The Story Box Launched!

The Story Box, a new community-led oral history archive, was launched today, Thursday 18th May in Alyth Market Square.


Alyth Primary School youngsters opening The Story Box with one of their songs

The box was opened by Dorothy Lothian, the oldest contributor to the archive, who recounts tales of her rural childhood during World War II, along with the youngest contributor, from the P1 class of Alyth Primary School.

Dorothy Lothian opening the Box with Alyth Primary School’s youngest member of their P1 class

Set to help revitalise the town after the devastating flooding of July 2015, The Story Box contains more than 100 stories, songs and poems about the town’s present, it’s past and even it’s future.

Housed in an iconic red telephone box, the archive tells remarkable stories of the people of Alyth from pre-history, through to the present day and into the future.

They include tales of the Picts from pre-history and the monks of Alyth’s 5th century Church; stories of the past lives of the farming folk of the fertile Strathmore Valley and of the people, industry and shops of this once thriving market town.

The stories also paint an audio portrait of the present day people and how the remarkable community spirit of this town helped it survive the devastating flash flood of July 2015.

The future of Alyth is told through imagined stories and songs written by the young people of the town recorded during digital and sound technology workshops run by the project in Alyth Primary School and Alyth Youth Partnership.

Marian Bruce with Rory Gianni who designed all the technology

Project Designer, Producer and Alyth resident Marian Bruce said “After 3 years of planning we are thrilled to be launching our time-travel phone box in Alyth. The project has really caught the imagination of the town. We have already collected more than 100 stories, songs and poems about the past through to the future of Alyth and the project will continue to gather more stories over the next 18 months of the project.”

Amanda Blakeman, Chair of Alyth Community Council

Amanda Blakeman, Chair of Alyth Community Council, who set the challenge to the people of Alyth to find a use for the de-commissioned box said: “The Story Box is a real asset for the town which will give a boost to the community after the long recovery we have endured since the devastating flood of July 2015.”

The Story Box is one of three projects launching Cateran’s Common Wealth, a new initiative in Eastern Perthshire which is using one of Scotland’s hidden gems, the Cateran Trail, as a stage for a multi-year programme of diverse arts, cultural and heritage activities and events aimed at inspiring people to think about and celebrate our ‘common wealth’ (

Clare Cooper, one of its Co-Producers described the project as “A unique community-led arts project which celebrates the history, heritage and culture of a very special place and which will help bring new tourism business to this beautiful part of Perthshire.”

The Story Box project has been supported through significant in-kind donations from individuals and businesses in Alyth and funding has been secured for it and two other projects which are part of the Cateran’s Common Wealth programme in 2017 from Creative Scotland, Alyth Community Council, The Drumderg Windfarm Community Fund, The Gannochy Trust, The Heritage Lottery Fund, The People’s Postcode Lottery Fund, Rural Perth & Kinross LEADER programme, Perth & Kinross Council, Scotmid Community Fund and the St James Place Foundation.

Carol Downie, Chief Executive of the Gannochy Trust said: “The Story Box is an unusual project which has involved many young people in an inspiring way and brought a new amenity to Alyth which is still recovering from the devastating 2015 flood. We are glad to have been able to support it and wish the project every success.”

Explaining the importance of the Rural Perth & Kinross LEADER support, Jackie Brierton the LAG chair said; “The award of £41,761 towards this community initiative is one of a number benefitting from the £3.8 million share of LEADER and Scottish Government funds available for rural communities and enterprise in Perthshire until 2020. This is a creative and imaginative way to highlight Alyth’s history and heritage and we are pleased we have been able to support it.”

Lindsay Dougan, SSE Community Funds Manager said ‘SSE is delighted the Drumderg wind farm Fund could support this excellent project. The archive will help share the history of Alyth with a new audience.’

The Story Box is produced in partnership with the people of Alyth, with digital and sound technology artists and designers from Fleet Collective, Dundee and NEoN (North East of North), Dundee, who run Scotland’s only digital arts festival, Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Culture Perth and Kinross.

Donna Holford-Lovell of North East of North (NEoN) with Rory Gianni


A Story of the Cateran Trail in 100 Objects: Community Panel Chooses Final List

The final 100 Objects to be included in “A Story of the Cateran Trail in 100 Objects” have now been chosen.


