CIYC: Chloë Bryce

Chloë Bryce discusses her project "North Highland Connections".

North Highland Connections

NORTH HIGHLAND CONNECTIONS began as an attempt to collate and share the music of the northernmost regions of the Highlands of Scotland. It began as an endeavour to develop a better knowledge of the old tunes, and the players who have informed and perpetuated the tradition across the North. Perhaps most importantly, this project has been a catalyst for forging connections between people; a reason to reach out to others and create an opening for the passing on of music, stories and knowledge.

The purpose of this project is to signpost information, resources and people so that others might go on to make these connections. It is to offer a place to share music, stories and knowledge so that we might build a more comprehensive picture of our local history. It is to explore how we preserve local traditions and how we pass them on for generations to come.


It became clear to me early on that this would be an ongoing project and, instead of a final end-point, the December 2020 deadline would mark the end of the first phase of research. This first phase of research has involved carrying out Zoom interviews, compiling resources and researching repertoire.

I carried out twelve interviews with musicians from across Ross-shire, Sutherland and Caithness. This initial series of interviews provided me with a host of new research leads and new people to contact. I felt I would not be doing this research justice by ending the project at this point, having had so many new avenues opened up to me.

Will Lamb, Lauren MacColl, Gordon Gunn, Rhona Sutherland, Christine Martin, Duncan Chisholm, Louise Douglas, John MacLeod, Carole-Anne Mackay, Fiona Dalgetty, Olivia Ross, Debbie Ross.

I had initially intended for us to mainly focus on the fiddle tradition and whether such a thing as a North Highland fiddle style exists. However, that question remains unanswered. The theme that emerged from the interviews was that the passing down of traditional music in these North Highlands regions was largely dependent on key individuals who were committed to teaching and sharing the music. Most interviewees were unable to identify or describe a specific North Highland style but emphasised the importance of finding your own distinct ‘voice’ as a musician. Consequently, this research has become more about uncovering the individual musical ‘voices’ that existed across the North Highlands stretching back through time. I hope to be able to share the stories of these individuals as well as the music they played.

The Creative In Your Community funding enabled me to buy resources, pay for web design and artwork, and to pay myself a fee for carrying out the interviews. The mentoring helped me to build interview skills and research techniques. My mentor also put me in contact with interviewees and offered resource suggestions and research leads. The Creative Conversations gave me insights into inclusion, disability, sustainability and climate change and how these aspects can be taken into consideration in this project and my future work.

I hope that this project will provide people in the North Highlands with an outlet to share their music and stories. I hope that it will be a useful reference point for learners to draw on the knowledge of those who have come before them. For me, this project has been a way for me to connect with people from across my community at a time when I have felt particularly disconnected from my home area. I look forward to continuing this work and sharing it in the future.