Creative consultants help deliver maritime heritage project

Major step forward in bringing the west coast maritime heritage project to life through the appointment of four creative consultants.

Researchers at West Highland College UHI's Centre for Recreation and Tourism Research (CRTR) working on The Coast That Shaped The World project have announced the appointment of four creative consultants to help gather stories from 20 destinations across the west coast of Scotland – stories that shaped our coastal communities into what they are today, and which convey how our maritime cultural and natural heritage helped to shape the world.

Adapting in response to COVID-19, these stories will also reflect current changes in society, the impact on west coast communities, and the world – as it continues to shape the story of our collective heritage.

Appointed to help deliver the project are ruralDimensions, Lateral North, Whereverly and Soluis Heritage, bringing a wealth of combined experience in tourism development, marketing, heritage and digital innovation to deliver on three key elements of the project – story gathering and curation, the website and app development, and the creation of interactive displays and installations.

The Coast that Shaped the World project is part of a new £9 million Scottish programme of projects to invest in the Highlands and islands to provide more and better-quality opportunities for visitors to enjoy natural and cultural heritage assets. The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund is led by NatureScot and is part funded through the European Development Fund (ERDF).

The Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund will encourage people to visit some of the more remote and rural areas and create and sustain jobs, businesses, and services in local communities. The purpose of the fund is to promote and develop the outstanding natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands and islands in a way that conserves and protects them.

This community-led project is also match funded by West Highland College UHI and Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac), giving the whole project a value of over £500,000.

ruralDimensions with support from Lateral North have been appointed as Project Co-ordinator to lead on gathering and curating these stories, and then working with the other consultants to bring these stories to life and promote the project. ruralDimensions is a rural development consultancy, set up by Carron Tobin in 2009. Carron has worked on a range of initiatives across Scotland, including heritage tourism, marine tourism and heritage and arts initiatives engaging local people.

‘The Coast that Shaped the World’ is a large-scale collaboration between West Highland College UHI and the West Coast Waters (WCW) tourism initiative launched in 2019. WCW emerged from the West Coast Marine Tourism Collaboration (WCMTC), a collaboration of 20 west coast destination and tourism organisations collectively representing over 2,500 tourism interests across the west coast of Scotland, supported by the key public agencies and travel partners in the area.  In 2019 Carron took on the role of coordinator with a heavy focus on the Year of Coasts and Waters in 2020.

The WCMTC engaged businesses and communities in those destination management organisation areas to undertake a comprehensive audit of all the places people can get on or off the water and have an experience.  This scoping was aimed at better understanding the current marine tourism offer, identify gaps in coastal tourism provision and opportunities for much greater collaboration to enhance the visitor experience.  This scoping initiative led to a summit event in January 2019 which identified six projects including ‘The Coast that Shaped the World’.

Supporting Carron with story gathering and community engagement, Lateral North are a research and design collective based in Glasgow.  With a strong focus on community-led design and collaboration, Lateral North has worked on heritage and tourism projects in Alaska, Iceland, and Norway, as well as throughout urban and rural Scotland.

Graham Hogg, one of the co-founders has been contributing to discussions and network events about responding to coronavirus, and the role immersive technologies can play within the tourism, heritage, and culture industries in response to the pandemic.  As an innovative digital project, ‘the Coast that Shaped the World’ has also adapted in response to COVID-19 restrictions and will look at ways to address the issues and challenges facing the heritage and tourism sector. 

The project has always had a focus on sustainability with the intention of attracting people to come to the less-visited areas of the west coast of Scotland. The aim is to help sustain local communities and businesses, and to protect and share our rich natural and cultural heritage through these high-quality visitor experiences.

Whereverly has been appointed as the contractor to deliver the project website and app, after demonstrating a breadth of experience in developing tourism websites and applications, including North Coast 500 and Scotland Starts Here, as well as clearly demonstrating the partnership approach taken to working on projects. Whereverly continuously adds new additions to its bank of digital expertise and will be using immersive technologies to bring the maritime heritage stories to life, in many cases where the event unfolded through GPS triggers.

This will be complemented by a series of physical, inspirational and interactive installations in museums, galleries and heritage centres in west coast communities, which will be created by Lateral North, working with Soluis Heritage, and supported by Rural Dimensions and Whereverly.

Lateral North has extensive experience working collaboratively with communities, governments and institutions at a local, national and international level.  Their focusing is on making long-lasting and meaningful interventions that help people describe, understand and develop the spaces and communities they experience every day.

One of their recent projects was working alongside the Staffin Community Trust on Skye to develop the identity, brand, interpretation and content for the Skye Ecomuseum, Druim nan Linntean.  They have also previously worked alongside Soluis Heritage on the travelling exhibition ‘Past Forward - Stories of Scotland’s Urban Past’ and have been an integral part of the team delivering exhibitions such as Prospect North and World War 100 Scotland. Delivered as the Scottish entry to the 2016 Venice Biennale, Prospect North showcased a variety of augmented and virtual reality content developed by Lateral North and Soluis Heritage. An abstract topographical map of Scotland also augmented to showcase Scotland-wide mapping data.

Soluis Heritage specialise in presenting heritage architecture, digital preservation, and digital interpretation through a range of innovative presentation techniques to tell stories, harnessing new virtual and augmented reality technologies, CGI and animation to name a few, bridging the gap between heritage data and the user.

Lateral North and Soluis Heritage were also commissioned to deliver the World War 100 Scotland exhibition which was launched in the Scottish Parliament in September 2019. The exhibition showcased 100 artworks by 100 students. Each of these stories was augmented to highlight the story being told, the response to the story by the artist and the biography of the artist. A further 5 images augmented to showcase the process of developing this project alongside the 100 students

Sara Bellshaw, Senior Innovation Manager at the Centre for Recreation and Tourism Research said,

“We are delighted to be working with such an experienced and creative team who really think outside the box. Their aim to bring the current changes in society and its impact on west coast communities and the world into the story of our collective heritage impressed our team.  The success of the Coast that Shaped the World lies in strong collaboration between local people and a network of funders and partners including West Highland College UHI, the extended UHI network, CalMac and the West Coast Waters partnership. This project comes at a time when the notion of togetherness and community is acute, so we do hope that by sharing their local stories and bringing these to life, we’ll be able to help people appreciate and protect the unique precious natural and cultural heritage of the west coast of Scotland.”

Carron Tobin, Project Co-ordinator commented,

“This project was conceived, and secured its funding, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, and this project will be delivered in a post-pandemic era when a new normal will emerge - which none of us can yet define.

We believe this project could play a critical role in recovery processes by encouraging more responsible travel but also helping channel the inevitable reminiscing that the pandemic will have triggered in local communities as well as utilise the time during recovery to work with local people to develop new more immersive experiences to be enjoyed by locals and visitors.

A key aim of the project is to encourage people to travel and experience the many stories we gather first hand and seek to have a positive socio-economic impact in each local community. The ideal audience is the small group and individual traveller who has a very personal experience and gets a true sense of localness. With the pandemic highlighting the need for a much more responsible approach to tourism we believe this project can play a leading role in reinforcing if not creating this new norm in key west coast locations.”

Opportunities to get involved with the project and to share stories will be launched in October, with updates to follow on the creation of a digital platform, as well as the appointment of local agents within communities to further research and gather stories. Until this web platform is launched you can find out more about the project at https://www.whc.uhi.ac.uk/research/current-projects/coast/

ENDS