This month we hear from Katherine on Raasay about their involvement with the Puppet Animation Festival earlier this year.

Katherine, tell us about life on Raasay.

Raasay is a small island (15 miles by 4 at its longest and widest) in between the Isle of Skye and the mainland. It is reached by a regular 20 minute ferry crossing from Skye and has a resident population of around 150. The island gets a lot busier with visitors and holiday home owners during the summer. The majority of the islands population are based in or around the main village, Inverarish, in the South of the island.

It is a beautiful place with lots of areas to walk and miles of quiet roads to cycle, even when at its busiest. The coast varies from rocky beaches to sandy coves and the hill areas are grazed by cattle and sheep and provide many interesting walks for all abilities. With a rich heritage, there is something for everyone on the island, whether you are interested in the varied geology, the history of the people, or Raasay’s industrial past (there was an iron ore mine worked in the First World War).

The community, although small, is lively and there is always something going on for the community and visitors. We have the usual challenges faced by an island served by a ferry on the west coast of Scotland. Opportunities for employment, especially year round full time jobs, are limited and the cost of travel and overnight accommodation limit options for accessing performing arts and other entertainment away from the island. However, it is a wonderful place to live and a safe environment for families to grow up in.

Raasay Hall front

It sounds great. What kind of events do you programme, and what’s your audience like?

We try to host a variety of events, however as we have to incur additional costs such as transport and accommodation for any acts that come to Raasay, and as our population (and therefore audience numbers) are low we do have to be careful with costs. Over the summer we have a number of traditional, family friendly, Ceilidh dances with some of the great local bands we have on Skye and further afield. We hold BBQ’s (regardless of the weather!) on the summer, sometimes with live music and then throughout the year we try to have two or three theatre performances aimed at different ages. Although the family shows are always the best attended! We have also had some outdoor performances which are great when the weather allows!! These have varied from puppet shows to historical based plays to fiction – whatever takes our fancy!

We spotted recently that Puppet Animation Scotland mentioned Raasay as a good example of how a promoter got involved as a first-time participant in their Puppet Animation Festival. How did you hear about the Puppet Animation Festival, what made you get involved and how did you promote the events?

We heard about this through The Touring Network. When we got in touch with the Festival they were keen to come to Raasay so after some to-ing and fro-ing over dates we were able to get a suitable date booked for a performance in the Community Hall and for a showing of an animated film in conjunction with the local primary school.

We had The Fisherman and The Seal in the Community Hall and showed The Song of the Sea at the school. Like most events on Raasay, word of mouth is our best way of promoting events although we also use Facebook, flyers and posters around the island.

What did your audience think of the shows?

The audience for The Fisherman and the Seal ranged from 3 years to teenagers, as well as some of our older residents, and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. The feedback from the audience was all very positive and the majority stayed on after the performance as they enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the performers and look at the props and puppets.

The animated Filmed The Song of The Sea was thoroughly enjoyed by the children, parents and school staff who watched it. The school had set up a mini cinema complete with popcorn and drinks and the children, even the youngest, were mesmerised throughout the duration of the film.

So, would you recommend the Puppet Animation Festival to other Touring Network promoters, and will you be taking part next year?

Yes!!! Definitely. They were great to deal with, both before and after the show, and the standard of performance was fantastic. We also hope to continue to find interesting and different events that can entertain and increase the range of performing arts that we can host for the community and visitors.

We’re really glad to hear that Raasay’s first experience of the Puppet Animation Festival was a positive one, and hope that other Touring Network Promoter’s consider getting involved next year. You can find out more about the festival here: Puppet Animation Festival

We also got in touch with Jen, Festivals Manager at Puppet Animation Scotland, to find out what she thought of their visit to Raasay: 

“It was brilliant to connect with Katherine on Raasay through The Touring Network. Our festival has never visited Raasay before and it was wonderful to be able to visit the island and meet new audiences.

We are passionate about bringing performing arts and films to all audiences across Scotland, no matter where they are, and we aim to subsidise and share the travel costs between lots of different venues so those venues that are further away are not having to bare the brunt of the cost. When we visited Raasay, we provided a free film programme to allow Katherine to explore the appetite for programming this sort of work and we are delighted it has gone down so well! We can’t wait to come back again for 2017!”

The Touring Network (Highlands & Islands)

Supporting live performance across the Highlands & Islands as part of a central, celebrated and indispensable part of the cultural life of Scotland.

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