Jun 232017
 

Duncan Harley reviews The Wedding Singer at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen.

Once you get to grips with the schmaltzy ‘girls just wanna get married’ portrayal of the eighties which haunts this musical from the very start, The Wedding Singer is actually a whole load of fun.

Despite a story-line thin enough to gladden the heart of a coronary bypass surgeon and sufficient cheesy humour to keep McDonalds going in triple cheeseburger’s for a month, the entertainment value more than makes up for this sugar-sweet take on the Reagan decade.

Based on the hit 1998 film of the same name, the musical tells the tale of wedding singer and emcee Robbie Hart.

Robbie and his band ‘Simply Wed’ – yes you read that correctly – play the New Jersey wedding circuit making a precarious living on the back of those who have popped the question. Jilted and depressed he abandons the wedding gigs and comes of age on the bar mitzvah circuit. Predictably he gets the girl and equally predictably he gets invited to sing at his own wedding.

Starring Jon Robyns as the multi-talented Robbie Hart and X Factor/singer songwriter Cassie Compton as love interest Julia Sullivan, it would be difficult to imagine this production going far wrong really. Well known for roles including secretly-gay Rod in Avenue Q and Sir Galahad in Spamalot Jon’s performance literally shines.

Add in a mix of stars including Ray Quinn, as Glen Gulia, and Barbara Rafferty in the role of Rosie the rapping-granny and The Wedding Singer is off like the clappers.  A clutch of iconic dance-numbers including Saturday Night in the City and All About the Green plus some pretty dang impressive lighting and audio complete the line-up.

Alongside the main characters, the cast list includes a motley crew of ‘fake’ characters including Ronnie Reagan, Billy Idol, Tina Turner and Cyndi Lauper. Additionally, and I could be wrong, amongst the line-up in the bar scene I swear I spotted a suitably inebriated Charles Bukowski

As a feel-good, Aspartame sweetened heart-warming trip into the past, The Wedding Singer works really well although the story-line does pose awkward questions for those who were actually around at the time.

Will Hart get the girl? And does Julia really want to be Mrs Gulia? For a definitive answer or two you will just have to join the audience. Oh! And watch out for those brick-size cell-phones and, of course, that singing cake!

Lighting Designer Ben Cracknell/Sound Designer Ben Harrison.
The Wedding Singer plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 24 June
Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122
Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA

Jun 232017
 

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) in autumn colours, Scotland

With thanks to Chris Aldridge.

A new book, The Red Squirrel: A Future in the Forest, by award-winning wildlife photographer Neil McIntyre and author Polly Pullar, is helping to support the return of one of Scotland’s best loved animals to the Highlands of Scotland.

The book’s publisher, Highlands-based social enterprise SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, has pledged to donate £10 from books purchased with a special code to Trees for Life’s work to re-introduce red squirrels to the western Highlands. 

Peter Cairns of SCOTLAND: The Big Picture hopes the book will raise fresh awareness about the plight of the reds as well as cash to help save them.

He said:

“Neil’s beautiful images and Polly’s words have helped to highlight how important the wild forest is to squirrels. We love what Trees for Life is doing to bring back both the forest and the squirrels and are pleased to be able to support them in this way.”

Trees for Life is an award-winning charity working to restore the native Caledonian Forest and its unique wildlife to the Highlands of Scotland. Conservation experts at the charity have been carefully relocating red squirrels from healthy populations in Inverness-shire and Moray to forests in northwest Scotland, where the species is currently absent despite suitable habitat. The Red Squirrel Reintroduction 

Project has so far established four new populations in the northwest Highlands, significantly increasing both the numbers and range of the red squirrel in the UK.

Becky Priestly, Wildlife Officer with Trees for Life, said:

“We’re hugely thankful to SCOTLAND: The Big Picture for its generous offer to donate to our Red Squirrel Appeal from sales of the book. These donations will help us continue our work to reintroduce this much-loved animal. Local communities are monitoring the introduced squirrels and are now reporting sightings of young squirrels for the second year running, so we know they’re doing well.” 

