One of our funders, the Rural Perth & Kinross LEADER programme 2014-2020 have just made a short film about our 2017 launch programme. Made by Morocco Media, You can watch it here:
The 57 bus pulling into Alyth Market Square, photo Clare Cooper
there’s something about double-deckers
transport of choice for rubber-neckers
the way they drive us to work & play through life & strife, the full sway –
a place for lovers under ticketed covers
the full mystery of a top deck
finding fresh words on the road, on spec
only a convex mirror to judge its deep spaces
up – looking down – up to perfect places
old journeys over fresh miles, kent folk & new faces
but always returning to this bus with no airs or graces
the Big One, the Big Loop around East Perthshire heaven
– who needs North Coast 500’s? This is the 57
standing in the dreich, expecting the same keech
mundane, plain & simple to & from work, school
scunnered as a rule then it’s there – staged – coached
we embuss hoping the heating’s working, not so fussed
if the windows are fugged up with other folks thoughts
of their journeys as long as it turns up – forget them nots
circled in time-tables for the shuffle, the politest of Perthshire bustles
between the travel pass loyal, plooky pilgrims, old-timers
first-timers, part-time observers, the hold-yer-nervers
of the East Perthshire roller coaster adventure trail
when the clunkety door clunkety opens, swooshes
to inhale a broth of warm humanity, a new page
for poetic insanity to record emotions on wheels away
from normal, from home, free to think, or just to work normal
& the dispersing fumes from the exhausted plume
armed with a flask & maw’s jeely pieces to brighten the gloom
settling chuffed with yourself – top deck – front row
like you’d anything to do with it, spreading comfy low
into a double seat to yourself, on this pleasure barge
in the bouncy, pilot-seat upstairs – up front – in charge
Does the driver actually know you’re in charge?
Does the driver care you think you’re in charge?
Nae worries. Nae bother. Nae Cares for this is
the Big One, the Big Loop around East Perthshire heaven
– who needs North Coast 500’s? This is the 57.
all the time doing calculations, stoking frustrations
if it gets busier, busy enough, forcing you to surrender half
your treasured space which is not so daft
but has the Bus Inspector made the World aware
above a fare – aware that you’re on it, a word-scribbler
suspending belief in an imaginary bubble, so believe in me
but importantly believe in this – 57 buses like fine wine
become better, more mellow, as you wait in line
more forgiving to the argy-bargy of a morning queue
because there’s nothing else for the 57 to do
but shoulder your double-hearted blame
of going to work, to school & as a rule it’s the same
on the 4, 34, 36, the 15, 16, 17, or venting your spleen
on the Tulloch 1-2 wee loop & even the Scone Park & Ride
the peely-wally palais glide out-of-town shopping run
but here now easing into Top Deck 57 – the lumbering one
into Blair, Hamish Henderson comes alive, high five’s,
Sheila Stewart & the Bairns o Adam dance a jig o joy
down the brae, into the square – the Wellmeddy, wi mair
folk ready for the parallel clatterin by the Cateran
weaving up, bouncing down to Alyth, splatterin
through berry juice haar, on to Meigle, or by Coupar Anxious
then not so far for Burrelton, t0 a tummle-ton for Kinrossie
not for a loss of a phone signal, or your fancy-dan wi-fi
& why you can’t help but think of the Perthshire folk
who have sat here, who are now probably dead / early-pearly
gate, bus pass swiped or at least wiser in the head
away from home, free to roam with open ended shopping lists
bucket lists or tweed sleeve demists amongst all those bairns /
shoppers, the one-way tickets & never-stoppers
& you wonder, how many people, how many of the loyal,
bus pass poets of yesterday, school run poets of tomorrow
have sat here like you with a bag of poems, mentally coiled
bursting to get out, scribbling like you in the sun or the rain
dream-catching, nebbing out the best non-plasma screen ever
the endless nirvana of 57’s stories rolling underneath the big window
leaving the knots of old journeys in ribbons of memory
to sense them tied to the chrome seat handles
to watch them quietly, softly seep into cityscapes
weave threads through blanket towns, become village backdrops
dotted by stops, for sonnets to make sense, to rhyme in time
with verses of fresh poems behind every wise door
every tree root & every box junction a stanza reflecting
in every puddle splashed from the steady beat
of the 57’s life-defining, life-sustaining arterial pulse
as you all should do soon & as I will always do again
to honour my art, so take a bow you double decked heart
as we stand here, making it clear, ready to start
on the east Perthshire roller coaster adventure trail
& without fail you’re the Big One, the Big Loop
around this emotion on wheels, East Perthshire heaven
& after all, who needs North Coast 500’s? This is the 57.
Taking on passengers, photo, Clare Cooper
Today we launched our Common Ground Exhibition at The Barony Alyth, the culmination of a project that captured the great variety and richness of the 6,000 years of the Cateran Trail’s historic environment through specially commissioned and curated oblique aerial photography of the locality especially curated by Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust. 600 photographs have been assembled, 50 of which were selected for the Exhibition which can be viewed here, along with the accompanying catalogue here.
