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Revealing the Vision Of Caithness Index Education Culture And Sport - Index

Education Culture & Sport
Highland Council - Caithness

Revealing the Vision of Caithness
An Arts Development Study of Caithness

Appendix 1:            Objectives of Study

The following list of objectives is not in order of priority 

·         To make an assessment of the current situation and make recommendations for further actions for the next decade

·         To identify existing opportunities that are available to the people of Caithness and to assess any deficiencies in local provision

·         To review problems of participation in the arts in Caithness

·         To provide the objective rationale and evidence for what people expect from the arts locally

·         To measure attitudes towards the arts in Caithness

·         To measure levels of exclusion and alienation from the arts

·         To ascertain what working Caithness artists want and need for their own artform(s) with regard to making, teaching, performing and employment (themselves and others) as well as encouraging the wider community in their artform(s). This artistic input will help widen our knowledge of public inclusion and accessibility, two key features of this study

·         To explore the contribution of the Arts in Caithness to social inclusion, mental and physical health and well-being, community planning, lifelong learning, and economic development

·         To recommend how Scotland's Year of Highland Culture in 2007 might benefit Caithness, and to identify specific projects and actions to achieve this.

Appendix 2:            Feedback from open forums in Thurso and Wick 

Towards an Arts Strategy

Open Forum – Thurso: Monday 10 November 2003

7.30pm Park Hotel, Thurso

Brief introduction from Tom Bryan Highland Council Arts Development Officer for Caithness and Katrina Gordon, Chair Caithness Arts 

Initial brainstorming in groups of four:

What are the issues facing arts and audiences in Caithness? 

Inadequacy of the major hall – the Assembly Rooms in Wick

Do we need/Can we afford a large arts centre

One adequate venue at least needed

The low priority given to the arts by Highland Council, etc.

Lack of consultation and listening by Highland Council

Poor relationship between Highland Council and the local community

Publicity – the public finding what is on

An Arts Festival

Regularity and predictability of arts provision of all kinds

Co-ordination of arts provision

Support for creativity and emerging artists in all art-forms from school through to studios

Thurso Town Hall closure

Why does Orkney have what Caithness does not?

The ‘Dounreay Factor’ – not ever addressing the needs from the population increase

‘Disruption and flux’


Eden Court Theatre – too far to meet local needs

‘Where is Caithness’ 

Above grouped by the meeting into four subjects: 

  • Venues
  • Politics – consultation, relationships, co-ordination
  • Developing support for creativity and emerging artists
  • Audiences – telling people what’s On; reaching people; the role of Festivals

Meeting divided into four groups (not by personal choice) to explore these subjects and make recommendations:


Decided a 250 to 300 seat venue was needed, flexible in form and use, with a separate permanent art gallery space, catering facilities, community use rooms and workshop spaces

They had debated whether this should be provided in either Wick or Thurso but concluded that each needed one.

A venue was the key gap in each community’s infra-structure

They expected arts centres to be well used – previous studies had confirmed the demand for the facilities – and expected it to be run by a small core of say 6 full-time staff, so they expected it might need £100,000 subsidy per annum.


No councillors had chosen to attend this public meeting to listen to what was said

Urgent need to get talking to those responsible

Just about everything seemed to be wrong

  • No prioritisation of cultural issues and values
  • 80% sports 20% arts when public involvement other way round
  • No local council to listen since 1975
  • Geography – Inverness too far to get attention

Caithness needs a better deal

Boycott local facilities?  Take protests and direct action to Inverness? 

Developing support for creativity and emerging artists 

Affordable studios were needed for rent to emerging artists, especially visual artists

Permanent exhibition space needed

Effective marketing for the visual arts and the work of artists

School facilities improved and made available outside school hours

Development officers employed for individual art-forms

Awards scheme to support local artists

Practice rooms (rehearsal rooms) for all kinds of performing arts, especially musicians

Storage needed and equipment available for hire

Weekend courses and workshops to develop skills

Mentoring and teaching

Exploit all artists visiting Caithness for workshops and masterclasses

More collaboration between artists and art-forms

Directory of Caithness artists – who they are, what they do, their skills, etc.

Anti-clash diary of events

Co-ordinated programme of arts activities 

Audiences – telling people What’s On; reaching people; the role of Festivals 

Groat gave 96% coverage of Caithness population but did not cover the arts adequately

A free-sheet for What’s On was needed but could it be paid for by advertising – probably not

Festivals needed to raise the profile but who to target to attend, how to re-start for the local community?

