57 Degrees North: Bothy Culture


Part of the mini festival 57 Degrees North, a weekend of events I curated for Archifringe 2017.

'Bothy Culture' - the title inspired by Martyn Bennet's seminal album of the same name - was a night of music, stories and song in Abriachan Village Hall, high in the hills above Loch Ness, celebrating the cultural importance of bothies. We use the word 'bothy' - from Gaelic bothan - in the broadest sense for small buildings and shelters, huts and cabins. From the folklore of the shielings, mountain bothies and shepherd’s huts of the past to the revitalisation of the tradition of hutting in Scotland today, the event included short informative talks with guest speakers and floor spots from invited musicians and performers, including: Lesley Riddoch on Scotland's missing cabin culture,  Angus bothy ballad singer Scott Gardiner, fiddler and composer Adam Sutherland with Marc Clement of folk band Session A9 and stories from Bob Pegg and Roddy MacLean, followed by a ceilidh with the local ceilidh band.

Huge thanks to Emily HeslingHeather Clyne and everyone at Abriachan Village Hall for hosting us. Chòrd an oidhche ruinn glàn! 

Following the enthusiasm of the event an open Facebook community group Bothy Culture / Saoghal nam Bothan was created for folk interested exploring in the cultural context and importance of bothies as a source of conviviality, connection, creativity and sense of place - a space to share music, song, poetry, and stories, thoughts and ideas. We are also interested in cultural and creative dimension of the wider land rights debate in Scotland.

Journalist Lesley Riddoch later wrote about the event in her Scotsman column.

57 Degrees North: Huts in Place


57 Degrees North: Huts in Place is an event I organised at Abriachan Forest on Sunday 16th July 2017 as part of Scotland's national Architecture Fringe. Several talks took place throughout the afternoon exploring different aspects of huts and hutting. A show hut was built by local company Northscape as a showcase for the event. 

Karen Grant of Reforesting Scotland discussed Scotland's A Thousand Huts Campaign, outlined recent policy and legislation and highlighted the cultural importance of the bothy or hut as a space for creativity. Consultant ecologist Dr Emily Hesling discussed environmental factors to consider when planning a hut build, outlining various steps you can take to ensure that your hut has as little environmental impact as possible. She also reflected on how huts may contribute positively to the local biodiversity in Scotland and elswhere, giving the example of blanket bog.

You can listen to each of the talks below:

Huts have a huge cultural importance, not just in what we call the traditional model of ‘hut culture.’ Huts and hut-like buildings such as bothies have fed into how we see our country and what kind of creativity comes out of our country. We have Martyn Bennett, who wrote the album ‘Bothy Culture’; Hamish Henderson the folklorist, who travelled around gathering songs and stories from the Travelling people; and Norman MacCaig - hut life was very much part of his life in Assynt... Huts and hut-like buildings feed in to the poetic imagination of these creative people and they contribute something to our culture, which is both rooted in tradition and looking forward, which is what the Thousand Huts Campaign wants to do.
— Karen Grant, Reforesting Scotland
A lot of people are seeing huts as a way to reconnect with wilderness. At the same time there is the conservationist within all of us that is a little bit scared of the potential environmental impacts this may have, and maybe withold from that experience - seeing humans as only potentially ‘bad’ things when we are putting ourselves in wild situations. As an ecologist, I hope I can explain throughout this talk that I think that this isn’t the case. My view is that huts could potentially be a really positive thing environmentally across Scotland.
— Emily Hesling

With thanks to Suzann, Roni and Clelland at the Abriachan Forest School.
Audio-visual recordings with thanks to ethnologist Chris Wright of Local Voices.