Grounded (Freumhaichte/Wadlu-Gnana). Judith Parrott

An Lanntair, Stornoway: 13 September - 11 October

Grounded is an exhibition of photographic prints, audiovisual, sound and prose, resulting from residencies with Gaelic speaking communities of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and with Wangkangurru, Arrarnta and Arrernte people of the Central Australian Desert. The exhibition was launched at XX Commonwealth Games, Glasgow 2014.

Follow Judith’s Grounded blog at


Arriving in Steòrnabhagh (Stornoway)

Seagreen. Photo by Judith Parrott

Seagreen. Photo by Judith Parrott

The train rumbles north. Layers of questions that tugged at me in the build up to my journey, peel away like snake skins, left to flutter in the breeze. With every familiar station name: Newtonmore, Kingussie, Aviemore, the air is changing to Highland air; startling yellow Whin is streaking past, and my body relaxes into the rhythm of the train and the dark murky purple of rocks and bracken, carved into the hillsides.

I have changed train at Perth, and again at Inverness. I have caught a bus west to Ullapool, and now, at the end of a long day’s journey from the Isle of Bute, I sit nestled into the ferry, gliding across a silent sea to Steòrnabhagh (Stornoway) on the Isle of Lewis.

Steòrnabhagh settles prettily around the sheltered harbour, with her castle keeping watch across the bay. Though the fishing fleet is not what it was in its heyday, boats still clank and thud against each other, and the soft plop, plop of water at their sides mixes with a rich, salty sea smell which emanates from wood and decks, and from rope and creels piled high on the wharf.

It is, I believe, a 9th Century town, founded by Vikings under the name of Stjórnavágr. But I welcome correction from those who know more about this than me. It is the largest town in Na h-Eileanan Siar (The Western Isles), with a population of just over 6,000 – about a third of the Isle of Lewis’ population.

The population of the Western Isles is around 27,500 and Gaelic is the first language spoken by most of the islands’ population. This is one reason for my journey here, to Na h-Eileanan Siar, on the first stage of my two artist residencies. Following this, the residencies take me in a sweeping arc across the world to the desert regions of Central Australia.

I hope you can join me on these journeys.


Photo by Judith Parrott

Photo by Judith Parrott

This story begins on the far northwestern tip of Australia, not today, but four years ago in 2009. It is a place of heat-glazed, brittle land and far away blue. I am in the Northern Cape to work with Thancoupie, primary Thanaquith Elder, at her annual bush camp, which celebrates language and culture with the local children. It is here that the seeds are planted for Grounded; an artistic examination of Australian Aboriginal, and Scottish Gaelic, culture, language, displacement and sense of place.

There follows a sand-trail of people and phone calls, meetings and emails; a pilot project set up on the Isle of Lismore, Scotland and shown to Arrernte Elder MK Turner; a pollinating of ideas which open and close doors like a wave rolling me in to some distant unknown shore. It is three years before I am set down again, in the Gulf Country of Australia, at the small town of Normanton, primarily to run some photography workshops for Flying Arts.

The relative cool of the evening has enticed me out for a walk along its main street, wide and empty, falling to a dusty verge that stretches into the horizon. A stray dog eyes me suspiciously, and the silence is punctuated only by the evening call of lorikeets. In the solitude of the space, I can sense another person on the road and I turn my head to catch his eye. He falls into step beside me.

His name is Sidney and he is one of the traditional owners of the area, the Kukatj, Gkuthaarn and Kurtijar people. “Where are you from?” he asks. He stops in his tracks when I tell him I am from Scotland, a broad smile lighting his face. He wants to know if the story of Braveheart is true. “We have so much in common with the Scottish people”, he says. As we walk and talk, and I take his photo in the burning glow of the setting Australian sun, he asks me to do him a favour. “Will you take this photo to Scotland and tell them I’m your brother?”

Sidney did not know about the concept that had been developing over the last three years, but his words were the deciding factor in its finalisation. With renewed energy I finally ascertained the funding and the partnerships to undertake the project.

These diaries, as they will be posted, represent my time in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, based on Lewis with the Gaelic Arts Agency, Proiseact nan Ealan, and on Uist with Ceolas, Gaelic Music and Dance School, and also supported by Hi-Arts and Glasgow Life. In Australia the posts will come from Arrernte and Arrarnta Country around Alice Springs; around Longreach; and from Wangkangurru Country around Munga-Thirri National Park (Simpson Desert). My time in Australia is supported by Flying Arts, Vast Arts, italk Library and The Australasian Association of Arts and Cultural Education. Culture 2014 XX Commonwealth Games and Cape Farewell are also supporting production.

