Craignish Village Hall is a stunning, eco-designed community hall in Ardfern on the western seaboard of Argyll, and was of course the venue for our most recent Spring Gathering. In November 2015 Craignish Village Hall Promoters launched a year-long celebration of the hall’s tenth birthday, with a packed programme of community workshops, performances and exhibitions. With a busy summer ahead, Arts Programme Co-ordinator Lucy Walsh and Hall Manager Diane Steele took some time out to tell us more about the celebrations and arts promotion at the venue.

What led you to arts programming Lucy?

When my family and I moved back home to Craignish from Australia in 2014 my husband and I became really interested in the village hall and especially the arts programme. Fortunately for me there was a position vacant and so I jumped at the opportunity and was lucky enough to be offered the role of Arts Programme co-ordinator. My background is actually in science – but I have always had a great love of the arts in general and am in constant awe of performing artists.

My husband has a background in sound and lighting engineering so we really enjoy the chance to work together to transform the venue into the space it needs to become for each performance. Arts promoting is a very rewarding and exciting thing to be doing!

I really appreciate being able to live in a such a beautiful and relatively remote area and still have access to and be involved with high quality performing arts. I am so inspired by our incredibly artistically talented local community and am pleased to be in a position to be able to welcome visiting companies to our venue to offer inspiration, entertainment and fun (!) to our community and visitors here.

Tell us about the anniversary programme.

Our tenth anniversary celebrations kicked off with a show from The Flanagan Collective about Craignish and a certain inhabitant… sometimes the unexpected delights of running a small village hall venue are that the performers that come and the people that live here get close enough to inspire something else entirely! More recently we ran a comedy writing workshop with Juliette Burton. This has led to a group of people getting together to write, bounce ideas off each other and review material for the finale of the year’s events, the Cabaret in November. Also looking forward to the Craignish Festival between 30th July and 14th August. Amongst the many things happening (see website for details!) is a collaborative music, storytelling and dance show inspired by the Corryvreckan whirlpool, with compositions and stories written especially for this.

Diane, how did the idea for the anniversary programme come about? Did it take a long time to plan?

The idea of doing something extra for the anniversary year has long been in mind. We took the opportunity to brainstorm all sorts of possibilities for the Creative Places application last year. We were shortlisted but unsuccessful and then thought, why not apply for an expanded programme under the Creative Scotland Open Project Funding stream?

Our aim has been to bring different elements of the community together for projects and to get people involved in participating in the arts and crafts. We have been running a textile project, to make wall hangings for our main hall; we are adding workshops in dance and the spoken & written word; we are hosting and running the Craignish Festival this summer including an exhibition of illustrations and designer bookbinding by local Faith Shannon and a community sculpture celebrating rural primary industries.

We want to try and encourage people to do more than see the arts, we want to try and encourage them to experience aspects of the arts. It’s not about numbers (although more would be good!) It’s more about encouraging participation. At the end of all this we will have a chance to sit down and see what has worked well and where to take things next year.

We are working at it all the time, developing our communication and social media skills.

Spring Gathering 2016

Spring Gathering 2016

Spiltmilk Dance perform at Craignish Village Hall

Spiltmilk Dance perform at Craignish Village Hall

Dance has become a significant part of your programme generally – is this an art form you have a particular connection with Lucy?

I love dance! Our community has a strong core of young people, and adults, attending dance classes regularly who are always keen to attend the performances and dance workshops visiting companies offer. I have to work hard to pull in large enough audience numbers – but with dance I relax a little as it seems to be an art form that is really appreciated by people locally.

We have a focus on dance within our tenth anniversary programme this year so are offering some really exciting opportunities for people to watch performances, take part in workshops and become involved in our ‘Corryvreckan Project’. This is an exciting collaboration between dancers, musicians, composers and storytellers and will include professionals and the local community in the process of creating and performing. I can’t wait to see the end result of this project which will culminate in a performance on 13th August.

Thank you both so much for talking to us. We wish you and the whole community every success with the festival and the anniversary celebrations, it sounds like it’s going to be a truly memorable summer season at Craignish Village Hall!

Check out the video from our 2016 Spring Gathering to see some footage of Ardfern and Craignish Village Hall.

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