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Spectacular art festival includes 10-metre tall goddess walking through Wick Harbour


By David G Scott

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A new festival produced by Lyth Arts Centre (LAC) will run for eight days from October 8 and be based around "a show-stopping, free series of outdoor projections" celebrating Wick Harbour and the Caithness coastline.

Northern Lights Festival (NLF) is a brand-new arts festival produced by LAC taking place from Friday, October 8, to Saturday, October 16, as part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21. The festival will blend together film screenings, exhibitions, performances, talks and a showcase on local, sustainable food, all centred around a "show-stopping free series of outdoor projections" running throughout the eight-day event.

Wick's North Baths. Picture: Alan Hendry
Wick's North Baths. Picture: Alan Hendry

Charlotte Mountford, co-director of NLF said: “We’re really excited to be able to host this event as part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21. More than ever, people are looking to celebrate their local landscapes and come together as a community – Northern Lights Festival is really a chance to shine a light on this most beautiful corner of Scotland.”

Paul Bush OBE, director of events at VisitScotland, said: “We are pleased to be supporting Northern Lights Festival as part of Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21. Scotland offers the perfect stage to celebrate our far north coastline and the festival provides a great opportunity to experience the light and installation projections inspired by Wick Harbour, as well as learning about local food and drink and hearing about the coastal history of Caithness."

At the centre of the programme is Northern Lights, a light and projection installation that will bring Wick Harbour to life with "visually stunning projections" across the harbour. Created in collaboration with Moray based Wildbird, using archive footage and contemporary material, a new film will be turned into seven distinctive, striking installations that will be projected at iconic locations across the harbour.

Each visual will be accompanied by audio installations that will share stories and music for a "truly immersive experience". Every night of the festival, from 7:30pm - 9pm, audiences will walk through the harbour, from old former salt stores of the herring boom, modern day oil tanks, the iconic lighthouse and the historic herring mart, for a journey through Caithness’ coastal history marking Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21.

Vision Mechanics 10-metre tall mythical goddess of the sea, Storm, will walk through Wick harbour on Monday, October 11. Picture: Neil Hanna Photography
Vision Mechanics 10-metre tall mythical goddess of the sea, Storm, will walk through Wick harbour on Monday, October 11. Picture: Neil Hanna Photography

Carrying forward the message that we must protect and care for Scotland’s coasts and waters, Vision Mechanics 10-metre tall mythical goddess of the sea, Storm, will walk through Wick harbour on Monday, October 11, as part of her tour around Scotland. Made from entirely recycled and natural resources her eyes are the colour of oyster shells, her hair thick strands of kelp, her voice the chorus of the waves. Storm is accompanied by a soundscape created by the pioneering Scottish folk singer Mairi Campbell.

The festival will have a strong focus on local food and drink, showcasing local suppliers and sustainable seafood. Running throughout the festival, The Printer’s Rest Pop Up will provide food by the harbour, inspired by the Caithness Coastline. The Dunnet Bay Distillery presents Coastal Botanicals: Gin-tasting with Rock Rose which will explore the botanics of their award-winning gin including kelp, rhodiola, rose and berries.

Harbour test projection for the festival.
Harbour test projection for the festival.

Much of the festival is inspired by the harbour itself, created to draw on and celebrate the local community and existing arts and culture in Caithness. Nucleus: The Nuclear and Caithness Archive will curate an exhibition offering a rare chance to delve into the harbour’s archive, including the harbour master’s log books – WK: History of a Harbour, running each weekday throughout the festival. Tours around the harbour from local groups will include a historical tour from The Wick Society and the Wick Riverside Tour of the Solar System from Caithness Astronomy Group. The newly-reopened Victorian sea-bathing pool North Baths will host Tunes in the Tides – your swim soundtrack by a local folk trio – and local storyteller and wild swimmer Alex Patience will lead an afternoon Family Storytelling Dip, as well as an evening of Storytelling and Starbathing.

The North Baths will host several events during the eight-day festival. Picture: Alan Hendry
The North Baths will host several events during the eight-day festival. Picture: Alan Hendry

Further performances will include George Gunn reading from his new collection Between Two Beaches – his first poems since becoming Caithness Maker. Local singer, songwriter and "cultural crofter" Nancy Nicolson will share stories and songs from Wick. Culture Collective artist in residence Sinéad Hargan will share a participatory, audio performance from We Can Move With The Sea If We Like which takes audiences on a journey of appreciation and reflection of our seas.

A series of online talks and events include director of Seawatch Foundation Dr Peter Evans, who will give a talk exploring how we can protect our local marine life – How to Conserve and Protect the Caithness Marine Environment – while Chris Aitken of Caithness Broch Project asks "were the Iron Age inhabitants of Keiss broch really cannibals?" in The Coastal Cannibals of Keiss Broch. Shetland poet Roseanne Watt will read from her award-winning collection Moder Dy/Mother Wave and LAC associate artists Morna Young and Catriona Lexy-Campbell will discuss their new play Salt Quines, inspired by the east coast herring girls.

There will be talks on marine life around the Caithness coastline. Picture: Karen Munro
There will be talks on marine life around the Caithness coastline. Picture: Karen Munro

The film programme will include a programme of ocean-inspired films at Pulteneytown People’s Project, including: Launch! On The Sea With Scotland’s Lifeboats, which dives into archive film and videos of RNLI crews and communities, accompanied by an immersive soundtrack from some of the UK’s best contemporary musicians.

Shore Short Film Night will see an evening of short films inspired by the sea, featuring new Scottish documentary and international animation. A screening of Vitamin Sea follows Cal Major’s two-month long journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats by stand up paddleboard, and LAC artist in residence Morag Currie will premiere her new audio visual exploration into the Pentland Firth tidal streams.

A series of family-friendly workshops and crafts which celebrate our seas will take place throughout the October half-term festival, including nautical themed drawing and family friendly sea-watching around Wick Bay.

NLF takes place from October 8 - 16. For full programme information and tickets visit: lytharts.org.uk/northern-lights-festival/

The festival is supported by EventScotland through Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21 and Scotland’s Events Recovery Fund.


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