To obtain a copy of The Red Squirrel: A Future in the Forest and help support Trees for Life, order online at Scotlandbigpicture.com. Use the special code STBPTFL10 to have £10 donated to Trees for Life and to save 10 percent. Alternatively, you can donate to the appeal directly at Treesforlife.org.uk/donate  

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Jun 232017
 

A leading north-east cancer charity is launching a new event in the heart of Royal Deeside. With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix

CLAN at the Castle will take place in the grounds of Crathes Castle on Sunday, September 10, to raise funds for north-east cancer support charity CLAN Cancer Support.
On the day, the historic castle will provide the backdrop for three sponsored walk routes and a fun day with inflatables, entertainment and refreshments.

The sponsored walks will cover one mile, 5.7 miles and 13 miles taking in woodland tracks around the castle grounds and local area.

The fun day will be open to all, with members of the public encouraged to come along, enjoy the day and support those taking part in the three walks.

CLAN Cancer Support Fundraising Team Manager, Steph Dowling, is looking forward to the new look event, which she hopes will become a firm favourite.

She said:

“For CLAN’s 30th birthday we celebrated with the first CLAN Landmark Walk, taking in various landmarks throughout Aberdeen city. Since then the event continued to grow in popularity but we felt it was time to open a new chapter and build on its success.

“CLAN provides support and wellbeing services throughout many communities in Aberdeenshire, Moray, Orkney and Shetland and we felt it was important to mirror this in the location of what is one of our main fundraising events. After looking throughout the area Crathes Castle stood out as such a popular landmark in Aberdeenshire and one which was ideal for our revamped event.

“We really wanted to create a day which had something for everyone, whether you are taking part as an individual, families and groups or corporate teams. As part of taking on one of these challenges, walkers will get a free wristband for the fun day, with additional bands available for anyone coming along to support them.”

CLAN Cancer Support Chief Executive, Dr Colette Backwell, said:

“I am delighted that we are able to take such a fantastic event to the heart of Deeside, which is one of the areas supported by CLAN’s wellbeing and support services through our bases in Banchory and Ballater.

“Thanks to the dedication of individuals, groups of friends and corporate teams who raise crucial funds for CLAN at events like these, we are able to continue to develop the wellbeing and support services needed for people affected by cancer right in the heart of local communities.

“We are already looking forward to CLAN at the Castle and I look forward to welcoming many old and new faces to the event.”

For full event details, to register for the walk or purchase wristbands for the fun day, please visit www.clanhouse.org. The event also requires a number of volunteers, full details of how you can help can be found on the website.

The fun day will run between 10am and 4pm with wristbands available at the venue for £5 or in advance from www.clanhouse.org

CLAN Cancer Support is an independent charity which provides comfort, support and information, free of charge, for anyone, of any age, affected by any type of cancer. CLAN aims to support people to reduce anxiety, stress and to increase their ability to cope with the effects of a serious illness.

Based in Aberdeen, the charity covers the whole of north-east Scotland, Moray, Orkney and Shetland. CLAN has a presence in Ballater, Banchory, Elgin, Buckie, Inverurie, Fraserburgh, Lossiemouth, Peterhead, Stonehaven, Turriff, Kirkwall and Lerwick.

For more information about CLAN Cancer Support, please call (01224) 647 000 or visit www.clanhouse.org

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Jun 232017
 

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

A donation from a global financial firm will provide access to audiobooks for people in the north east of Scotland suffering from visual, physical and learning difficulties. Aberdeen Asset Management’s Charitable Foundation has donated £1,350 to Listening Books, which
will be used to fully fund access for the charity’s users in
Aberdeen.

Offering over 7,000 titles, Listening Books provides audiobooks as downloads, mp3 CDs and via streaming services for anyone who struggles to read print due to conditions including arthritis, dyslexia or glaucoma.

Around 50,000 people across the UK use its services. In addition to supplying the most popular fiction titles, the charity also provides educational texts across a range of subject areas, ensuring pupils who experience difficulties reading can keep up with their studies.

Robert Marchant, development and office manager at Listening Books, says,

“For many of our older members with physical or visual impairments, our service not only provides a link to the wonderful world of books but is often a relief from pain, boredom and loneliness. The service helps many of our young members to realise their full academic potential and can foster a lifelong love of reading.

“We charge a subsidised membership fee to those who can afford it, but many cannot. We are very grateful to everyone at Aberdeen Asset Management for their support in fully funding free access to our service for Listening Books members in Aberdeen.”

As part of its Sound Learning initiative, Listening Books uses its in-house recording facilities to produce educational titles which are not commercially available in an audio format. The charity also commercially produces books for authors and publishers, the profits from which are funnelled straight back into its services.

