LIVE! / BEÒ! Festival 2018: 6 days of amazing art and culture at historic sites in the Highlands

In August 2018, as part of Scotland’s Year of Young People six young Event Coordinators from the Highlands were each given a National Trust for Scotland site to takeover for the day and put on whatever arts activities they wanted. What emerged was six days of surprising, innovative and exciting responses to some of Scotland’s most iconic historical sites.

The week began at Brodie Castle where Event Coordinator Natasha Ross ran an all-day programme of events in the impressive Moray castle. LIVE! / BEÒ! @ Brodie Castle really had something for everyone and was focused on giving young people a platform to showcase their creative talents – from story-telling workshops in the morning for 12-18 year olds to a special performance about mental health that took place in The Stables. The Creative Catalyst event saw five local young people pitch their creative ideas to a panel of industry experts for the chance to win £500 to support their artistic ambitions. The panel, which included Eden Court Chief Executive James Mackenzie-Blackman, had a tough decision on their hands but eventually decided to award the £500 to Grace Green to support development of her new theatre show for young audiences about moving away from home. The day was topped off with an explosive performance by Ransom FA as part of the festival opening party. Ransom FA is a pioneer in the Northern rap/grime scene and this unique performance saw him bring his trade-mark original mixes and ear catching beats to Brodie Castle.

The team piled into their festival van and travelled the 100 miles to Glencoe to join Event Coordinator Mikaela Atkins-Blake for a day of activities there. LIVE! / BEÒ! @ Glencoe was a day inspired the landscape and local voices of the area. Over 100 young people attended a drop-in messy art workshop led by Room 13 recreating the amazing surroundings in miniature using plaster of paris. Visitors were able to discover the sounds and stories of Glencoe hidden in the trees of the woodland in a brand new sound installation. Through a series of real-life interviews with local young people this innovative digital audio project explored the area’s past, present and future. The finale of the day featured renowned musician Mike Vass who came with his band to play a live accompaniment to some rarely seen archive footage of Glencoe taken from the National Library of Scotland.

Not so far to travel this time, the team arrived on-site the following day for LIVE! / BEÒ! @ Glenfinnan. Fraser McRobert, the Glencoe Event Coordinator wanted to explore the culture of Glenfinnan and highlight up and coming Gaelic artists and musicians. Fèis Lochaber started off the night, along with a pop-up Gàidhealtachd. As night began to fall, local young piper Finlay Cameron began playing from the top of the monument. Despite the rain, crowds began to gather in anticipation. Local young people had worked with Node Graphics and Wildbird in the run up to the event to design a new film which would be projected onto the monument itself. Before long and accompanied by a special soundtrack supplied by Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band, the iconic memorial was transformed into a beacon of light. The local community were delighted to see themselves projected 60 feet high! This event had the highest turn-out of local people across all the festival, where over 120 people braved the rain to see the spectacular lightshow. Everyone headed over to the Glennfinnan House Hotel to get warm and enjoy a session with Fèis Lochaber.

Back on the road again, this time 150 miles North where the LIVE! / BEÒ! Bus arrived at Inverewe Gardens for Heather Fulton’s day of mural painting, music making and writing and walking workshops. All the young artists taking part had been lucky enough to stay the night before on site in the Garden’s amazing guest house. It was a busy day with over 500 people exploring the gardens in a new creative journey; Greer Pester was using tattie scones to make some edible art while Craig Crawford was graffitiing Scotland’s Big 5 – the team actually saw some seals in Loch Ewe! There was live performance too with a special ‘Poet in the Garden’ and music in the café. A truly special moment though was planting our LIVE!/BEÒ! Year of Young People tree in the Garden overlooking the amazing landscape. Accompanied by Scottish piper Rory Robson and local young accordionist (and NTS Inverewe staff member!)  Alasdair MacDonald, poet Lois Wappler led a moving moment as we added to the creative and physical landscape of Scotland.

From the great outdoors to the tiny indoors, the team set-off to Hugh Miller’s Cottage and Birth Place Museum. led by Miranda Strachan from Alness, the team put on a fantastic day which included fossil rubbing with some Hugh Miller’s finds, story-telling in the Birthplace Cottage in the exact spot where Hugh Miller would have gathered by the fire to hear stories when he was a child! The event expanded down the road into The Old Brewery for a pop-up exhibition of screen prints made by local young people, taking inspiration from the great writers work.

On to the final day and we reached the grand finale at Culloden Battlefield. Event Coordinator Josie Gaitens from The Black Isle was keen to explore how local young people felt about this historic site now with a day filled with artistic and creative responses to Culloden. Most exciting was a newly commissioned piece of performance created by Plan B Creative young dancers and young musicians from Fèis Rois. In a just a week long rehearsal period the two groups came together to choreograph a new dance piece retelling the Culloden story accompanied by music composed and performed live by the young musicians. The dancers too the piece out on to the Moor in what proved to be an incredibly moving performance amidst the back drop of the Battlefield. The event continued into the night with special late night opening of the vistor centre as guests, VIPs and all of the young people involved in the project were invited to a special closing party ceilidh. As well as a final performance of the dance piece, audiences were treated to music from Calum Mackenzie-Jones and The Trad Project and danced to the Fèis Rois Ceilidh Trail.

At the end of the week, we’d travelled over 600 miles across the Highlands and Moray to bring six events to six amazing National Trust for Scotland sites. We worked with 592 local young participants under-26 in workshops and creative activities and almost 5000 audience members came along to see what we created. We also gave paid work opportunities to 36 young artists and facilitors and the Highlands. Many of these have made new connections and started new collaborations; following her amazing work at Brodie Castle Natasha has now started a new job at the NTS site as an Event Coordinator there. 46% of under 26’s who attended were visiting that NTS site for the first time on the day for LIVE!/BEÒ! Festival, and over a third of participants said that they learnt something new about their local NTS site. Before the event 40% of participants had heard of the Highland Youth Arts Hub before which means we can do more to raise awareness of our work, but shows the festival was a great way to introduce young people in the Highlands to HYAH and our partners across the region.

The HYAH LIVE!/BEO! Festival wanted to effectively and authentically empower young people to take the lead in curating an amazing new cross-art festival for the Highlands. Through this we were able to showcase and celebrate the incredible artistic work and creative talent from young people across the region, and we hope to continue this legacy beyond Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018.

HYAH presents LIVE! / BEÒ FESTIVAL 2018 from Highland YAH on Vimeo.

LIVE! / BEÒ! 2018 was part of a wider programme of events to mark the Scottish Government’s Year of Young People, a Scottish Government initiative which offers the opportunity for generations to come together and celebrate Scotland’s young people in 2018.