Suggestion of timing ‘between Magnus and Edinburgh’ to save costs

Education has key role – poorly delivered in Caithness – so children have arts experiences and are new audiences

Statutory provision required for expressive arts – can classroom teachers deliver this?  Claimed that little or no INSET in expressive arts teaching since 1975

Annual events needed aimed at/involving young people

Sell arts events to the public better – social inclusion

Remember small is beautiful – all year round ‘festival’ in Caithness 

The evening ended with feedback from the groups on the reports above and a broad ranging discussion of the subjects. Speakers welcomed the consultation and applauded the development of an arts strategy in the hope that this would bring real  benefits to the people of Caithness.

Towards an Arts Strategy

Open Forum – Wick: Tuesday 11 November 2003

7.30pm Mackay’s Hotel, Wick 

Brief introduction from Tom Bryan Highland Council Arts Development Officer for Caithness and Katrina Gordon, Chair Caithness Arts 

Initial brainstorming in groups of four:

What are the issues facing arts and audiences in Caithness? 

A large venue in Caithness

Better deal for musicians and writers, with a structure of support, especially for musicians, leading to performances

A focal point for the arts in both Wick and Thurso – resistance to travel between the two by people in Caithness

Involve the community more

Refurbish the Assembly Rooms – some parts not habitable any more; big problems to upgrade it

Lack of amenities and facilities

Could venue needs be met by Assembly Rooms and by conversion of Barrogill Hall?

Lack of film provision

A venue for 250/300 audience, with adequate facilities

Suitable larger venues in Wick and Thurso

Developments in Old Pulteney

A gallery for Caithness

Funding for amateur and community as well as professional arts

Caithness a poor partner in the Highland region

Need for the arts to overcome the Thurso/Wick divide

Claim that 72% of Highland spending on culture, leisure and sport is in Thurso

Need to address issues of social inclusion, social deprivation, transport, access

Claim that 40% of residents of Wick and Thurso do not have a car

Isolation of Caithness – transport subsidy to travel out to  access the arts elsewhere is needed

Helping and supporting local artists to exhibit, promote and sell their work, including outside Caithness

Promotion – big gap in available skills and interested people 

Above grouped into four subjects (fairly naturally falling into similar groupings to the Thurso forum): 

  • Venues
  • Politics and funding
  • Support for artists - infra-structure
  • Audiences and Promotion

Meeting divided into four groups (not by personal choice) to explore these subjects and make recommendations: 


A list of the venues in Caithness was needed, detailing their facilities and seating/audience capacities. There was a general feeling that there were a lot of small venues in Caithness and the problem was of the availability of suitable larger venues.

The Assembly Rooms in Wick had deteriorated and was not being properly maintained, and was no longer fit for purpose.

What should/could Caithness have with a population of 27,000 and 8,000 in Wick

Issues of access needed to be addressed to overcome disability discrimination under the Act. Venues needed to ber disabled friendly

Current venues lack storage facilities for the equipment, etc. of local groups using them

Car parking is essential for any venue in Caithness

Could developers be involved in providing an arts centre/craft centre such as in Lower Pulteney Town

Who would drive or run a project for a new venue, arts centre/craft centre?  There was thought to be a shortage of champions and drivers (and too many back seat drivers).

Develop and preserve Barn (?) 


Highland Councils officers and councillors appeared to lack interest and there was a lack of funding (it emerged two councillors were present)

Who actually runs the council?  Members or officers?

Lack of consultation (apart from this session)

Department of culture education and sport is not co-ordinated, not joined up, essentially divided

Lack of partnership funding; Wick Players successful for many years reliant on self-funding – why no help?

How can Eden Court be thought to serve the whole of the Highlands?

Do we know what we want?  Would we all agree?

Stornoway is building its own £5 million arts centre so why can’t Caithness

Villages and their halls good provision but towns bad provision – Why?

Windmill money to the arts

Declining aging population needs more doctors and dentists so quality of life needed to attract them 

Support for artists – infra-structure 

Support for young musicians and artists. All kinds of facilities and equipment needed, plus places to play, and all kinds of music

Caithness visual artists need a decent large scale exhibition space

Better galleries brochure and a directory of living, working artists and where to find them

Supported artists studio spaces – WASPS (?)