Claire Drummond, head of charitable giving at Aberdeen Asset Management, says,

“Aberdeen Asset Management is committed to helping improve the lives of the people who live in the communities in which we operate. It’s easy to take for granted the simple pleasure of reading a good book, but thousands of people around the UK are unable to do so due to illness, disability or learning difficulties.

“Getting lost in a good book is a joy that no-one should be denied, and Aberdeen Asset Management is pleased to be able to support Listening Books users in Aberdeen.”

The Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation was established in 2012 to formalise and develop the Group’s charitable giving globally. The Foundation seeks partnerships with smaller charities around the world, where funds can be seen to have a meaningful and measurable impact and the firm encourages its employees to use their time and skills to support its charitable projects.

The main focus of the Foundation is around emerging markets and local communities, reflecting the desire to give back to those areas which are a key strategic focus of the business and to build on the historic pattern of giving to communities in which Aberdeen employees live and work.

For more information about Listening Books, visit www.listening-books.org.uk  

For more information about the Aberdeen Asset Management Charitable Foundation, visit www.aberdeen-asset.co.uk/aam.nsf/foundation/home

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Jun 162017
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

An open art exhibition in any other city in the UK is likely to be a laid-back affair in terms of censorship and over-regulation.

It is likely to attract people who are interested in art practice, ideas and would go without a hitch.

Organiser Jean Paul Baptiste simply wanted to allow artists who are outside the established Aberdeen arts hierarchy a chance to show.

Aberdeen ArtCentre & Theatre Gallery was the selected venue, and all went well – at first.

The gallery decided that exhibiting sculpture in an area where a lift used by people with mobility issues was an impossibility.

This decision came after the show started. The fact that all around the world it is possible to have both disability access and sculpture co-exist was lost on the administration.

Then members of the public (how many I would like to know for openers) made a complaint about some of the artwork. So great was the trauma for the complainers they complained to the gallery and the city council. Perhaps they’ve written to the PM – we should be told.

So, this being Aberdeen, the thing to do was to cover the work up temporarily – not to justify the artistic merits of the work which are blatantly obvious to anyone with or without an arts background.

Who were these anonymous offended people who thought their own opinion was more important than the rest of the public, the artwork and the show? Please do come forward, if you’re out there. Aberdeen Voice will allow you space to explain why you wanted to ban artwork.

The gallery said:

“This is a joint message from the Operations Manager of the Arts Centre, George, and Baptiste, the curator of the exhibition. 

“First, let us thank you for your interest. The current exhibition has been most exciting for the artists and the venue. We had an immensely successful launch night, where the art provoked discussion, reaction and a good time for those who attended.  

“We understand that you have gotten in touch regarding some matters that have been raised around the exhibition itself and are looking for comment. 

“Concerning a couple of the works being removed from the floor space, this was the result of an error in communication. The Centre hosts events in the Gallery where the exhibition is and uses it to access the lift when the exhibition is closed.

“Though sculptures were practicable for the night of the launch, they were not practicable on a daily basis, at all times, as multiple events can run through the course of one day. This could mean damage to the sculptures themselves, and could impact on health and safety. The fact that standing sculptures were going to be present was not ascertained clearly, and next time there will simply be better planning. 

“Please see this link for a virtual tour of the opening night. We hope it captures for you the essence of the evening, and the current exhibition. http://virtualtoursaberdeen.co.uk/tours/art-2017/index.html”

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Jun 162017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix

Primary school pupils have been working to add their own splash of colour in Aberdeen by sowing seeds for a city centre wildflower meadow. Alongside representatives from Aberdeen Inspired, a class of 22 P6 pupils from Hanover Street School have planted wildflower seeds on the grassy area where Bridge Street becomes College Street.

The aim of the session was to create greater biodiversity in the area while also encouraging community involvement in city centre activities.

Last year, children from Hanover Street Nursery also planted crocuses at the St Nicholas Centre rooftop garden.

Following the seed sowing, it is hoped that the school will take over looking after the wildflower meadow as part of Aberdeen Inspired’s ‘Adopt an Area’ initiative.

