The Macrobert. Summer 1991. Myself, Education Officer, and all the staff are in the midst of our biggest project ever. The green sward of the campus is transformed with marquees and a sculpture trail featuring the work of Scottish sculptors on a Totems theme. In town, two elderly Inuit throat singers are entertaining a crowd outside the Thistle Centre. Inside one marquee Canadian First Nations artist Norman Tait is carving a totem, and inside another a young Inuit soapstone artist is sculpting a stunning image of an Inuit mother and child ice fishing. Two First Nations women have just finished a sewing residency in a nearby village and now one is down by the loch collecting swans’ feathers for her swan dance because today is a special day. Today hundreds of people have thronged the space to see the totem set upright and named. And my boss and myself have been named too, inducted into the Niskaa tribe, myself Hummingbird, because I was always flitting about, and Roy, calm quiet man. Because he was. (For the most part!)
Exhibitions, workshops, school projects, outdoor promenade theatre, Vancouver Youth Theatre and too many other things to mention happened that summer. Even the University chef decorated the centerpiece ham for graduation dinner with First Nations symbols.
It was quite a Summer.
And 32 years later, much older if not wiser I’m back at the Macrobert with my new play Woman Walking, (Oct 14) inspired by the life and writings of Nan Shepherd. These two events are conjoined across time. They both celebrate land, the perpetuity of it as we humans flit by in a seeming nanosecond, our love for nature, its healing power, and our urgent need to look after it.
It’s going to be good to be back on campus.
Sylvia Dow was Macrobert Arts Centre’s first Education Officer.
Catch her play Woman Walking on Saturday 14 October. Her play is inspired by the life of Nan Shepherd and her love of the Cairngorms.