The project was launched in November 2016 with a campaign to crowdsource ideas for 100 objects that tell the story of the Trail’s history right up until the present day. Folk who live and work around the Trail and those who visit were asked to propose people, places and landscapes and objects associated with them, that they believe tell an important part of the story of this part of Scotland.

The final 100 Objects were chosen in April 2017 by a Community Panel Chaired by Councillor Bob Ellis and form the basis of a new booklet, an Exhibition at Alyth Museum which opens in July 2017, new itineraries aimed at visitors the area and a set of teaching resources for local Primary Schools.

Bob Ellis, Chair of the Community Panel who chose the final 100 and a co-founder of the Cateran Trail said: “We are very excited by what has come out of the public campaign for ideas of people, places and landscapes that should be included. The variety of suggestions put forward has made visible the incredibly rich history, heritage and contemporary culture that makes up this wonderful part of Scotland and all of us involved in the project have learned so much. We are now planning exactly what can be fitted in to the Exhibition space we have available at Alyth Museum and how we can best represent each object in the accompanying booklet.”

The final list has been drawn from 158 suggestions put up by members of the public on the website especially designed for the project, Twenty nine entries have been chosen for the theme of ‘people’, forty for ‘places’ and thirty one for ‘landscapes’.

Clare Cooper, Co-producer of the Cateran’s Common Wealth project who has been working with the community panel said: “We managed to group some of the entries under bigger subheadings such as the ‘Ballads & Songs of the Cateran Trail’ and ‘Standing Stones’ which meant that we could get more in to the final 100! Finding out about the many ballads and songs that relate to the area was a joy. I’d love to see if we can put together a set of recordings of them. There are lots of other things we can do with the list too like creating themed itineraries for visitors. Whilst we only have funding right now for the Exhibition and booklet, the accompanying walks and talks programme and the specially designed lesson plans for local primary schools, we’ll be investigating whether we can raise raise more funding to make some of these other ideas happen. In the meantime, we look forward to getting the Exhibition up and running which will be open from the 1st July in Alyth Museum.”


A version of this article first appeared in The Blairgowrie Advertiser on Wednesday May 3rd 2017.

Scotland’s Sounds Network funds Researcher in Residence for The Story Box

The Scotland’s Sounds Network has just confirmed that they are able to support a Researcher in Residence as part of The Story Box project.

The overarching aim of the network is to improve the care of and the access to Scotland’s heritage recorded sounds.

Naomi Harvey is a PhD researcher with a background in working with traditional song and story, archive collections and community fieldwork research. Her current PhD is exploring intangible cultural heritage recordings in sound collections across Scotland, and is a collaboration between Heriot-Watt University and Scotland’s Sounds at the National Library of Scotland.

Her involvement with the Perth & Kinross Archive and Alyth Storybox project has come about as part of Connecting Scotland’s Sounds and the Scottish Graduate School of the Arts & Humanities’  “Hear Here” researcher-in-residence training programme. This programme aims to match up researchers with community sound archives in order to develop skills in making, preserving, cataloguing and promoting sound recordings and to highlight the importance and uniqueness of these collections through public engagement activities.


Launch of Walks & Talks Programme

Saturday 25th March saw the launch of our Walks & Talks Programme. First off was artist in residence Deirdre Nelson walking from Alyth to Bridge of Cally with a group of walkers.


Coming up are 14 other walks and talks spreading over seven months and running into September all arranged to share the rich diversity of the arts, culture & heritage of the Cateran Trail.

Participants can find out about one of the areas’ greatest treasures, the Laing Photographic Collection, hear Andy Wightman MSP talk about the history of the commons in Scotland, join artist in residence Deirdre Nelson to learn what drives her work, listen to some of Scotland’s greatest experts on Scottish Hill Forts, Caulfeild’s Military Roads and Pictish Settlement in Eastern Perthshire and delve into old maps of the area.

There are also numerous opportunities to walk some of the most breathtaking parts of the Trail with artist in residence Deirdre Nelson & discover the secrets of this ancient landscape guided by Gavin Lindsay from Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust. The walks & talks programme runs through until September 2017 and details, including booking details can be found on the website

You can find out background on each event and details on how to book by going to this part of the site here.

And you can download the walks & talks leaflet here.

2017 is the Scottish theme Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and we are grateful to Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust for their help in planning and delivering part this programme for us and for leading our guided walks.

A Story of the Cateran Trail in 100 Objects Launched

A Story of the Cateran Trail in 100 Objects is the first of three Cateran’s Common wealth projects to launch this week with a 4 month public campaign to crowdsource ideas for 100 objects that tell the story of the Trail’s history right up until the present day.