The organisation has played a key role in identifying areas within the city centre which could benefit from a refresh with the hope of making them more visually attractive and appealing to use.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“We were delighted to invite children from Hanover Street Primary School to help us plant a wildflower meadow beside College Street which will brighten up the space in the coming weeks.

“As well as teaching them a bit about nature, this session was important to introduce a variety of wild flowers to the area. Increasing biodiversity in the city centre is very important and we are keen to encourage more projects like this.

“We are passionate about creating a more vibrant and appealing city centre and believe efforts like this, which involve working with school children, are hugely important in achieving that.”

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID (Business Improvement District) operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute.

Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district and drive increased footfall to the area.

More information about Aberdeen Inspired is available online at: www.aberdeeninspired.com

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Jun 082017
 

Aberdeen’s Very Own Music Festival Returned for its Third Year, and Aberdeen Voice’s Craig Chisholm was there to review. Photos by Craig Chisholm.

With no T in The Park planned this year what are Scottish music fans supposed to do for their Summer festival fix?

Well, for residents of the North East, the answer was right on their doorstep as Enjoy Music returned for its third and, arguably, most successful year.

Boasting headliners such and Chase & Status, John Digweed and the legendary Primal Scream the festival moved up a league and proved not only was it here to stay but that it was also ready to expand and become a fixture of the festival circuit.

Unfortunately, however, things do not always go without a hitch.

A minor issue of missing toilets caused the opening of the festival to be delayed a couple of hours.

But times of hardship can bring out the best in people and it’s to the eternal credit of the organisers and their team that they managed to not only get things back on track but also not drop any of the acts from the bill.

Credit must also go to the bands performing on the main stage in the afternoon as they truncated their sets slightly to accommodate all acts and give everyone their time in the limelight.

Kicking things off are Aberdonian rockers The Ruckus who deliver a short set of, as they describe it, “no nonsense guitar driven rock n roll” and as far as descriptions go that’s certainly one that describes things perfectly.

Afternoon slots are also performed by Montrose band Emerald Sunday with their indie and britpop influenced rock and hugely popular local cover band FUBAR who provide some technically impressive renditions of Queen and AC/DC among others.

The hard rock takes a back seat for a while after this and gives way to the more soulful and funk sounds of FaR.

Led by the striking and powerful vocalist Fifi Greasly the band prove the perfect sound to an afternoon in the sun.

The same also applies to the magnificent Ransom FA. Mixing the urban sounds of hip hop, grime and trap the Aberdeen based crew pull of a short but energetic and forward thinking set to an obviously impressed crowd.

But, unfortunately, the sun doesn’t last and, as is customary at music festivals in Scotland, the heavens open.

It rains during sets by The Complete Stone Roses and acclaimed local indie band The Little Kicks.

That doesn’t stop the crowd from enjoying them however – The Complete Stone Roses pull off a pretty good approximation of their Manchester heroes.

The Little Kicks, led by frontman Steve Milne, perform an infectious and memorable set in support of their latest album, Shake Off Your Troubles.

The rain does however provide an unexpected bonus for bands and DJs playing in the tents as a lot of the crowd take shelter.

The Retro and Alternative tent has an eclectic bill that combines acoustic (Mark Buchan, Peterhead’s Marc Culley and others), the melodic Byrds and britpop influenced rock from Keith band The Carousels and hip hop from local rap legends SHY & DRS.
The retro part of the day is provided by a quite compelling performance by Bob Wyper in his guise as Rod Stewart, which goes down a storm in the packed tent as he runs through Rod’s big hits as the actual storm rages outside.

Also performing some covers, albeit in a unique style, are young band Gleadraich.

Hailing from Carnoustie the band perform songs by Blondie and The Undertones and many more with the added attraction of a bagpipe player taking centre stage, mimicking the vocal parts of the songs in most cases. It’s an unusual and entertaining concept that wins them over new fans of all ages.

The night in the tent is rounded off by a set by Ransom FA’s official DJ, Nojan and a set by Aberdonian alternative rockers The Cappolos.

Festivals aren’t just for grown-ups though, and Enjoy has catered for the kids as well – a whole section of the field is set aside for them which has slides, football challenges, colouring in walls, Disney princesses and Marvel Superheroes casually walking past. A family tent provides such entertainment as hip hop dancing for the eager kids. 

In the middle of it all is a Wrestling ring manned by Wrestlezone Scotland. There is a constant crowd packed  around the ring (not all of them children either!) as the Wrestlezone boys and girls provide action packed entertainment throughout the day.