Better arts guides and What’s On guides

Recognise hard to get people interested so work hard to attract them

Use high profile public events to attract local people (successful events in Thurso and Wick quoted as examples)

Strike a balance between recruiting audiences and encouraging people to participate in activities

Easier better known facilities for buying tickets 

Audiences and promotion 

Lack of comprehensive What’s On guide to events in the whole county. Advertising in the Groat/Courier thought expensive.

Lots of posters around – do they work?  Use the town noticeboards effectively

Need to centralise and co-ordinate information – help avoid clashes, tell people what is on

Could Caithness.org web site help – getting 4000 hits a day, half from Caithness, more from Wick than Thurso

Need to produce a proper What’s On publication. Plan and announce events well ahead

Some audiences are captive – on mailing lists – but bigger and new audiences needed. Seemed easier to attract audiences to local performers – amateur and professional – or very well known performers, but much harder to attract people to attend the unknown

Terms used in the arts can be a turn-off so don’t call it an arts centre

Ask the audience?  Can you ask people what they want if they don’t know what they can have?

The evening ended with feedback from the groups on the reports above. Discussion quickly focussed on the venue(s) issues and a dialogue with the councillors. Some wanted the arts strategy to include covering the feasibility of providing a new venue. It was clarified that this was outside the terms of reference, but the issue of available facilities would be commented upon. It was clear that councillors shared the belief in Caithness having appropriate facilities but also saw the difficult funding situation and the need for self-help and locally driven projects. The consultation was welcomed and people looked forward to seeing the proposed arts strategy.

Appendix 3:            Survey responses - Caithness venues visited since January 2001

(spelling as interpreted from survey forms): 

Ackergill Tower

B.B Hall, Thurso

Bower Inn

Bower School

British Legion, Thurso

Canisbay Church

Castletown Drill hall

Commercial Hotel, Thurso

Dunbeath Hotel

Dunbeath Church

Dunbeath Heritage Centre

Episcopal Church, Thurso

Freswick Hall

Fisherman's Mission, Scrabster

Freswick Village Hall

John O'Groats Hall

Latheron Village Hall

Lyth Arts Centre

Mackays Hotel

Mill Theatre

Mount Pleasant School Hall

Murkle Community Hall

Northlands Glass

Park Hotel

Pennyland Primary School

Pentland Hotel

Portland Hotel Lybster

Pulteneytown Academy

Reay Village Hall

Ross Institute Halkirk

Royal Hotel Thurso

Salvation Army Thurso


Skerray Village Hall


St Anne's Church

St Fergus

St John's Episcopal Church, Wick

St Peter & St Andrews Church

Stewart Pavilion Thurso

Swanson Gallery

Thrumster Hall

Thrumster House

Thurso Cinema/All Star Factory

Thurso High School

Viking Bowl

Weigh Inn, Thurso

West Church

Wick Assembly Rooms

Wick High School

Wick Library

Wick Parish Church

Wick Old Bus Garage

Appendix 4:            Evidence was taken from the following individuals 

Helen Allan, Area Community Learning and Leisure Officer, Caithness

Richard Arrowsmith, Designer

Lynn Ball, Caithness Quilters; Caithness Handbell Ringers

Arlette Bannister, Ackergill Tower

George Bethune, Dunbeath Heritage Centre

Nan Bethune, Dunbeath Heritage Centre

Betty Bradstreet, Thurso Players

Derek Bradstreet, Thurso Players

Mick Broad, Lower Pulteneytown Project

Tom Bryan, Arts Development Officer, (Caithness)

Steve Callaghan, Heritage Officer, Orkney Islands Council

Elizabeth Cameron, Treasurer, Dunbeath and Berriedale Community Council; Curator, Laidhay Croft Museum

Brian Cardosi, Owner, Skinandi's

Frank Charlton, Artist Liaison Officer, Wildcat Traditional Music Association

Bobby Coghill, Traditional musician; Pipe Major, Wick Pipe Band

Mal Cowton, St Fergus Gallery

Sheen Craig, General Manager, Caithness General Hospital

Caroline Docherty, Head of Area Development, Scottish Arts Council

Sophie J Dunnett, Assistant Section Leader, Community & Health Section, North Highland College