These photographs were then used as inspiration for a series of new textiles created by local people through an artist residency with Deirdre Nelson, one of Scotland’s foremost contemporary textile artists. The Primary Schools of Alyth, Isla, Kirkmichael, Rattray and St Stephens all took part in stitching classes to create cushions, bunting and cloth books and further workshops were held with community groups between March and July 2017 which created other pieces that form part of the Exhibition.
Bunting made from digitally printed aerial photographs overstitched by Isla Primary School children, photo Clare Cooper
In addition to the Exhibition, a booklet was created to accompany the project and an extraordinary new set of Place Name research of the five stages of the Cateran Trail was undertaken by Dr Peter McNiven which can all be accessed by scrolling down the page here.
Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust have been invaluable in the delivery of Common Ground. No only have they been responsible for compiling and curating all the photographs, but they have also written the text that accompanies them and advised on the Place Name research. Additionally, they have led guided walks on the archaeology of the Cateran Trail which have run alongside Common Ground and its sister project, A Story of the Cateran Trail in 100 Objects.
The textiles made will return to the primary schools and community groups after the end of the Exhibition, which will go on to the Wellmeadow Cafe for a further week from the 9th October, to be used and enjoyed in future events and celebrations.
Today we launched our exhibition ‘A Story of the Cateran Trail in 100 Objects’ at Alyth Museum. It was opened by Bob Ellis, one of the Trail’s founders and one of the youngest members of East Perthshire’s community to have walked the Trail, Sebastian Goodman. One of Scotland’s great long-distance footpaths and fully waymarked, the Trail’s circular 64-mile (103-km) route through Eastern Perthshire and the Angus Glens follows old drove roads and ancient tracks across a varied terrain of farmland, forests and moors.
Exhibition booklet cover, designed by Andrew Hunter
Some of the routes follow those used by the Caterans, the name given to the Highland cattle raiders who were the scourge of Strathardle, Glenshee and Glen Isla from the Middle Ages to the 17th century, and after whom the trail is named.
Sebastian Goodman (left) and Bob Ellis, opening the Exhibition, photo Clare Cooper
The Exhibition is the culmination of a project that invited people who live and work around the trail and visitors to propose objects that they believe tell an important part of the story of this area of Scotland through history up to the present. Typically, an object is a material thing that can be seen and touched, but that definition has been broadened to include people, places and landscapes, as well as objects relating to them. Suggestions were collected online through a public campaign over the winter of 2016/2017, and in April 2017, an advisory panel chaired by Bob Ellis, selected the final 100 objects. In addition to the Exhibition and the accompanying booklet, walks, talks and online resources relating to the history, heritage and archaeology of the Cateran Trail have been developed, including digitised lesson plans designed for local primary schools.
Park Neuk Stone Circle, photo Ron McGill
Bob Ellis said: “The Cateran Trail was initially discussed between myself and Alan Dick in the summer of 1997. It took a year and a half to get all the landowners on side and agreements signed and then six months or so to get all the posts in place with arrows and it was officially opened by John Swinney MP in the summer of 1999. I’m delighted, that 20 years since that first conversation with Alan, we are celebrating the incredibly rich history, heritage and contemporary culture of the Trail through this Exhibition. The variety of suggestions put forward through the public campaign has been extraordinary and I hope that many more people will come to the Exhibition and feel inspired to walk the Trail as a result.”
A Cateran as imagined by Glen Isla illustrator Kevin Grieg
Clare Cooper, one of the Project’s Producers said: “Eastern Perthshire and the Cateran Trail are two of Scotland’s hidden gems. As well as being extraordinarily rich in history, archaeology and cultural and natural heritage, this area has a thriving and diverse community of living artists and makers and we are especially grateful to five of them for generously sharing their creativity and imagination through this Exhibition”.
A Wolf, one of the final 100 Objects, by Alyth artist Martin McGuinness
Funding for the Cateran’s Common Wealth programme in 2017, has been secured 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.
Lucy Casot, Head of HLF Scotland, said: “Cateran’s Common Wealth: Celebrating and Sustaining the things that belong to all of us is a fine example of HLF’s Heritage programmes that, thanks to National Lottery players, makes it possible for local people to choose what is important to them, what they want to save, and how they want to spread the word throughout their community.
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 East Perthshire’s history and heritage and we are pleased to have supported it”
‘A Story of the Cateran Trail in 100 Objects’ is produced in partnership with NEoN (North East of North), Dundee, who run Scotland’s only digital arts festival, Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust who manage the Cateran Trail and Culture Perth and Kinross who manage Alyth Museum.
The project is registered as part of Visit Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017.
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’ (www.commonculture.org.uk).
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
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, www.cateranstory.org.uk. 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.
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.
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 www.commonculture.org.uk
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 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, www.cateranstory.org.uk 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:
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