A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Posts tagged ‘Nordic Horizons’

Nordic Horizons Session

The room was full, around seventy odd, people standing at the back, and they came to listen to the Highlanders tell their community’s stories of their recent history and in some cases not so recent. The Glen Wyvis story went back to the Jacobites, but I digress. The videos will be out shortly. Maggie started the trio off after Kristin introduced the breakout session by telling us about Nordic Horizons which was set up in 2010 to learn and exchange knowledge from our near neighbours around the Arctic Circle. Over the years there have been 40 events learning about the Scandinavian experience in diverse subjects such as kindergarten, cycling, constitution and oil.

The name Eigg comes from Old Norse meaning the edge of a blade. Although I knew the background to the buy out it was interesting to hear first hand the transfer of the island from Schellenberg to Maruma and finally to the Community of Eigg. From degradation to mystery and finally to rejuvenation. The plans continue and currently they are investigating growing their community hub as its needs has outgrown its original structure. The story of their renewable energy system is immense and the combination of hydro, solar and wind for local use must be a way to go in many rural, remote communities. The most telling statistic of all is the population increase of around 60 during the buyout to over a 100 now. Huge amount of hard work, volunteering, and dedication has gone into the story and it is continuing. Listening to the story I could not help reflecting on what is happening back home and how the residents of Eigg talk naturally about Community Owned Assets. I think this very natural idea has not been accepted yet on our peninsula. I may be wrong and often am but I know that a number of our community desire and are very capable of running such assets and this is  one of the missed opportunities in the Trust Consultation. While I was involved it was brought up several times but never quite made it into any of the documents. I have since dropped out and this may have changed, but until the Community Company/Community has access to Community Assets we will not be able to replicate the wonderful work carried out on Eigg.

Next up was John,

the Flying Farmer, who is the powerhouse behind Glen Wyvis Distillery. Fascinating history of distilling around the Dingwall (another Norse name) and Black Isle area. This was followed by some professional videos and beautiful scenic views showing off the best of the Scottish wild landscape. I invested in the distillery some months ago and hearing about the renewable side to the venture I may put another sum into it as the plan is to produce around 500kWhs and have the operation run 100% on renewable energy. Do not know where John gets his energy from but it appears unlimited. I am taking two or three steps back and will be doing more of that in the near future, need to rejuvenate some energy from some where.

Alison was next up

and told the story of the Applecross Community Company, the Filling Station, the Broadband and the Hydro Scheme and possible future developments. Imagine if access to land was added to this list……..Needless to say that the session over ran but the interest stayed until the end, Eigg and Applecross are already on the map and are now known around the Arctic Circle and I would reckon there may be a wee spike in investments to the only renewable energy distillery at Glen Wyvis.

So our weekend draws to close and while waiting for Alison to meander through the Harpa shop a couple of American students struck up a lovely warm conversation which began by asking what I thought of our FM Nicola Sturgeon. They thought she was the best ambassador a country could have. Chatted for quite a while and the conversation ranged across all issues affecting land in Scotland to health in America. If they weren’t Socialists they were pretty close to it and it must be good for their nation to have sharp minds like theirs come to conferences like the Arctic Circle. They have a standing invite if they ever make it to Applecross and we left in good cheer.Walked down town

through the Flea Market and back up rather tired to the accommodation.

It must be good that people to know the positive steps taken forward by the communities in the Highlands and in our case despite the people in control rather than with their help. The evening ended with a late night wander through the town centre and back down to the Harpa Centre

thinking about all the folk we have met over the weekend, Rasmus, Anders, John, Maggie, Kirsty,

Graham and many others.

Going to be a tourist for the next three days and looking forward to it.

Church,Ice Breaker and Rural Broadband.

Thought it would be touristy all day but the Arctic Circle seems to draw you in. Made it down for a fine lunch where I met up with Lateral North’s Graham. Did the tourist bit by going up to the church tower that looks over the whole city. It is a Lutheran church,Hallsgrimkirkja, which took 41 years to complete. The tower is as tall as it is because the church leaders wanted it to outshine the Catholic Cathedral along the road. Plenty of tourists about still, so much so that Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon all fully booked. Holiday weekend. As well as the wide lens view of the city I enjoyed picking out groups of colourful habitations.

 

I reckon Highland Council would never give me a job as a Planner.

 

It does however make you wonder why our housing has ended up the way it has.

 

 

Why did it go down the grey and white box route and why now does the new housing have to fit in with the grey and white boxes look. I am sure it would be easier to get through the winter if we lived in colourful and haphazard boxes rather than the uniformity that seems to be current across the Highlands. Mind you in Applecross at the moment even putting a uniform box up seems to be beyond the Planning Authority. Even with the mix of colours and styles there is an obvious plan to the place, so not advocating a free for all.

Inside

as well as the outside

was pretty impressive but you cannot help wondering about man’s influence when trying to preach a message. Does building impressive change people’s mind on a spiritual level? Prior to the church visit I made it down to the Nordica, the large Finnish icebreaker,

moored alongside the Harpa. http://arctia.fi/en/ship/nordica/ Waited 15 minutes in the raw wind for a tour of the ship. Consisted of a lot of stairs before reaching the Bridge.

Impressive layout

and as so many people wanted the tour they had to restrict the numbers and where to go.

