Weekly update, 5th October

Tourism, Food & Drink

The latest element of the drive to regenerate John O’Groats took a step forward this week with the installation of public art works commissioned by CNSRP partner HIE and supported by Creative Scotland Lottery Fund. The works, entitled “nomadic boulders” will be officially launched at an event at the site on Saturday 31st October at 5pm. The event will feature specially-composed music and verse from acclaimed composer/ director Jim Sutherland and renowned poet/ playwright George Gunn respectively. Both men are from Caithness, and Jim was a contributor to the soundtrack of Disney’s “Brave” animated movie that brought considerable tourism impact to Scotland. Schoolchildren from Canisbay Primary will also be involved in the opening ceremony. Further information is at http://www.hie.co.uk/about-hie/news-and-media/archive/gearing-up-for-grand-opening-of-john-o–groats-sculpture.html#sthash.crckWk1C.dpbs

Last week I mentioned two exciting events happening in the area – both showcasing the creative aspects of the north’s natural and cultural assets. The Skald Festival took place last weekend in North Highland College’s ETEC facility, and attracted healthy crowds to a range of music, drama and arts events. Organisers have declared themselves happy with this first event, and we can look forward to more from this new Festival in the Future. Tomorrow (Saturday 10th) sees a one day “Taste North” event at Ackergill Tower, bringing a range of food, drink, arts, craft and artisan producers together for a series of exciting events including chefs’ demonstrations, family workshops and producers’ market. The event has been developed by Venture North, the who were supported in their own development phase by CNSRP partner NDA. More information is at http://www.venture-north.co.uk/taste-north/ And also this month Thurso will host the Scottish Surf Festival, which will be a collaborative effort between the Scottish Surfing Federation and the UK Professional Surf Tour. As with previous years the event has attracted support from CNSRP partner Highland Council. More details on the event, which takes place from 29-31st October, at http://www.thessf.com/?p=1194 and https://www.facebook.com/UkProSurfAssociation

It was good to meet with Eilidh Todd of the North Highland Initiative (NHI) this week to catch up on the range of activities currently being supported by NHI. It was heartening to hear of the amazing international impact of the North Coast 500 brand, which in its relatively short existence has achieved media coverage with an estimated audience of several hundred million people. We spoke about some feedback from tourism operators along the route which indicates that the Route’s branding has already resulted in visitors being attracted to the area. On a related topic, is also good to see further opportunities for tourism businesses to enhance knowledge and skills in the digital space with a series of webinars over the coming weeks. The HIE-sponsored webinars will cover a range of topics such as Google/ Facebook/ YouTube; making and using video; mobile technology; the future of digital. For information, and to register please see http://www.hie.co.uk/about-hie/events/

Finally on the theme of festivals and events, the Peatlands Partnership continues to raise awareness of the environmental, social, cultural and economic impacts of the peatlands of Caithness & Sutherland. Following recent progress with the Flows to the Future project, Thurso’s ERI is leading a three day Peatlands Research Conference as part of a “Caithness & Sutherland Peatlands Week” . Every 5-10 years the Peatlands Partnership holds an open event known as the “Peatland Forum” for stakeholders and decision makers directly or indirectly associated with peatland issues across Caithness and Sutherland and the next one will be held on 27th October, 2015 at Ferrycroft, Lairg.  This will be an awareness raising event for the widest possible audience with presentations on topical issues including peatland management, AECS (SRDP) funding opportunities, and current peatland research as well as a participatory workshop on a possible future World Heritage Site Boundary and an informal ‘launch’ of the recently completed Peatland Strategy Document. SNH, Forestry Commission (Scotland) and The Flows to the Future Project are sponsoring the Peatlands Forum.

Enabling Activities:

Thurso Community Sports Hub (TCSH) ran a well attended drop-in event in Thurso this week to show interested people the most recent plans that have been proposed to help develop a community sports hub on ground in Thurso. The plans include an indoor sports hall, an outdoor running track and sports field. Those people who attended the event were invited to leave written feedback for the TCSH team. The feedback will help inform the organisation’s plans, including the application to Highland Council for planning permission. The project sits on the CNSRP Programme, and an outline and drawings of the proposed project are available to view at http://www.thursosports.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/HCSH-Poster-008.pdf