The resulting exhibition was shown at Glasgow Merchant City Festival during the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014, An Lanntair in Stornoway, and was toured by Flying Arts in Australia.

Follow Judith’s Grounded blog at

About the Artist

Working alongside communities from around the globe, Judith has developed her Place Matters series following her own migration from Scotland to Australia, and consequent exploration of issues around displacement.

She works with the mediums of photography, audiovisual, sound and prose examining the relationships between community and place, the importance of cultural identity, and the resulting personal and environmental wellbeing.

“What I see and present can only be what I am shown by the people I meet and I in no way claim to be able to show every side to the stories in the short time I have available to me. But the taking of photographs and recording of sounds do start conversations, as participants reflect on their sense of place. Much comes out of that process well beyond the taking of a photograph or recording of sound. At the same time the process opens a small window for me to learn something more and share the stories further afield.”

Grounded Exhibition

23 July – 3 August 2014

121/127 Saltmarket, at the Airc Gaelic Cultural Space

11am to 6pm.

Details can be found in the Merchant City Festival programme.

The Gaelic Cultural Space will also feature an acoustic programme of Gaelic inspired performances most days at 3pm, morning workshops at 9.30-10.30am and GalGael whose cafe was such a tasty success at last year’s Merchant City Festival.

There is a HD version of the short promotional video for Grounded here and a lower res version here.

Culture and Festival 2014 guides can be found here

At the Airc Gaelic Cultural Space, 121/127 Saltmarket, (Sat 2 and Sunday 3 August at 9.30am) I am facilitating a photography workshop, and will be “In Conversation” with poet Babs MacGregor. The promo blurbs are here:

In Conversation: Connecting through Culture

Babs MacGregor, Gaelic Poet and Judith Parrott, artist for the Grounded exhibition, discuss what the impact of a strong cultural identity might be on personal and environmental well-being. In the discussion reference is made to Scottish Gaelic and Australian Aboriginal cultures; loss of land and suppression of language, and the deep connections to land that has kept these cultures alive. Chaired by Gaelic Arts Producer Rona MacDonald.

Photography workshop

Judy Parrott, artist from the Grounded Exhibition, invites you to bring your cameras along to the exhibition to discuss photographic composition and design in the context of the show. Then head out into the festival together to take a few exciting festival shots using some of your new-found skills. Suitable for age 15 years and over.

At Strathclyde University as part of their Summer Programme ( Phone 0141 548 2116/4287 or booking information is on page 55, here) on Monday 28 July

Grounded (1.30-2.30pm)

In association with the exhibition Grounded, showing at Merchant City Festival during the Commonwealth Games 2014, this presentation includes images from Australian Aboriginal communities in the Central Desert regions, and from Gaelic speaking communities in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Two places with nothing and everything in common. The presentation invites discussion on ways in which people connect through the land and find spirituality through land. It also addresses the consequences for environmental and personal well-being when people become disconnected from the land.

Antarctica (12-1pm)

This class follows the life of the scientific and trades-people community during four months with the Australian Antarctic Division at Casey, Mawson and Davis Stations, on the ship south, and out on the field. Seen through the eyes of Artist in Residence, Judith Parrott, the presentation includes images and sounds of Antarctica and tells a story of life in one of the world’s remotest locations. How do people manage in an isolated environment with the same small group of people for months or even years at a time, with none of the conveniences of city life? Come along to find out and join in a discussion with the artist about the importance of community and of connection to our environment.


Deirdre Nelson, Inge Thomson. Sleeping Starfish @ The Glad Cafe as part of Luminate, with Fraser Fifield, Kerri Whiteside

Glad Cafe, Glasgow. 15 October, 7.30 pm. £5

Surrounded by a relentless sea, Fair Isle is an island of strong traditions and fierce beauty. Celebrating this, and running in support of the island’s bid for marine protected status, two artists are knitting together waves of sound and yarn, stories and starfish. Sleeping Starfish is both a work of environmental advocacy and a portrait... Read More ›

Working the Map: Islanders and a Changing Environment

A portrait of the Northern Isles with art work by John Cumming

Beautiful artists’ book by John Cumming: Working the Map – islanders and a changing environment Available from just £9.99 Shetland/Orkney artist and Sea Change commissioned artist John Cumming has created and edited an artists’ book documenting social and ecological change across the Northern Isles. Produced in partnership with Orkney Nature Festival, the book includes... Read More ›