Evening saw us at a breakout session but not the chosen one. As a shy Highlander I stayed and after the first speaker found the next two very informative. Environmental Impact Assessor who “mediated” between business and indigenous Peoples in the Arctic Regions of Russia. Throughout the talk I became aware of the uncomfortable feeling that it was “beads to the natives” Sure they received some benefits like a nursery school or help with their infrastructure while the extraction of diamonds/oil and precious metals went on but it seemed a big price to pay for very little benefit. There was a telling photo of a quad bogged down in a swamp due to the tundra melting due to climate change caused by big companies extracting resources. I am no scientist and maybe there are too many leaps of faith in that last sentence. Telling question at the end was who pays the environmentalist.

Next up was rural broadband provision in Northern Canada and suffice to say that the problems are exactly the same as is remote Highland communities. As long as the world is driven more by shareholder/profit motives rather than by social/community ones we will be stuck on the periphery with slow or non-existent broadband speeds. I am not sure knowing that other remote regions have the same problems as we do helps but it does give you a broader outlook on the scale of the problems. Interesting to hear about the small indigenous Peoples promoting their languages through gaining large internet followings, so ensuring the language survives. This taking place against a background of a growing mono culture which is slipping into place across the globe, again with the influence of the Web.

So it was the Japanese night, not entirely sure their connection to the Arctic Circle but it was very enjoyable lubricated by copious amounts of bubbly.

We were a bit too polite around the sushi and missed the boat, only going outside in the corridor to sample a piece each from a very overworked chef who was just about keeping it together. Fine food and the evening finished with the now customary brisk walk home. Lots to think about and although not directly invited it is thanks to Nordic Horizons I am here, experiencing other people’s similar problems across the North. Impressive is a word I seem to be using a lot but it is not out of place and I reckon many aspects of life in Applecross can be described as impressive…..

Arctic Circle, Nordic Horizons.

It felt somewhat strange to just be in Iceland. It just sort of happened, although well aware that it takes so much to get these Gatherings of the ground. Unfortunately Lesley could not make it due to a bout of ill health. Everything went so smoothly and little effort after leaving the flat in plenty of time, then the subway, bank, bus and airport. Little consternation when last call for boarding came as we were strolling towards the gate. Not too worry as there was plenty of time. Spotted Nicola, FM, strolling through the airport and again boarding the plane. After landing we got on a couple of buses heading for Reykjavík and again Nicola on board. Amongst all the crush she still very pleasantly had a couple of selfies taken for a couple of Americans. She never even batted an eyelid when one of the Americans asked what her name was, and that was after the selfie. I like this photo taken at the Scottish Reception on Friday evening.

Only been here for a couple of days but have come across so many polite and helpful Icelanders. They seem so laid back and give you lots of time to get you where you want to go. From the bus driver who dropped us of at our accommodation to the guys at the whale watching office and the especially at the check in desk for The Arctic Circle Conference. The Scottish contingent has been organised by Nordic Horizons. http://www.nordichorizons.org   I came as an unregistered hanger on and would have paid the full fee if I had to but as I was not planning more than the drop-ins today and again on Sunday it would have been an expensive trip. They could not have been more helpful and I had my badge printed out with the right country on it. Others had to change theirs from the UK to Scotland. Everything was done on time and we wandered up to our first event

where Nicola Sturgeon was taking part in a Q and A after a short speech.

I have to say that without the screen of the media presentation I was tremendously impressed with her erudite, passionate and informed performance. Even the Turkish citizen, who proclaimed his love for Margaret Thatcher did not faze the FM with his weighted question.

Off to the harbour after lunch,

you would expect this. But not before listening to an Iceland’s modified version of “Mercy” and an Adele song. Very soiree style.

First passing the huge Finnish icebreaker which was there as part of the Conference.

Cold brisk wind but a good antidote to the heated rooms of the Harpa Centre. There was a variety of boats

and only got into one conversation, albeit stilted as his English was not the best. turned out he was a boat builder and was interested in the longboat we were alongside.

Time shoots by and before you know it we were heading down the road back to the awesome Harpa Centre. Turns out listening to “The News Quiz” followed by the “Archers” and forgetting the time difference meant we had turned up an hour early, not as early as Maggie who was working off her first email and was puzzled there was no sign of anyone one and a half hours before the start. Met an Icelandic gynaecologist who had spent nine years at Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital. She had introduced herself on the sight of the kilt and proceeded to expound on the wonderful time her family had in Scotland. Her kids continuing to learn English but with a broad Dundee accent. They are being pulled up for it as they are told it is not “proper”  but insist on keeping it.  Conversation revolved around Iceland now and seems there are problems here on the ground with ordinary working folk. Although there are signs that there is development going on all around

people are wondering where the money has gone and is another crash imminent. At least some of their crooks did jail time. Cynically speaking ours seem to get or keep their bought honours. The kilt has been brought out for the Scottish Reception. Wearing the kilt certainly has its benefit and kept catching sight of photos being taken. After meeting up with others heading for the Third Floor, a couple of glasses of red, we were at the Reception. Just a busy friendly, informative evening, and we were fortunate Nicola, when on the way in, headed for our little group

which had been boosted by Kirsty and her colleague from SAMS. Again selfies all around, followed by another short speech emphasising the connections that we all have. In closing wondering what advice we can get for our footie team. Towards the evenings close a Saami wandered up for a warm and inquisitive chat. He was a reindeer herder and was asking about hunting red deer. I am not sure he understood the controls the landowning elite in Scotland have over the “wild”red deer. Maybe a photo to follow. And after another glass of red it was home, a brisk half hour walk in the biting wind.

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