock the Kiosk in 2021 – everyone’s taken a different approach, and everyone’s taught us something really important. This is a collection that includes digital playthings, glassware and jewellery, oracular devices, historical artefacts and a very special surfboard… we really think the old bodach Nicolson would be proud.”