There must have been a few parents pestered afterwards to get tickets to Wrestlezone’s Aberdeen Anarchy event at the Beach Ballroom on the 10th June once they’d seen this performance.

Back to the music however, and for those that prefer dance beats to electric guitars, two venues are available on site.

The TLF & Rondevue wigwam is steady all day with the crowd appreciating sets by a talented DJs such as Danny Reid, Tim Haux and Flexi.

It’s the perfect place to chill out in the sun and appreciate the day.

The Digital Love & Majestic Tent is the bigger of the dance stages and it proves immensely popular throughout the day to clubbers.

By the time that dance titan John Digweed takes the stage for a two hour set the tent is rammed with the faithful who witness a peerless set from the legendary DJ.

Closing off the Main Stage are the two biggest bands of the night.

Primal Scream are, as usual, a breath-taking live act. Their 75 minute set contains a few choice cuts from their latest album – 2016’s Chaosmosis – such as 100% or Nothing, Where The Light Gets In and Golden Rope as well such classics as the southern fried boogie of Jailbird, the laid back dubby grooves of Star, and the psychedelic dance classic Slip Inside This House.

The band close off their set with four of their absolute classics – Loaded, Country Girl, Rocks and Movin’ On Up before departing the stage to appreciative and ecstatic audience. The bands next Scottish performance is as special guests to The Stone Roses at a sold out Hampden Park in a few weeks so it’s a genuine thrill and a commendable coup to the Enjoy organisers to have them perform in a much more intimate outdoor setting.

In another coup of a booking, Chase & Status take the stage for a DJ set of high energy dance and rap.

Credit to the crowd at this point too.

After over 9 hours of music they are still packed at the front and “giving it large” for their set which the faithful clearly never want to stop.

But eventually it must end, and as the crowd depart after the last acts they must already be looking forward to next year’s event – and possibly making a mental note to take a rain jacket next time, just in case.

How the promoters top this year’s event remains to be seen. But one thing for sure is Enjoy Music is only going to get bigger and better as it goes on.

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Jun 022017
 

With thanks to Jessica Murphy, Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

Organisers of the hugely popular inaugural Nuart Aberdeen have hailed the response of visitors, as research reveals that 80% of attendees agreed the event increased their pride in the Granite City.

The festival, brought to the city by Aberdeen Inspired, attracted crowds of thousands and set the arts and cultural scene in Aberdeen alight.

A survey put together by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce has revealed the thoughts of visitors to the event, which reflect the fantastic feedback received throughout the festival and in recent months.

Nearly 90% of respondents to the survey agreed that Nuart Aberdeen, which was supported by Aberdeen City Council and Burness Paull LLP, demonstrates that Aberdeen is a progressive city, with three in four also stating that the artistic extravaganza was their main reason for coming into the city centre.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“The response we have received to Nuart Aberdeen, both in the city and around the world, absolutely blew us away. We knew the ambition of the event was high, so to receive such an amazing reaction was incredible after all the hard work that went into bringing it here.

“These findings are wonderful to look at, as they reflect what we strive to achieve, increasing footfall to the city centre and bringing a sense of pride and joy back to our wonderful city.

“Feedback in recent years from our levy payers has highlighted a demand for more large scale events to be held in Aberdeen and we are pleased to be delivering this, and seeing the benefits that it is bringing in terms of economic impact and the aesthetic of Aberdeen.

“The survey also showed that 76% of respondents agreed that the festival brought communities together, which is very much what we felt throughout the weekend, as families, individuals, couples and visitors to our city came together to enjoy and celebrate street art and the transformation it brought to the city.”

Held in the Norwegian city since 2001 and widely regarded as the world’s leading celebration of street art, Nuart Aberdeen was the first overseas version of the festival.

Street artists Fintan Magee, Nipper, Add Fuel, M-City, Alice Pasquini, Jaune, Isaac Cordal, Martin Whatson, Herakut, Julien de Casabianca and Robert Montgomery all showcased their latest work.

Elaine Farquharson-Black, partner and head of planning at Burness Paull said:

“The Nuart Festival has reenergised the city centre, igniting a pride in Aberdeen and promoting a real feeling of inclusivity.