A dramatic view of Gleann Beag where light snow has enhanced the visibility of the rig and furrow cultivation systems., photo, courtesy of Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust

Folk who live and work around the Trail and those who visit are being asked to propose people, places and landscapes and objects associated with them, that they believe tell an important part of the story of this part of Scotland. The final 100 Objects will be chosen next April by a Community panel Chaired by Councillor Bob Ellis and will form the basis of a new booklet, an Exhibition at Alyth Museum and a set of digitized lesson plans for local Primary Schools.

Hamish Henderson, poet, songwriter, communist, soldier and intellectual


Inspired by the British Museum’s superb ‘History of the World in 100 Objects’, which tells the history of the world through 100 Objects curated from the British Museum’s sprawling collections, this version will be collecting objects that relate specifically to the Cateran Trail.  Typically, an object is a material thing that can be seen and touched, but the organisers are broadening that definition to include places, landscapes and people as well as objects relating to them.

The Silver Ball of Rattray, a unique example of a Scottish hand ball trophy, 
photo courtesy of Perth Museum


The Ardler based Landscape Historian Christopher Dingwall, who has written the introduction to the Landscape theme on the project website said: “Behind the tranquil landscape of Strathmore and the northern glens traversed by the Cateran Trail is a dramatic story, stretching back millions of years, which can be read in the rocks and landforms through which trail passes.  The resulting physical landscape can be seen to have a profound influence on patterns of settlement, cultivation and transport. We are looking forward to hearing the views of both local people and visitors as to which landscapes or objects relating to landscapes, such as plants or animals or particular geological forms they would like to see included”.

Peter McNiven, who is undertaking new research on the history of the place names around the Trail said: “Place-names have the potential to tell us a great deal about how people in the past used and viewed the landscape. They can tell us about past land use, especially in terms of agriculture, hunting, authority and justice, archaeology, and myths and legends. They can inform us of important aspects of past religious and social organisation that would otherwise have gone unrecorded. I look forward to seeing which places and objects relating to places are proposed for inclusion in this very exciting project.”

The third theme is about people. The story of any place is also the story of its people, and equally, the story of a people is also in part the story of their place. From the ghillies and gamies and the fishermen, farmers and firefighters (some of whom are all three) to the singers, musicians and artists, they all have a story to tell. The Cateran Trail area has many historical and contemporary figures that have made it what it is today and the Community Panel are expecting to be spoiled for choice in relation to people or objects relating to certain individuals that are proposed for inclusion.

Objects from Coupar Angus Burn, Photo, courtesy of Frances Law


The Panel are keen to stress that they are interested in ordinary everyday objects as they are in the more famous and well known such as the Silver Ball of Rattray, Cargill’s leap or Diarmuid’s tomb. Local artist Frances Law’s art and archaeology project on the Coupar Burn is throwing up many such examples:

“Among the finds were Victorian spoons, knives and clay pipes, plastic toys, glass bottles, mobile phones, bolts and fixings from railway sleepers, tins and jewellery from a hundred years ago to the fairly recent past. Once cleaned and on display these objects captured the imagination of members of the local community unveiling something forgotten, a memory, a link to the past, a trigger stirring an emotion from another place, another time. However these objects found their way to the bed of the Burn these material remnants provide a mirror which reflects a particular chronological, cultural and social history of the town”.

If you have an idea of something or somebody that should be included in the 100 objects that relate to any of the three themes of people, places and landscapes, go to the project website, and upload an image and some text about your proposal, why you or your family or friends value it and why you think it should be included in the final 100 objects chosen. You can also find the project on:


Guardians of the Stone

On 22nd September, 22 youngsters from Rattray Primary School undertook a heritage walk to view one of Scotland’s finest Iron Age Forts, Barry Hill next to Alyth. Accompanying them were Nicky Mcfarlane, Primary School teacher at Rattray and volunteers Scott Whyte, parent, Alison Hall of Historic Holidays Scotland and Clare Cooper, co-producer of Cateran’s Common Wealth.

Starting in Alyth’s historic Town Square they walked through Glen Isla Golf course, taking in the Standing Stone or ‘Menhir’ on the 3rd hole where Nicky explained its likely age – 4,000 BC to 1,500 BC and use – probably as a meeting place which could also have had ceremonial and religious uses.  The children playfully formed a circle around the stone singing ‘We are Guardians of the Stone’ before moving off toward Loyal Hill where they began the steep ascent to the viewing point for Barry Hill.

