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Education Project at Gairloch High School


The education project at Gairloch High School took place whilst Legend was being shown on a heather covered hillside near the town. The idea for the education project was to respond to Legend and to build on the fact that it was using new technology to deal with issues of landscape and traditional culture. It was organised by Stewart Russell, the Project Manager from Independent Public Arts, who identified Gairloch as the place where the education programme should be run, partly because the school is close by the hillside where the sculpture was to be sited, and partly because with no art venue in the town to help with promotion, he felt that education work in the school would help with local understanding of the work. He arranged a meeting with Pat Gulliver, Head of Art, Beth Hunter, Head of Music, and Susan MacMillan, Head of Computer Studies, all of whom were excited at the proposal for a cross departmental creative project and were keen to be involved. They suggested that sixth form pupils should take part because it was possible for them to be taken off timetable to work intensively on the project without losing ground elsewhere in their studies. The project took place full-time over two weeks.

Project Team

The school has strong art, music and computer studies departments and being relatively new, is well resourced with arts equipment and machinery, and has a computer suite and a range of traditional musical instruments. In consultation with the school, Stewart Russell suggested that these resources and strengths could be valuably enhanced by introducing high quality technical expertise in computer programming and sound recording and the necessary equipment to support the project. He engaged John McNaught, an artist experienced in working in schools, who brought a flexible and dynamic approach to generating ideas and developing concepts with the pupils and was responsible for maintaining an overview of the project as it developed. Technical expertise was provided by a sound engineer, John Vick, and a computer/CD rom programmer, Dave Newman who worked in school with their state of the art sound recording equipment and computers throughout the two week period. The project was designed to involve pupils with a range of interests and to work in an integrated way across school departments. The teachers in the art, music and computer studies departments supported the pupils’ work throughout.

Students’ Work

Diane Maclean visited the High School with Stewart Russell and John McNaught in June 1998 to talk to a group of pupils about Legend and how she had conceived and made it. John McNaught then went into school to work with the art department for a block of 3 or 4 days at the beginning of the project to develop ideas with the pupils and later came back into school to help them critique and finalise their work. First of all he took the pupils to see Legend which was within walking distance of the school where they discussed the work and issues around siting sculpture in public places and how people see it. Later in class they looked at the Gaelic poem from which it had developed. The pupils then recorded interviews with local people and tourists from the UK and Europe who were visiting the sculpture, and collected written comments.

In the art department the pupils developed ideas about the landscape, Gaelic culture and contemporary visual expression and made a jointly produced lino cut for an arched entrance in the school using hand and power tools to create texture. The work was rolled with ink and allowed to dry, emphasising the carved surface, and the blocks of lino were then permanently installed around the arch. The work features a collage of recognisable signs such as maps, flags and words within a fairly abstract textural composition, and has attracted much favourable comment in school.

At the same time, in the music department, pupils worked with Beth Hunter and John Vick to create music for the Scottish harp, fiddle, keyboard and pipe band drumming based on traditional ‘wauking’ songs associated with tweed production. They used recordings of natural sounds – the sea, the wind and voice – and an electronic synthesiser to overlay the songs and create new versions of these traditional tunes played on traditional instruments, which are recognisable but transformed into something of today.

The computer department hosted Dave Newman whilst he worked with pupils on the design and programming of the education section in the CD rom which documents the sculpture commission. Video, still images and sound are used on the main documentary CD rom and a second CD has recordings of the music created by the pupils.

© Copyright Joanna Morland 2000