Andy Crabb’s film portrait of Inge Thomson’s Da Fishing Hands

May 2014

In 2014, Sea Change artists Andy Crabb, Deirdre Nelson and Jennifer Wilcox, with filmmaker Peter Cutts, returned to Fair Isle with Inge Thomson and her band to record the premiere of Inge’s song cycle, Da Fishing Hands. The first performance took place in Fair Isle’s community hall in May 2014, and Da Fishing Hands has... Read More ›

James Brady. though everything was gone, we would stay

‘The essence of Orkney’s magic is silence, loneliness and the deep marvellous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light’ George Mackay Brown See the film here: though everything was gone, we would stay Artist and curator James Brady joined the 2013 Northern Isles expedition, sailing from Orkney to Shetland via Fair Isle on Shetland community-owned... Read More ›

Deirdre Nelson’s The Kildas project returns to the Glad Cafe Glasgow, with Jason Singh, Inge Thomson, Hanna Tuulikki, Mischa Macpherson and Borderline Theatre

Thursday 26 January 2015, 7pm

DStitch presents: The Kildas + Seachange Thursday 26 February @ The Glad Cafe, Glasgow In partnership with Cape Farewell, the Kildas project will present an evening at Glad Café,  26th February 2015 7pm. Cost £5 The evening will partner the remote islands of St Kilda and Fair Isle in an evening of islands, songs and loops... Read More ›

Inge Thomson’s Da Fishing Hands in Celtic Connections

23 January 2015

‘Some of the finest music and poetry ever to have emerged from these fair isles’. Fair Isle musician/singer/composer (Fair Isle is full of multi-taskers) Inge Thomson brings her haunting and mesmerising Da Fishing Hands to the Tron Theatre, Gladgow, during Celtic Connections in January 2015. Written with Fair Isle poet and singer Lise Sinclair, Da... Read More ›

Julie Fowlis Band win Scots Trad Music Award

13 December 2014

Congratulations to Julie Fowlis and her band, who have won best group of the year at the Scots Trad Music Awards 2014. Julie was recently the first Gaelic singer to be honoured with a ‘Tartan Clef’ Scottish Music Award. Julie sailed on the 2011 Sea Change Western Isles expedition. See the full list of awards... Read More ›

Away with the Birds returns to Canna: Review

Hanna Tuulikki

Click here to read the Away With The Birds Review from The Scotsman  › Costumes by Deirdre Nelson Read More ›

Mathematics, making and birding

Deirdre Nelson

  Fair Isle bird made by Tommy H Hyndman At Da Fishin’ Hands premiere at the community hall I noticed a beautiful Fair Isle jumper in shades of mossy green and later discovered that the wearer was Inges grandfather Stewart, a retired Light House Keeper, fiddle player, spinner and spinning wheel maker.  His wife Annie... Read More ›

Fair Isle treasures

deirdre nelson

  On Saturday morning we made our way to  the rock pool at at Muckle Uri Geo. Ready and waiting were a group of young islanders armed with small fishing nets alongside Nick Riddiford, a passionate Fair Isle ecologist.  As they dispersed on their mission, Nick told us about the area and the many species... Read More ›

‘An eye to the Windward’: Sea Change on Fair Isle

Ruth Little

Anne Sinclair points at a narrow yellow pine door leaning against a wall in the Fair Isle Museum: ‘When I was growing up, nearly all the internal doors in people’s houses were from shipwrecks.’ Fair Isle may be largely treeless, but there’s wood to be had. Over some 5000 years of settlement here, the sea... Read More ›

Data and culture rich

Deirdre Nelson

Due to a rather atmospheric blanket of fog I arrived into Fair Isle two days and 1 hour late.  From my first glimpses of the island from the ferry, it was well worth the wait, and Inge Thompson, on a break during rehearsals and preparations for her performance Da Fishing Hands, was there to greet... Read More ›

Lost Birds and Fishing Hands: Getting our Bearings on Fair Isle

Ruth Little

  It’s a Caspian Stonechat, and it’s lost. Its feathers are spiked with rain, and it seems to have a hacking cough. It’s been on Fair Isle for a month, and the word around the island is that it’s unlikely to see the Caspian Sea again. ‘Blown off course, all of them’, says one of... Read More ›