Donald Farmer, Wick Players

Councillor Bill Fernie

Councillor David Flear

Katrina Gordon, Chair, Caithness Arts

Miles Greenford, Public Health Practitioner for Caithness and Sutherland

Lisa Grindall, Drama teacher, Thurso and Wick High Schools

George Gunn, Writer; Director, Grey Coast Theatre Company

Gordon Gunn, Musician

Iain Gunn, North Lands Creative Glass

Ian Hargrave Acting Area Manager (Caithness), Highland Council

Addie Harper, Musician

Yvonne Henry, Pulteneytown People’s Project

Della Hickey, Musician and music teacher

Anne Hutchison, Head of Music, Wick High School; Chair, MADD

John Inkster, Rector, Thurso High School

Joanne Kaar, Papermaker

Annie Kieran, Swanson Gallery

Jean Lipa, Secretary, Thurso Community Council

Robert Livingston, Director, HI Arts

Hugh Logan, Principal, North Highland College

Valerie McKenzie, Manager, All Star Factory

Drew McLeod, Wick Community Council

Jean McLennan Secretary, Caithness Branch, MS Society

Ian Manson, Rector, Wick High School

Roxana Meechan, Arts Development Officer (Sutherland)

Judy Menabney, Principal Cultural Officer, Highland Council

David Morrison, Scotia Review

Ian Munro Lottery Department SAC (by telephone)

Ian Murray, Head of Community Learning and Leisure, Highland Council

Barbara Myatt, Thurso Live Music Association; Society of Caithness Artists

Graham Nichols, Area Community Learning and Leisure Services Manager, Caithness

Eileen Ratclife, Secretary, Dunbeath and Berriedale Community Council

David Oag, Band Secretary, Northern Nashville Club

Liz O’Donnell, Craftsperson

Mike O’Donnell, Craftsperson

Councillor Jean Urquhart, Chair, Grey Coast Theatre Company

Don Renwick, Conductor, Wick Choral Society

Bruce Robertson, Director, Education, Culture and Sport, Highland Council

George Ross, Chairman, Thurso Community Council

Monique Sliedrecht, Wayfarer Trust, Freswick House

Roy Stewart, Thurso and Dounreay Strathspey and Reel Society; Thurso Accordion and Fiddle Club

Isaac Sutherland, Musician

James Sutherland, Project Co-ordinator, Ormlie Social Inclusion Project

John Sutherland, Musician

Cathy Shankland, Exhibitions Officer, Highland Council

Eann Sinclair, Musician and Director Developing Communities, Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise

David Taylor, Drama Director, SAC (by telephone)

Sue-Jane Taylor, Designer, Lower Pulteneytown Project

Graham Watson, Culture and Sports Manager, Highland Council

Murray Watts, Writer and Director

Tony West-Samuel, Caithness FM

Trevor Williams, Caithness Music Association

Donnie Williamson, The Howlin’ Gaels

William Wilson, Lyth Arts Centre

Lucy Woodley, Exhibitions Unit, Highland Council

Tina Wrighton, Communications Department, UKAEA, Dounreay

Appendix 5:            Documents researched during the course of this study 

The Arts in Healthcare Development Group, Glasgow, The Arts as Medicine: Conference Synopsis, 2001

Caithness Arts, Caithness Arts News

Caithness Tourism Development Group, Wider Horizons: Caithness Tourism – towards 2000 and beyond, n.d.

EDAW, Lower Pulteneytown THI: integrated Economic Area Strategy, 2001

Fast Forward Positive Lifestyles/Scottish Executive Health Department, Walk the Talk, 2000

Highland Council, Arts Strategy 2001-2005

Highland Council, Caithness Community Education Plan, 2002-04

Highland Council, Lochaber Arts Strategy, 2003

Highlands and Islands Enterprise, A Smart Successful Scotland: the Highlands and Islands Dimension, 2002

Independent Northern Consultants, Caithness Community and Arts Venue: Feasibility Study for Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise and Thurso College, June 1997

W. T. Lyall and A. S. Reid, Wick Pipe Band: A History (Wick: Wick RBLS Pipe Band, 2001)

T.M.S. --The Market Specialist, Caithness Sports and Arts Centre: Feasibility Study – Final Report May 2003

John Myerscough, The Economic Importance of the Arts in Britain (London: Policy Studies Institute, 1988)

Jim Neville and Helen Anton, Creative Routes to Health, 2002

North Lands Creative Glass, Five Year Plan 2003-2008

Northlands Festival, The Business Plan 1999-2002

Ormlie Social Inclusion Partnership, Updates and Info 99-03

RGA Ltd, “Caithness Horizons”; a business plan to develop Thurso Town Hall, July 2003