“The stunning artworks and the stories they tell are reimagining our built environment, but what is more important is the positive vibe Nuart has brought to Aberdeen and its people, and the long-lasting effect this will have.”

The popularity of Nuart Aberdeen has led Aberdeen Inspired to introduce regular walking tours throughout the summer. These will be held every Saturday at 11.30am, led by expert Jon Reid, with a meeting point outside Contour Café on the Green.

Mr Watson added:

“The numbers at our walking tours during the festival were absolutely incredible, with more than 1,600 people taking advantage of them, and we are thrilled to be introducing them in the summer months.

“The tours will give visitors the full Nuart Aberdeen experience, taking attendees to the smaller pieces of art as well as the bigger murals created for this year’s festival. Our dedicated tour guide Jon Reid will also give background on each of the 11 international artists that took part, as well as an insight into their inspiration for the work they created.”

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID (Business Improvement District) operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute.

Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district. More information on the work of Aberdeen Inspired is available at: www.aberdeeninspired.com

For more information about the Nuart Aberdeen Festival, please visit: www.nuartaberdeen.co.uk

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Jun 022017
 

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) adult, covered in dew, resting on grass at dawn, Elmley Marshes N.N.R., Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England, July

With thanks to Emma Brown.

This year’s Scottish Nature Photography Festival will bring together top wildlife and landscape photographers from across the UK and Europe to deliver an outstanding programme of talks at Battleby Centre in Perthshire on 9 and 10 September. German photographer Sandra Bartocha will kick things off on Sat 9 Sept, with the first of two presentations about her latest project, LYS

She will be followed by Robert Canis, marine photographer George Stoyle, Richard Peters, plus landscape photographer Alex Nail.

Norwegian photographers Orsolya and Erlend Haarberg complete the Saturday line-up and will return to open the event on Sunday 10 September with a spectacular presentation about their work in Iceland.

Alex Nail and Sandra Bartocha also return for a second day and will be joined by Andy Parkinson, Robin Moore and Will Burrard-Lucas, who will share some of his adventures in remote photography.

Renowned nature and conservation photographer Peter Cairns, who returns as compère, said:

“SNPF gets better as each year passes, taking both photographers and nature-lovers on a roller-coaster journey through the words and images of the top photographers at work today.”

Several of the speakers will be on hand to deliver a diverse range of lunchtime workshops, which will offer a more in-depth exploration of practical topics, plus Cairngorms-based wildlife photographer Neil McIntyre will give a lunchtime presentation on his stunning new book, The Red Squirrel: A future in the forest.

Taking place at Scottish Natural Heritage’s prestigious Battleby Centre just outside of Perth, the annual event also features exhibitors, including Epson and Perth-based camera retailer JRS Photo Hardware, photographer portfolios, book sales, the ever popular SNPF photo competition, plus the chance to catch up with friends old and new.

State-of-the-art projection and sound, plus easy access, free parking and excellent catering, makes Battleby the perfect venue to enjoy the astonishing images and inspiring stories from some of the best photographers in the business.

The Scottish Nature Photography Festival is coordinated by the Wild Media Foundation, a group of photographers and visual media specialists who have come together to bring nature’s stories closer to people’s lives.

It operates as a company limited by guarantee, set up as a Social Enterprise, which means that all profits are put aside to further the objectives of the company.

Its mission is:

“To bring nature’s stories to life through the development of innovative visual media products, which will engage, inform and inspire a wide audience.”

Links:

Tickets and more information available from www.snpf.co.uk

Scottish Nature Photography Festival on Facebook 
Scottish Nature Photography Festival on Twitter
Wild Media Foundation

Image Credits:

African wild dog, Zimbabwe © Will Burrard-Lucas.jpg
Arctic Terns, Iceland © Orsolya Haarberg.jpg
Dragonfly, England © Robert Canis.jpg

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Jun 022017
 

Portsoy’s Sail Loft Bunkhouse. Review and photographs by Duncan Harley.

When newspaper columnist Cuthbert Graham wrote about Portsoy, way back in 1963, he commented that the town was one of the most progressive communities on the Moray Firth.
In his travel column, This is My Country, he wrote about the “triumphant success” of the town’s efforts to encourage tourism.

He was quite correct and the town, nowadays a bustling coastal resort and popular stopover on the 6200km-long North Sea Cycle Route, has steadfastly continued to pursue a policy of encouraging community run tourist orientated enterprise.

