Environmental Art Festival Scotland

Mark Shelley has kindy sent us an article highlighting what to expect from this new arts festival which takes place in Dumfries and Galloway from the 30th of August to the 2nd of September 2013.

Days of Wonder

Decades in newspaper journalism make you cynical, just as the downward march of middle age can make you world-weary.

So for an old hack and PR like me it’s a particular pleasure when something comes along to rekindle a childlike sense of wonder.

Working to promote the new Environmental Art Festival Scotland (EAFS), which takes place here in Dumfries and Galloway from Friday, 30 August to Monday, 2 September, has done just that.

There’s a huge amount going on, but certain events and activities have really caught my imagination.

One is Dark Outside FM – there is something which makes me chuckle with delight about setting up a temporary radio station in the heart of a Galloway forest to play 24 hours of previously unreleased music. The music industry has the reputation of being a self-obsessed search for stardom. The fact that 200 bands, groups, singers and musicians from all over the world are donating pieces to the project gives a very different impression.

Voice From the Phone Box, by installation artist Katie Anderson, also has an evocative quality that really appeals to me. She has recorded memories of local life which people can listen to on six ceramic handsets being placed inside the disconnected phone box in Clarencefield, near Annan.

They include happy recollections of playing games around the waste pipe from the Chapelcross nuclear power station. Katie’s idea is great because so many of us have fond, and often powerful, associations with these crumbling red phone boxes.

For me one of the strongest is the hormonal 14-year-old urgency of waiting outside, coins clenched in sweaty palm, to try to call my nonchalant girlfriend Liz. I couldn’t make the call for ages because a large, older and rather weird kid was in there making anonymous phone calls to random numbers in the Soviet Union. Earlier today it occurred to me that he may have gone on to a sparkling career at GCHQ.

More generally what I love about EAFS is that it is a beacon of optimism in an often gloomy social and economic landscape. Joint organisers The Stove, Wide Open and Spring Fling have put something together that brings together art, science, politics and the public to try to promote a more sustainable future.

And instead of being all preachy, they are trying to generate ideas for new lifestyles that can be fun, engaging, full of vibrant opportunities – and which make the most of our environment rather than reducing it to wreckage.

One of the main commissions involves young artist James Winnett creating a big gravity powered fountain at the bottom of the Grey Mare’s Tail. I love the idea of seeing the river tumble down a woodland waterfall, only to shoot back up again with no apparent cause.
EAFS is an international event (which it’s hoped will become biennial) and involves some renowned figures like Ueno Masao from Japan, who is creating a seven-metre bamboo and willow sculpture near Gatehouse of Fleet.

And it’s actually one of the overseas visitors who intrigues me most – a woman shaman from Mongolia. The nomadic peoples of Mongolia understand rather a lot about sustainability and their land, and religious beliefs are things that have intrigued me for a long time. So the chance to drop into a yurt at the Cairnsmore of Fleet reserve and be introduced to something so far beyond my normal experience really appeals to me.

I was trying to think of a sophisticated way to describe how all of these things make me feel. While I was doing so I looked over at one of my elderly greyhounds who suddenly woke up from his afternoon doze and started to sniff the air, as if some special scent of summer had just drifted through the window. I suppose that sums it up pretty well.

Matthew Shelley


Latest Articles