RGA Ltd, Thurso Town Hall Project: Economic Impact Assessment, March 2003

Save the Children in Scotland Community Partners Programme, Ormlie Evaluation Report August to November 2002

Scottish Arts Council, Arts in Scotland, 2003

Scottish Arts Council, CulturEd; Newsletter of the Cultural Co-ordinators in Scottish Schools Programme, September 2003

Scottish Arts Council, Information Bulletin of the Scottish Arts Council December 2003/January 2004

Scottish Arts Council, Crafts Strategy 2002-07

Scottish Arts Council, Cultural Diversity Strategy 2002-07

Scottish Arts Council, Dance Strategy 2002-07

Scottish Arts Council, Drama Strategy 2002-07

Scottish Arts Council, Literature Strategy 2002-07

Scottish Arts Council, Visual Arts Strategy 2002-07

Scottish Executive, Working and learning together to build stronger communities, 2003

Sue Jane Taylor, Artist’s Report: Wick Fishing Heritage Trails, 1993

UKAEA, Appeals and Donations: a look back at 2001

Thurso High School, Newsletter, October 2003

Wick Heritage Centre, Souvenir Guide Book

Wick Traditional Music Workshops, ‘Detailed Survey and Questionnaire Results’, 2003ick Traditional Music Workshops, ‘Event Report’, 2003

Appendix 6:            Guidelines for arts provision in community facilities

1               Many of the usual day-to-day activities have similar requirements to those of a purpose-designed public performance space. These are:

·                     focussed seating layout, often for more than 100 persons 

·                     comfortable seating for people sitting for more than 60 minutes, flexible in layout,
           complying with linking requirements to meet fire regulations 

·                     raised stage, usually quite small in scale but extendable 

·                     curtains/blinds to windows to achieve complete blackout 

·                     secure storage for portable and valuable items of equipment 

·                     toilets to separately serve the public and the staff 

·                     kitchen/bar serving the public 

·                     car parking and good access. 

2              The principal development specification over and above the basic hall requirements for arts use shall include the following:

·          Consideration of the hall environment in respect of 100 – 150 persons seated in rows to experience arts activity for more than 60 minutes without a break. This immediately will place a burden on the heating control system and the ventilation of the hall to current regulations, as well as the comfort of the seating.

·          The simplest type of presentation benefits those speaking if they use a raised platform. It is usual to have a permanently constructed raised area of modest scale 20 sq. metres and portable staging to increase the basic area to 40 sq metres. However, some small scale touring companies, because of the vagaries of village halls, tour on the basis of being on a flat floor.

·          The portable staging might be used away from the fixed platform to provide an informal island stage or a catwalk extension for a fashion show or additional tiering for choirs and bands.

·          The flexible staging arrangement requires a similarly flexible approach to lighting and it is in this area that difficulty is often experienced. One of the main points for consideration when designing such halls is to provide sufficient height not only over the performance area but also over the auditorium itself. If we are looking to accommodate seating in more than eight rows on a flat floor, a performance platform height of 900 – 1000 mm will be required to provide good visibility. The clear height over a community hall platform should be at least four metres and with a further allowance for stage lights and curtain tracks a further one metre is needed, in total, we are recommending at least six metres of clear internal height from the base floor to the ceiling. 

·           Control of the general interior lighting at a useful central point is essential for any presentation. Theatre lighting to focus attention on the performance and provide a suitable atmosphere and lighting effects should be provided. Typically a 24-channel stage lighting control system and twenty-four stage lights on four six-way internally wired bars would be a modest but useful provision.

·          A 63A three-phase electrical supply is required for theatre lighting and this should be available to serve either the 24-channel dimmer system or portable touring equipment which many small-scale touring groups use. 

·          The platform area should be with two nearby 6 – 8 person changing rooms and separate toilets and wash basins. Changing rooms will certainly have to be multi-purpose: suitable lighting, privacy, mirrors, tables and chairs are the key elements to be provided.

·          The inclusion of children is commonplace in most amateur theatre productions and separate changing facilities for 20 – 50 children is not unusual.

·           Deliveries and collections are important for any touring small-scale performances arts groups that visit these venues. The ability to deliver/collect close to the backstage in vehicles up to 3 tonnes capacity is important.

  • Ancillary rooms for education classes and workshops with available electricity.