Talamh Àraid : Tales from a Hebridean Island

In September 2014 I had the privilege of spending almost two weeks on the island of Uibhist a Deas (South Uist). The island is part of the Outer Hebrides chain. Its a long thin island around 20 miles in length and just a few miles wide. Around 2,000 people reside permanently on the island, widely scattered with no major settlement. Since 2006 the island has been owned by the community living there. Such a purchase marks a reversing of Scotland's often brutal and widespread clearances of the 18th and 19th century, when usually absent landlords emptied their land of people in order to provide more land for deer and sheep.

The highpoint of community management of the Uibhist a Deas estate has, to date, been the building of a wind turbine electricity generating station. This station – of just three turbines - provides for local demand whilst also enabling for around £2m of ‘spare’ electricity to be sold to the national grid as 'green' energy for the rest of us. No objections were raised to its construction.

Alongside such contemporary development, age old framing practices continue to today, reflecting cultural values which challenge those of the mono-culture practised by the large scale agro-industry. Such farming methods not only ensure ongoing yield from the land but maintain a healthy diversity of gene pool, sovereignty to the produce and a haven for wildlife. At the same time, contemporary poly-tunnels enable production of very local fruit and vegetables. Despite the miles from so called civilisation, food miles can, on Uibhist a Deas, be very low. Food for thought for all of us.

Today’s Uibhist a Deas is thus a place of fascinating mixture of contradiction and challenge to contemporary NIBY cultures. It is a place which where an Old Tom Morris golf course - recovered after years of neglect and maintained organically from a winter cover of seaweed and grazing livestock - sits alongside the deceptively 'quirt' presence of a MOD rocket testing and tracking facility. It is also a place which revels in thoughts of independence, confident in its own local identity.

What started as a holiday for me has spawned what I hope will become a major new strand of work. I have therefore posted a few preliminary images for feedback and comment . They are presented as a series of short visual tales around the issues noted above – it is up to you the viewer to find your own overarching commentary. I hope that you are challenged by the content of the images. All thoughts and comment are welcome.