Still unexcavated, Barry Hill is one of Scotland’s best preserved iron age forts although its occupation most likely spanned many periods. It is thought that such sites had multiple functions and roles in addition to offering a defensive position in case of attack including being a centre of political power, a place where goods were produced, stored and traded through fairs and markets and also as a centre for religious rituals.  Myths and legends often develop around such sites and Barry Hill is no exception with its links to the legend of Vanora, the Scottish name for King Arthur’s Queen Guinevere.

Alison Hall said “Its time that we found a way to undertake some formal excavation of Barry Hill. It is an astonishing heritage asset to have on our doorstep and one that could help encourage more visitors to come to the area and enjoy learning about its origins and place in the pre-history of Scotland”

Nicky Macfarlane said “It puts the learning they’ve been doing in the classroom into a new context but also, it helps them understand a bit more about their local environment and what it holds. I hope it contributes to developing their sense of place, community, time and space. Most of all, it was a good fun challenge for everyone. The children worked hard to arrive at the top. They chatted to each other and volunteers along the way and they now have the memory of a happy, shared experience.”

Clare Cooper said “It was a privilege to accompany the children on this trip and to see how much they enjoyed being outside and learning about the heritage on their doorstep. I know it is hard for Schools to organise these kinds of events as there is no support available to help make them happen but we need to change that. The extraordinary diversity of history, heritage and archaeology in Eastern Perthshire needs to be easily accessible for all people of all ages to enjoy and I hope the Cateran’s Common Wealth initiative will play a small part in offering new opportunities for that to happen.”

This is a longer version of an article that first appeared in the Blairgowrie Advertiser on 14.10.2016. All Photos by Clare Cooper

Full Funding For First Wave of Projects Achieved

At last we are able to go public on the fact that after 16 months of solid fundraising we have achieved full funding for our first three projects!


dsc_2132Looking toward Glenshee from the Cateran Trail at the top of Alyth Hill, Photo, Clare Cooper

Ironically, given the Brexit decision, the last piece of our funding has come from the Perth & Kinross rural LEADER programme, an EU funded rural development programme which aims to support individuals, organisations and communities in rural Perth and Kinross to be stronger, more confident and inclusive to lead or contribute to local economic and community development. It is a big chunk of money, almost £42,000 and we would not have been able to go ahead at all without it.

We are now in a position to deliver three very exciting projects all drawing on the Cateran Trail’s extraordinarily rich common wealth of heritage and all of which will now take place in 2017, serendipitously, the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology here in Scotland.

Each project will offer local people and visitors new ways of interpreting and learning about the area’s rich local heritage:

The Story of the Cateran Trail in 100 Objects will launch in November this year with a campaign to crowdsource ideas for 100 objects that tell the story of the Trail’s history right up until the present day. Folk who live and work around the Trail and those who visit will be asked to propose people, places and landscapes and objects associated with them, that they believe tell an important part of the story of this part of Scotland. The final 100 Objects will be chosen by a Community panel Chaired by Councillor Bob Ellis and will form the basis of a new booklet, an Exhibition at Alyth Museum, new itineraries aimed at visitors the area and a set of teaching resources for local Primary Schools.

New aerial photography of the Trail and new place name research will act as inspiration for the second project called Common Ground. An artist residency led by one of Scotland’s foremost contemporary textile artists, Deirdre Nelson, will offer local people of all ages the opportunity to take part in workshops to design a new Cateran Cloth using the photos and place names. These workshops will culminate in the exhibition of the newly designed cloth and its sources of inspiration at the A.K. Bell Library in Perth and at other venues around the Cateran Trail. Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust, who are undertaking the aerial photography and place name research, will also be leading a series of walks and talks about the area’s rich archaeological and cultural heritage in local venues.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHWester Peathaugh, Glen Isla, from the air, photo courtesy of Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust

The Story Box will transform a decommissioned red telephone box into a community-led audio art installation in Alyth Town Square, which captures oral histories of the people of Alyth. In a similar way to Dr Who’s ‘Tardis’, the iconic red telephone box will allow the user to hear stories from four different eras, including the most recent catastrophic flooding events in Alyth in July 2015.

