Creating future visions for the seas of the Outer Hebrides

30th June 2021

This spring, Creative Carbon Scotland worked with the MarPAMM - Seas of the Outer Hebrides project, Taigh Chearsabhagh arts centre in North Uist, and local artist Kirsty O’Connor, to support a series of creative family workshops titled "Seas our Future".  

The activities followed the structure of past, present and future (in Gaelic: An-dè – yesterday, An-diugh’s – today, and A-Màireach – tomorrow) relationships to the sea and invited children and adults living across the Outer Hebrides, as well as mainland Scotland, to explore their visions for its future protection.

The sessions complemented ongoing stakeholder engagement around Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Outer Hebrides, and participants were invited to share their visions through Taigh Chearsabhagh’s Message in a Bottle project, which is taking place in the lead-up to COP26 in Glasgow this November.

Through creative activity and conversation, the group explored how islanders’ relationships to the sea have changed over time, what aspects are most important to them now, and their visions for its future protection. Over the longer term, we hope this work will contribute towards the development of a community-led vision for the seas and MPAs in the Outer Hebrides.

Key themes

There were a number of important themes that emerged from the discussions including:

  • The sea as a provider of employment and connection (physical via transport, and emotional
  • Environmental changes observed in the Outer Hebrides such as increased coastal erosion, changes in weather patterns, and increases in marine pollution
  • The important role the sea plays in supporting wellbeing (physical and mental), derived from activities including seashore and creative activities, swimming, water sports and wildlife observation
  • Valuing of the natural world including marine habitats (such as maerl beds and coral reefs) and wildlife (such as crabs, dolphins, whales, birds and fish)
A collage of six art works made with inkpad stamps featuring, fish, shells, whales and a kayaker

Stamps made by participants of their favourite things about the sea, including scallop shells, otters, dolphins, starfish, sperm whales and kayaking

The development of future visions for the sea reflected a range of responses as well, such as:

  • Curiosity and wonder at the sea
  • The sense of wellbeing it provides
  • The need to support sea life
  • Addressing marine plastics
  • Choices, action and care
  • Coastal erosion
  • Acknowledge the difficulties and challenges as well as the positives
  • Encompassing different voices and users of the sea

The discussions reflected the passion and care that participants felt for the marine environment and a strong desire to see it protected for generations to enjoy and benefit from in the future.

There was also interest in finding out more about the scientific evidence informing Marine Protected Areas, practical actions participants can take to address the challenges identified and questions about what happens next.

Read our full report of the activities and workshop feedback undertaken at the time. 

Project learning on creative digital engagement

The activities were a chance for the project team to test out the benefits and challenges of running creative engagement in an online setting, which will be applied to future planning.

Some of the key reflections on the process were:

Challenges

  • Supporting a mixed age group in an online setting and ensuring that the pace of activities and depth of conversation suited all ages – some methods, such as the writing exercise, were perhaps easier to support in an online setting
  • Providing sufficient core information about the objectives of the project over a digital platform without compromising the creative and engaging format
  • Natural limitations of screen-based engagement and how long a session can hold people’s attention, including providing one-to-one support

Benefits

  • Collaborating with local delivery partners familiar with their audience facilitated higher quality engagement in the themes and in a format that works for participants
  • Greater reach to a cross-Outer Hebrides audience – previously events were held in separate locations making it harder to support conversations across the islands
  • Piloting and learning from different methods such as pre-recorded demonstration videos and sharing platforms ‘Padlet’

Next steps

The MarPAMM – Seas of the Outer Hebrides team thanks everyone who took part and to Kirsty O’Connor and Taigh Chearsabhagh for supporting the design and running of these activities. We are currently processing participant feedback and the ideas generated during the workshops to inform future engagement activities and hope to continue working with the group over the coming months.

In the meantime, participants are encouraged to complete and send their future visions to the Message in a Bottle project at Taigh Chearsabhagh. Follow the instructions on the page.

Outer Hebrides residents are also invited to watch this short film with local presenter, Kate Macleod, and share views on how we can protect the marine environment for future generations in this short survey 

Further information on MarPAMM – Seas of the Outer Hebrides

You can explore the network of Marine Protected Areas in the Outer Hebrides at this recently launched Storymap. 

More information about the project is available on the MarPAMM website 

For more information about the upcoming creative engagement activities please contact – Gemma Lawrence at gemma.lawrence@creativecarbonscotland.com or Owen McGrath at Owen.McGrath@nature.scot 

This work was undertaken as part of the MarPAMM project which is supported by the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.   

The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the European Commission or the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).


grey oblique lines growing darker, then a green line with an arrow pointing right and overlaid text reading 'culture SHIFT'MarPAMM – Seas of the Outer Hebrides is part of our culture/SHIFT programme, which supports collaborations between arts and sustainability practitioners to address the climate emergency.

 

MarPAMM is a cross-border environment project, funded by the EU’s INTERREG VA programme, to develop tools for monitoring and managing a number of protected coastal marine environments in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Western Scotland.

Marpamm and interreg logos for Seas of the Outer Hebrides project

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