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28 May 2014



Following a visit to Fair Isle on the sailing ship Swan in 2013, Cape Farewell’s Sea Change project returned to the Isle in May 2014 at the invitation of FIMETI and Inge Thomson. Three artists from last year’s expedition – filmmaker Andy Crabb, photographer Jen Wilcox and textile artist Deidre Nelson – were joined by filmmaker Peter Cutts and Cape Farewell associate director Ruth Little.

The Sea Change project funded by Creative Scotland – has been running for 4 years and considers the changing relationships between people, places and resources across the Western and Northern Isles of Scotland. Built around 2 sailing expeditions in 2011 and 2013 involving 60 artists, scientists and social scientists, and subsequent island residencies and community projects, around 30 artists have been commissioned to make new work. In 2013 the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh presented the Sea Change exhibition, with new work by 23 artists, including Shetland artists John Cumming, Cecil Tait (‘Ditty Boxes’) and Jen Hadfield (in Anne Bevan and Andrea Roe’s Things Unspoken, Things Unseen).

Deidre Nelson has strong connections with the Shetland craft community, and has collaborated on a number of projects with Shetland Arts. She will spend 3 weeks on Fair Isle, meeting with local knitters Kathy Coull, Elizabeth Riddiford, Mati Ventillon, Holly Shaw and Catriona Thomson, and with spinner and spinning-wheel maker Stewart Thomson.

The Fair Isle residency has been developed in support of FIMETI’s long-running campaign for protection and collaborative management of the island’s inshore waters.

The argument that Fair Isle’s cultural survival is intimately connected to the health of its marine ecology is one being made by island and coastal communities worldwide, and the Sea Change project aims to contribute to a growing resource of information, imagery and testimony on the subject of interdependence.

The residency was greatly enriched by the premiere performance on 23rd May of Da Fishing Hands, a collection of songs and music created by Fair Isle musicians and composers Inge Thomson and Lise Sinclair as part of the Year of Natural Scotland.



Da Fishing Hands is a landmark work, and a powerful form of cultural advocacy for a Demonstration and research MPA. Sea Change recorded the performance, which was the centrepiece  of a busy Maritime Festival on the island, involving presentations and workshops on social history and fishing traditions (Stewart Thomson Jr), meteorology and climate change (Dave Wheeler), maritime history (Anne Sinclair), seabirds and Fair Isle’s marine environment in its regional context (David Parnaby (FIBO) and Dr Peter GH Evans, School of Ocean Sciences, University of Bangor) and tidal pool ecology (Nick Riddiford and the Fair Isle Wildlife Club).

Ruth Little said, “It’s been an immense privilege to spend this time in the company of both Fair Islanders and of the island itself. This is a place of great significance, not only because of its history and sustainable resource use and cultural innovation, but because those resources are currently under great strain and in need of careful and wise stewardship. The Fair Isle approach to collaborative research and management of the local waters, and the importance of craft and culture in the islanders’ vision of a resilient future, could stand as a model for maritime communities everywhere”.



Authentic Fair Isle knitwear from Fair Isle



Special Fair Isle Events - Da Fishing Hands

'Da Fishing Hands', Inge Thomson & FIMETI - Including videos (Tommy's Blogspot)


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