Altogether just over £180,000 has been raised to deliver these first three projects from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Gannochy Trust, Creative Scotland, the Postcode Lottery Trust, the Drumderg Fund, Perth & Kinross Council, the St James Place Foundation, Scotmid and LEADER.


Alyth Flower Girls, photo courtesy of the Laing Photographic Collection

Clare Cooper and Donna Holford Lovell co-producers of the Cateran’s Common Wealth initiative said: “It has been an incredibly long haul raising the funding to get these first three projects off the ground, but we got there in the end thanks especially to Councillor Ian Miller and his inward investment team and the rural Perth & Kinross LEADER programme. The whole initiative is a remarkable collaboration between local cultural and creative practitioners, voluntary and community organisations, business people and civic leaders and some of Tayside’s leading environmental and cultural organisations and we’re proud to be part of it. This area’s common wealth of culture, archaeology history and heritage involves an astonishing diversity of people, places and landscapes and we hope that as many local people as possible will want to get involved and participate.”

Councillor Bob Ellis said: “The Cateran Trail is jam-packed with hidden gems. This project aims to make our many cultural, archaeological and historical treasures much more visible both to those of us who live and work here and to the visitors who we want to encourage to come here.”

Morag Watson, Manager of the Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust who are responsible for managing the Cateran Trail said: “We are delighted to have been part of the big team of people and organisations across Tayside and beyond who have come together to make the Cateran’s Common Wealth initiative happen. The Cateran Trail is a huge asset for Perthshire and for Scotland and we want to encourage more activities around the Trail that attract visitors, benefit local businesses and that local people can enjoy.”

Dave Strachan, Manager of the Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust said: “Glenshee and Strathardle contain some of Scotland’s best-preserved upland relic landscapes. Dating from throughout prehistory and the medieval period to modern times, they capture the story of human interaction with the land. The CCW project offers exciting new ways to celebrate the remarkable ancient landscapes of the area and Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust is delighted to contribute.”



Supported by Rural Perth & Kinross LEADER Programme 2014-2020: The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.



One More Funding Decision to Go!

It’s been a long haul trying to put the fundraising together to launch the programme. Over the last 14 months we’ve been pitching our plans to dozens of public and private funders across the UK and even in Europe and we are now one decision away from knowing whether we achieved our first fundraising target of just over £174,000 which will enable us to deliver the first wave of our planned programme.


img_1346Spittle of Glenshee in the spring snow, Photo, Clare Cooper


So far we’ve had confirmed offers from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Gannochy Trust, Creative Scotland, the Postcode Lottery Trust, Perth & Kinross Council, the St James Place Foundation and Scotmid. If we get a ‘yes’ from our one remaining funder at the beginning of April, we’ll be in a position to launch three projects that we are really excited about which will focus on the extraordinarily rich archaeological and cultural heritage of the Cateran Trail area.

Watch this space and if you’d like to add yourself to our mailing list then please follow the links below this post at the bottom of the page.

Vanora: The Opera receives early stage development funding

We heard on Friday that we had received a grant from the Foyle Foundation to undertake research and development on our idea to turn the Vanora legend into an opera as part of the Cateran’s Common Wealth programme.


dsc_1236Janis Hart, Zoe Strachan, Kally Lloyd Jones, Jessica Cottis on top of Barry Hill, Photo Clare Cooper


Working with an amazing Scottish creative team who have come around the project: Kally Lloyd-Jones, Jessica Cottis, Zoe Strachan and John Harris, we will spend the next few months researching this local legend and its background further, reconnoitring the area including key sites and venues, bashing out ideas and meeting with local people and community groups to see how we can create the project together.

For those of you reading this who are not familiar with this extraordinary treasure of Cateran’s Common Wealth You can read a bit of background here by the historian Stuart McHardy.

First stage map of Cateran’s Cultural Assets Map Launched

We’ve just launched the first stage results of our mapping exercise, which aims to make visible all those working with arts and culture around the Trail and all the historical and archaeological sites in the vicinity. You can see the map here.


ct4888-1Photo, courtesy of Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust


Please get in touch if you are working with arts and culture around the Trail in any way and we’ve missed you first time around and we’ll make sure your details are incorporated in our updates.

The map has been created by Donna Holford-Lovell using Google Fusion Tables and OpenStreetMap with help from Grallator and Cleanweb organiser Rory Gianni. It’s and example of what you can do with software that is accessible to everyone to create a new ‘common wealth’ of information about a specific topic.