Làn Thìde – exploring climate change in the Outer Hebrides

  • Published on: 24th November 2021
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As the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 drew to a close, the work of Làn Thìde, the Outer Hebrides Climate Beacon (OHCB), is just beginning.

One of seven Climate Beacons in Scotland, Làn Thìde presents a collective of arts, heritage, community, environmental and third sector organisations that brings together An Lanntair, Taigh Chearsabhagh, Ceolas, and Western Isles Libraries, alongside Community Energy Scotland, TSI Western Isles, Nature Scot, Adaptation Scotland, and the wider Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership Climate Change Working Group, to create an exciting and extensive programme of climate change focused public events.

“Our programme began prior to COP26, but it does not finish then. This is just the beginning,” said Alicia Matthews, Outer Hebrides Climate Beacon Project Coordinator. “The aim is to build a body of evidence demonstrating the current and historical effects of climate change on rural communities and of the land in the Outer Hebrides, and to ensure that rural and island voices are heard and are at the core of climate conversations.

“Helping to establish working collective relationships between artists, environmentalists, climate scientists, and the distinct communities in the Outer Hebrides, the project aims to improve community resilience and secure a legacy for sustainability and climate justice in the islands, delivering positive creative activism and crucial adaptation planning for some of our most vulnerable island communities.”

With collaboration and co-curation at its core of the project, the recently launched Làn Thìde website – www.lanthide.org – offers a one-stop information hub, providing details of the individual partnerships, and hosting video sharing channels, podcasts, and a series of live-streamed and pre-recorded performances, events, and activities. And islanders are invited to submit via the website their own personal experiences and images of the effects of climate change in the Outer Hebrides.

The website also presents a series of maps developed by Adaptation Scotland to be used as community planning maps across the Outer Hebrides, which will again allow islanders to contribute their lived experience of the effects of climate change on their own communities; and the data gleaned will then be used to contribute to the project’s region-wide plan for the Outer Hebrides to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Further community engagement activities, including focus groups and consultation workshops, will be undertaken by Adaptation Scotland, Nature Scot, Community Energy Scotland, and the Outer Hebrides Climate Change Working Group in the coming months.

Helping islanders keep informed on climate change matters, the Western Isles Library have established ‘Climate Corners’ – environmental collections of books and resources in the islands’ libraries and mobile libraries; as well as working with the University of Highlands and Islands to create a series of digital resources, challenges and competitions for primary and secondary school pupils.

And Western Isles Libraries Làn Thìde events include schools’ design projects with Architecture & Design Scotland, family Biodiversity Walks, author talks with Alisdair Mcintosh and Natalie Fee, and open discussion about ethical consumption in the Outer Hebrides.

Getting everyone talking about climate change is the big aim and such community collaboration is key to Làn Thìde, as Alicia added: “It is important that this project grows legs and continues to develop and engage with the people of the Outer Hebrides so that we can build a plan on how to adapt to the effects of climate change together.”

Encouraging community involvement and working in partnership with local communities, artists, scientists and climate experts, An Lanntair, Ceolas and Taigh Chearsabhagh are commissioning a series of experienced visual artists, writers, performers, makers and creatives, to present public workshops and activities to explore and map experiences of climate change and visions of the future.

Art centres An Lanntair and Taigh Chearsabhagh will also mount internationally significant exhibitions. Taigh Chearsabhagh presents group show Glacial Narratives, which explores Arctic Ice, raising awareness of the wonder of ice as a material, but also asking questions about its disappearance.

An Lanntair’s flagship COP26 exhibition, End of Engines by Robbie Thomson, opens in the Main Gallery on December 4. Commissioned by Cryptic in partnership with Cove Park, and inspired by the aesthetics of petroleum architecture, mythology, astronomy and car customisation, Robbie’s multi-media installation spotlights the alchemical properties of oil and the gloaming of the combustion engine as symbols for our age of consumption.

“An Lanntair will be the first time I’ve show this work – I’m looking forward to being back in a physical gallery space,” Robbie said. “This project has been in the pipeline since the start of the pandemic and I’m interested to see how the audience responds to the installation, especially during this time when there is such a heightened focus on the environment and the conversation is so urgent.”

Using liquids, reflection and rotation, and featuring a collection of robotic sounds and light sculptures, the End of Engine works will create intricate interplays of light and motion to animate the gallery walls as the exhibition meditates on the creative and destructive forces of technology, the allure of the synthetic, and the nihilism of industrial exploitation.

Linking the deep history of the planet to our contemporary environmental condition, the exhibition draws on cosmological themes that illustrate the ability of oil to transcend and entangle time.

Head of Visual Art at An Lanntair, Roddy Murray, said: “The installation was commissioned by Cryptic in Glasgow, and we are delighted and proud to bring it to an island audience. The timing of it in the immediate aftermath of COP26 could hardly be more exacting and relevant.

“It presents the twilight of the combustion engine as a metaphor and symbol for our industrial age of which, climate change is the by-product: A bill we will all have to pay. We are at an inflection point in human history and the revolving carbon-fibre blades, reflected in a black pool of oil are a stark visual statement linking the deep history of the earth to the present and our uncertain future.”

Image: Detail of End of Engines by Robbie Thomson