Skye Loneragan and Q-Poetics: Culture 2014

XX Commonwealth Games

Poet/performer Skye Loneragan took part with Cape Farewell in Glasgow’s Merchant City Festival at the Ramshorn Theatre, hosted by GalGael in 2013. Skye is Q-Poet at the Commonwealth Games Glasgow 2014. Q-Poetics is a Culture 2014 project placing poets and poetry in places and spaces of of waiting. See Skye’s video-poems at Skye Loneragan is... Read More ›

Grounded (Freumhaichte/Wadlu-Gnana). Judith Parrott

An Lanntair, Stornoway: 13 September - 11 October

Grounded is an exhibition of photographic prints, audiovisual, sound and prose, resulting from residencies with Gaelic speaking communities of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and with Wangkangurru, Arrarnta and Arrernte people of the Central Australian Desert. The exhibition was launched at XX Commonwealth Games, Glasgow 2014. Follow Judith’s Grounded blog at Arriving in Steòrnabhagh (Stornoway) The... Read More ›

Andy Crabb’s short film Sea Changes

Part 1 documents the Orkney Expedition

Sea Changes, part 1 featuring Karine Polwart from Andy Crabb on Vimeo. Filmmaker and SAMS artist-in-residence Andy Crabb joined Cape Farewell’s Northern Isles expedition in August/September and reflects here on the first days of sailing in Orkney waters. Sea Changes is the first part of a film about Cape Farewell’s Northern Isles expedition, on board... Read More ›

Karine Polwart sings Freedom Come All Ye in Orkney’s Italian Chapel   Read More ›

The Swan Northern Isles Expedition

See the 2013 Expedition site

In August 2013, Sea Change set sail with two crews of artists and scientists from Orkney to Shetland via Fair Isle. Sailing on 113-year-old community owned Shetland Fyfie The Swan, the journey took us around Scotland’s most northerly coasts and islands. Click here for Expedition site >   Read More ›

Sexy Peat / Tìr mo Rùin. Highland Print Studio/Cape Farewell: Year of Natural Scotland 2013

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery 8 March - 5 April 2014

Following the success of Sexy Peat/Tìr mo Rùin as part of Sea Change at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, the exhibition transfers to Inverness Museum and Art Gallery in March-April 2014, before returning to its island of origin at An Lanntair, Lewis. Sexy Peat/Tìr mo Rùin artists: Anne Campbell: Jon Macleod: Kacper Kowalski:... Read More ›

Things Unspoken / Things Unseen. Andrea Roe, Anne Bevan

Book launch 20 August 2013 at Pier Arts Centre, Orkney

Things Unspoken Things Unseen by Anne Bevan and Andrea Roe 2 volume artist book Things Unspoken Things Unseen, by Anne Bevan and Andrea Roe, was launched with Cape Farewell’s 2013 Swan expedition at the Pier Arts Centre in August 2013.  Including contributions by Janice Galloway, Jen Hadfield, Kathleen Jamie, Robert Alan Jamieson and Alan Spence,... Read More ›

Air falbh leis na h-eòin – Away with the Birds: Culture 2014

Isle of Canna, August 2014

Hanna Tuulikki’s body of work exploring the mimesis of bird sounds in Gaelic song was described as ‘heartbreakingly gorgeous’ on BBC Radio Scotland’s The Culture Show in January 2014. Performed in collaboration with vocal artists, field recorder Geoff Sample, filmmaker Daniel Warren, Gaelic singer Mary Smith, textile artist Deirdre Nelson and choreographer Rosalind Masson, the... Read More ›

Air falbh leis na h-eòin – Away with the Birds

Hanna Tuulikki's Complete Audio Diary

28 June 2013 Listen here to an extract from Hanna’s diary: Voices at Dusk   29 May 2013 Listen here to an extract from Hanna’s diary: Tracing Lines 19 April 2013 The creation of Air falbh leis na h-eòin: Hanna on tumblr 14 January 2013 Listen here to an extract from Hanna’s diary:... Read More ›

Mapping the Sea: Barra. Stephen Hurrel

Timespan, Helmsdale. 5 - 29 July 2014

Stephen Hurrel’s Sea Change commission, Mapping the Sea: Barra, will feature in an installation at Timespan Museum and Art Gallery, Helmsdale. Stephen is one of the artists for Generation – Scotland’s largest ever art show –  involving 100 artists in 60 venues, coinciding with the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Generation is produced by Glasgow Life and... Read More ›