By High Life Highland
The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands – what is it?
Is it the landscape? A community? A favourite memory? How would you interpret it?
The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project is being delivered by High Life Highland, on behalf of The Highland Council, and aims to create and promote compelling and sustainable visitor experiences that celebrate the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands, past, present and future.
Through the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project, we will create assets including an interactive map and story archive to inspire greater exploration of the region. These will also establish authentic connections to local communities through their stories, engaging people with our rich natural and cultural heritage.
The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project is also delivered in partnership with VisitScotland. It is supported by a grant from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund (NCHF) led by NatureScot and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Reflecting the Spirit of the Highlands theme, it will encourage people to visit all parts of the Highlands in a sustainable way.
Storytelling is an integral part of every culture worldwide. Through stories, we form timeless connections which breathe life into the past, celebrate the present and share our dreams for a brighter future. Since our call for stories opened in 2020, we have had the opportunity to hear a wide variety of responses which express what these connections are and, more widely, what the ‘Spirit of the Highlands and Islands’ means to the people who live, work and visit here.
One of the many joys of working on this project is not only being able to read these stories but also being able to take this one step further and curate a range of digital content inspired by underlying elements and feelings within these stories. We had the pleasure of presenting these community stories to the public for the first time with the launch of our Spirit: Stories archive site in April this year. With 175 stories live, and counting, the aim is for this digital space to be a living archive where people can continually share what the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands means to them.
Within the archive you will also find the Spirit: Spotlight blog series. This is an ongoing series of blogs which aim to showcase community projects and initiatives in the Highlands and Islands as well as highlight the history behind places associated with stories people have shared.
Recently, we have built upon our digital assets which includes a series of audio interviews across the Highlands and Islands in partnership with Smartify, new multimedia and photography in partnership with Northport, and the creation of 360° immersive films and photography in partnership with Airborne Lens.
Inspired by and featuring the favourite places that people have shared with us, these films are shown through VR headsets and our 360° immersive unit. The intangible connections between a person and a place they love are some of the most poignant and meaningful relationships that can be formed in a lifetime – to be able to feature these places and showcase the unique natural and cultural heritage of the region in our films simultaneously at events including the Royal Highland Show, Inverness Highland Games and the Black Isle Show has been marvellous.
Additionally, in partnership with The Great Tapestry of Scotland Ltd team, the Tapestry of the Highlands and Islands is being created by local volunteers from all over the region. The tapestry will tell the history of the Highlands and Islands through 52 different stitched panels. Each panel will contain inspired design elements from submissions to the Spirit: Stories archive and it will also incorporate stories from the stitcher groups.
The first stitch was completed at the Averon Centre, Alness on the 3rd August. Stitching will be completed by early 2023 at which point the project team will prepare them for exhibition. Some panels will feature at a permanent exhibition at Inverness Castle upon its reopening in Spring 2025 while others will be designated for exhibition within local community spaces.
Tourism Minister Ivan McKee said: “A tapestry is an exciting medium for bringing to life the rich and remarkable history of the Highlands and Islands. The project is also a chance to unite communities as they stitch together their stories of the past into our present, leaving a valuable legacy for the future.
Community stories will also inspire and inform the new visitor attraction currently being developed for the transformed Inverness Castle site. Designed in partnership with Mather and Co., the stories will form part of an immersive exhibition in the South Tower of Inverness Castle, opening in Spring 2025, which aims to celebrate the Spirit of the Highlands past, present and future as told by the community.
Do you have a story you want to share about what the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands means to you? Tell us at https://discoverhighlandsandislands.scot/archive/submit-your-story
We also want to support community projects and cultural heritage venues especially during Scotland’s Year of Stories. If you would like to be featured on our story map or promote your event/project through our social channels please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can follow the work of the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project at:
Discover the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands: https://discoverhighlandsandislands.scot/archive