A Creative Place

As spirit makers, we are by default creative, working with raw materials, seeking inspiration from our surroundings, and transforming the elemental into something transcendental. While we would not (yet) consider ourselves artists, we certainly have a deep appreciation for the art as well as science that goes into the craft of distilling. Whether it’s the skills in mastering the stills, the honing of senses within our Flavour Room or the attention paid to aesthetics and materials across our distillery’s products and places, it’s clear we care as much about form as we do function.

The Isle of Harris profoundly influences so much of who we are and what we do, so it is unsurprising that others find fertile ground for creativity and personal expression here also. At the heart of this lies the Gaelic language in which we are so deeply rooted. It has thrived despite the challenges of time, demographics and geography and its lyricism can be enjoyed in even the simplest of everyday speech. And when local bards raise words up into poetry and singers soar them to song the alphabetical becomes an art form. 

   

We’ve been enjoying perhaps the best expression of all this in The Royal National Mòd, the annual festival of Gaelic linguistic and cultural heritage held this year in the town of Oban. Here, people of all ages have been gathering to enjoy and compete in Gaelic music and song as well as renew old friendships and forge new ones with like-minded folk from far and wide. We were delighted to hear our local Sir E Scott School choir have been representing Harris brilliantly winning the Mrs Campbell-Blair Trophy, The Angus M Ross Trophy and the Belle Campbell Trophy. And word reaches us that a fair few bottles of our gin have made their way to the festival and are being enjoyed by the older contingent in Oban too! 

It’s not just in our native language we revel. We also have a strong practising visual arts community which is inspired by the seemingly unending beauty of the land and seascapes which surround us. To the north of us in Stornoway, the main arts hub An Lanntair's annual exhibition Grinneas nan Eilean demonstrates this, with in excess of 400 local entrants every year , while here in Harris you can find painters, sculptors, photographers and other artists all exploring and exhibiting their work in all manner of wonderful ways. 

We hope, as time progresses, that the distillery will begin to play a role in all these cultural activities, large and small. While our own calling for making whisky and gin will always remain our focus, we believe supporting and encouraging others in their own endeavours is important too. The physical building here in the heart of Tarbert can lend itself well to these ends and not just by showcasing local collaborations and products in our shop.   

And so we begin by participating in Bealach (Gaelic for Gateway) a Creative Places 2015 award winner and new project that seeks to represent the Isles of Lewis and Harris as the ‘gateway’ and ‘passage’ into the Gaelic culture and landscape of the Outer Hebrides. It will provide opportunities for artists and young people as well as showcasing our unique way of life to visitors. It is a great project and we’d love you to get involved.

On Saturday the 24th October Bealach will be here at the Isle of Harris Distillery, rolling out their giant map of the islands and giving visitors the opportunity to become 'creative giants' making their own artworks to place on the map. With the project’s principles and philosophy centred around the island and the intrinsic connections between the arts and the landscape, the aim is to get participants to engage with this idea and say what life on the island means to them. Participants can make representations of activities that are already going on in the islands or give their own ideas of what a creative place could be, helping to shape the Bealach project and determine the activities the wider project will provide. 

Come along, have fun and help make this a truly creative place to be!

p.s. and one more date for your cultural diary…we’re pleased to be involved with the Faclan Book Festival this year, sponsoring Faclan Club Night: Masque of the Red Death Ball at Stornoway’s An Lanntair on October 31st. Inspired by Edgar Alan Poe’s ‘Masque of the Red Death’  the Halloween Ball will feature specially designed Isle of Harris Gin cocktails all set to the dramatic backdrop of Vincent Price in Roger Corman’s film adaptation of this classic story.

 

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