Alongside attending the hugely successful Portsoy Boat Festival visitors can take part in traditional music and dance workshops at the Salmon Bothy and boatbuilding courses at the Boatshed. Tourism in the town received a welcome extra boost when film makers chose Portsoy as a location for the recent remake of the Ealing comedy Whisky Galore.

Alongside leads Eddie Izzard and Gregor Fisher, many locals appear as extras in the film and at the recent Portsoy Premiere, held in the loft-space of the Salmon Bothy, film-goers were encouraged to get into the spirit of the performance and dip into some whisky-flavoured ice cream. Publicists had, after all, promoted Portsoy’s Whisky Galore connection by nicknaming the town The Village of the Drammed!

Visitor accommodation in the town received a boost this year with the opening of the newly renovated Sail Loft Bunkhouse. Situated on the Back Green near the caravan park, the Sail Loft has had a long and varied history.

Formerly a sail making factory, the Category B listed building dates from the 18th Century and sits within a former industrial site used for the processing of flax and the manufacture of rope. When the demand for sails declined and the rope-works closed the Sail Loft buildings gradually fell into ruin.

In 2006 the North East Scotland Preservation Trust acquired the property from the Seafield Estate and work began to bring the derelict structure into productive use as bunkhouse accommodation for visitors to Portsoy. After 11 years of planning and renovation, the keys to the building were formally handed over to Portsoy Community Enterprise in January 2017. Additional loan funding came via the Architectural Heritage Fund.

Offering high quality self-catering accommodation at reasonable rates, the new 25 bed facility offers visitors to Portsoy a unique hub from which to explore the Moray coastline.  Facilities Assistant Susan Rayne explains:

“Users so far have included cyclists, walkers and families. This weekend we even have a group of divers staying with us.”

Susan is one of a team of three involved in the day to day management of the Sail Loft and is by all accounts fully integrated into the local community.

Alongside her bunkhouse duties she serves as a volunteer fire-fighter and is a keen member of the local women’s rowing group, the Portsoy Skiffettes. Another claim to fame is her role as official chauffeur to Whisky Galore star Eddie Izzard during the location shooting of the movie in Portsoy.

“The buzz in the town was just amazing” she recalls

“Eddie Izzard was very open with the locals and was really interested in finding out about the area.”

It emerged that Eddie was due to perform at Versailles after the Whisky Galore shoot and  Susan recalls that he was amazed to discover that fireplaces in the Palace of Versailles are rumoured to be faced with Portsoy Marble.

Although the Sail Loft is clearly bunkhouse in nature, the new facility offers up-market self-catering accommodation. Guest rooms are simply but pleasantly furnished with white décor throughout. Named after local landmarks, the room plan reads like a who’s who of the Portsoy coastline. Red Rock, The Pointie and The Breeks are just a few. On our visit we stayed in The Dounie.

The design of the building does not allow for panoramic views of the sea but the slanted Velux windows do let in both the sound and the smells of the ocean and provide a welcome change to the typical hotel room hum of the air-conditioning unit. Those wanting to check out the view should either nip outside or, heaven forbid if you are female, check out cubicle three in the downstairs men’s showers where you can view the bay in all of its glory.

Catering-wise, the open-plan kitchen and dining area is more than adequate. Two 4 ring hobs are complimented by micro-waves, kettles and an ample supply of toasters. Pots and pans, dishes and cutlery are all provided and the only onus on residents is to leave the kitchen as you might wish to find it. I was pleasantly surprised to come across an orphaned cafetiere abandoned by a previous guest and made full use of it.

The Sail Loft lounge boasts a wood burning stove and is perfect for family get-togethers or business seminars.  Alongside a video-projector there are lots of local books, toys and games to keep everyone entertained in the evenings. A drying room, secure cycle storage, a fully equipped laundrette and an outside wash down area for boots or bicycle cleaning complete the line-up and this VisitScotland 4 star hostel even boasts a wood fired hot-tub.

On the night of our stay a group of divers were firmly ensconced in front of the roaring wood-stove planning the next days dive while a group of teachers enjoyed the warmth of the outdoor hot-tub.

All in all this new facility ticks the boxes although it would have been nice to have the option of sitting behind glass while taking in the sea view. But, as I said previously, there’s always cubicle three in the men’s showers!

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