It is an absolute joy to join fellow ethnologists Chris and Steve on the Local Voices team; together they have a wealth of experience and knowledge and have really led the way with their approach to applied ethnology and place-based traditional arts education in Scotland. I jumped at the chance to work with them precisely because their approach is deeply and unapologetically informed by ethnological values: that is to say that they recognise and foreground the value of human experience, shunning short-term novelty or instrumental usefulness (that can be readily proven) in favour of sustained meaningful engagement and long-term vision. They create deeply thoughtful projects that encourage children and communities to connect with each other, with their place and with their past, modelling an educational approach that places relationship, culture and personal and community empowerment at the centre of learning.
In an increasingly rootless, alienating and commercialised world, where so many are predisposed to looking out to mass media culture, the consciousness-raising work of organisations like Local Voices is vital. Our cultural memory and local traditions are important not as ‘relics of an imagined national past’ or ‘cultural products for export,’ but as a creative, vital and meaningful resource for the future. The Local Voices approach highlights the importance of seeing ‘tradition’ as rooted in place but not fixed in history, rather moving forward through time in a way that is inclusive of all those who live here. In this sense, the Local Voices approach offers the possibility of re-visioning local life.