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Findhorn Bay Arts wins High Street Heroes Award for initiatives during coronavirus pandemic

By Garry McCartney

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Findhorn Bay Arts presented the SURGE street performers on Forres High Street as ‘Al Fresco Librarians’. Picture by Marc Hindley.
Findhorn Bay Arts presented the SURGE street performers on Forres High Street as ‘Al Fresco Librarians’. Picture by Marc Hindley.

A COMPANY based in Forres, set up to encourage the arts in Moray, has received national recognition for its efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

Findhorn Bay Arts (FBA) has won a High Street Heroes Award in an initiative run by the Scotland Loves Local campaign, managed by Scotland’s Towns Partnership, who appreciated FBA’s pop-up baker’s shop, artist-in-residency programme, youth music initiative, live art installation and street performance.

An FBA spokesperson confirmed the biennial Findhorn Bay Festival was supposed to happen in 2020 but, due to Covid-19, events were re-imagined over the year instead.

She said: “FBA adapted to ensure creativity happened during lockdown for the community, especially as the region has seen its entire cultural budget cut by Moray Council. Covid-19 meant that, more than ever, it was important to provide activities. The arts increase confidence and self-esteem, and make people feel good about themselves while bringing communities closer together.”

In April, FBA delivered digital music-making project REMIX for aspiring young musicians. Phase one was a series of short introductory videos, delivered by Moray Music Makers to introduce the youngsters to skills and ideas. During phase FBA held online sessions with seven music-makers aged between 15 and 21, encouraging them to get to know other young music-makers, learn something new, and create collaborative tracks. The final phase will run from January to March 2021 and will be co-designed with the participants.

In June, FBA allowed The Bakehouse in Findhorn to open a pop-up shop on its premises at 86 High Street. This supported eight local growers and provided face masks made by two local makers. Demand was so great that the partnership was extended until the end of September.

FBA complemented the shop by showcasing artists-in-residence, who attracted other artists and musicians via street art, installations, and music. FBA said neighbouring shop owners saw an increase in sales. FBA started the programme in 2019 on the theme of place and regeneration. The first residency was from local artist Caroline Inckle. During lockdown she moved to a home studio, analysing old maps and appreciating the architecture and natural environment of Forres on her daily walks. A display of her work could be seen in the shop window. This was followed by two more residencies, with Glasgow-based performance artist David Sherry, and Dumfries and Galloway-based public artists Robbie Coleman and Jo Hodges. Around 200 people engaged with Mr Sherry’s performance art, based around drawing, using everyday experience from conversations with passers-by to the social environment as inspiration.

The final residency is currently taking place with Mr Coleman and Ms Hodges placing pinhole cameras in gardens and windows for two months. Around 50 participants are involved with the project that will capture photographic and personal, communal memories.

In August, FBA promoted Sound Horn by Katie Anderson at Brodie Castle. Six upturned, person-sized gramophone speakers created soundscapes. The event attracted 787 visitors who enjoyed a calming, creative exploration of the natural environment.

Fish Fandango performers in Findhorn. Picture by Marc Hindley.
Fish Fandango performers in Findhorn. Picture by Marc Hindley.

Finally, in October, FBA partnered with Glasgow-based physical performance company, SURGE. Over five days, 14 street performers ranging from 13 to 75 years old learned new skills before taking to the streets of Forres and Findhorn. Residents saw them dressed as “Al Fresco Librarians” and “Fish Fandango2. The project also provided a bursary for emerging directors who gained practical experience.

FBA believe the High Street Heroes Award recognises the fact that it has: contributed to the local economy and workforce; engaged freelance artists to deliver activities and create artworks; engaged people in marketing, production, and event management; employed a part-time arts engagement coordinator on a 12-month funded post; and achieved audiences in the region of 1300 people for free live outdoor events.

Their spokesperson said: “FBA has decided to run a festive market shop, opening on Wednesday, November 18 until the end of December. It will sell food and gifts all made by local producers. It will also host another artist-in-residence – Jen Cantwell will be making work connected to the shop and its produce, and invite the public to her studio for one-to-one demonstrations.”

Over the coming months, FBA will continue to work with partners and the community on creativity, including the Northern Exposures photography project exhibition.

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