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Inspiring communities through the Tapestry of the Highlands and Islands

Passion, dedication and wholehearted enthusiasm – qualities seen in abundance during the two-year duration of the Tapestry of the Highlands and Islands project.

Over 600 stitchers volunteered to be part of this community-led project with stitching groups formed across the area to work on individual panels. As the many hundreds involved meet fellow stitchers and share techniques, it is clear to see that the community aspect of the project, the bringing together of like- minded people, is the driving force behind the production of the panels.

The material used in the panels – much donated from local businesses – has been stitched together with a range of yarns and resources into the 56 panels of the Tapestry of the Highlands and Islands.

Stories demonstrating that passion, dedication and enthusiasm include:

A group of stitchers from Aultbea in Ross-shire took elderly family members to   the tapestry store, allowing their relative an opportunity to see the tapestries               before the work begins to prepare them for public display when the Inverness Castle Experience opens in 2025.

A stitcher from the isle of Lewis in the Western Isles rose at 5am to                catch the early ferry, before travelling by bus to hand over their panel.

Another stitcher travelled from Clachtoll in Sutherland with a bag of felted                 stones created by people in a care home nearby after they’d participated in              felted stone workshops supported by the project.

Two stitchers made the journey from Skye to the tapestry store to make some    final amendments to their panel.

Kirstie Campbell, professional textile artist and Stitch Coordinator for the Tapestry of the Highlands and Islands project said:

“It is wonderful to experience the dedication, warmth and genuine camaraderie that has been generated through the stitching groups. At a time when we all needed to reconnect as we recovered from the impact of the pandemic, the project has really helped to regenerate links and relationships across the area.”

Cllr Ian Brown, Leader of Inverness City and Area and Co-chair of the Inverness Castle Project Delivery Group, said:

“Having met many of the stitchers, I have seen their passion for the project at first hand and know how committed each and every one has been to make sure their part of the tapestry conveys the stories of their own community in an exciting and creative way.”

Kate Muir, Stitcher on the Calanais Stones panel, Isle of Lewis said:

“There were five of us involved in stitching the panel. It was both a technical and geographical challenge to complete as we work full time and live in different corners of the Island. We would meet up on Sundays at Lews Castle in Stornoway or in Carloway, as it was often the only day off, we shared.

We literally put blood, sweat and tears into the panel so, when the time came to hand it over, it was decided I would do it in person. On a perfectly calm morning at 5am the journey started with a drive, then ferry crossing from Stornoway to Ullapool, followed by a bus journey to Inverness. Six hours later I arrived at the hub, it was a real hubbub of energy, with lots of women working away.

Handing over our panel was very emotional but ‘our baby’ had to leave its Island home and join its peers! We are excited to see the finished panels on display. A trip all five of us will make together. It’s been an excellent project, and one we are all very proud to be part of.”

Completed tapestry panels will be exhibited within the newly transformed Inverness Castle when it opens in 2025, as well as within community venues across the Highlands and Islands and online.

The tapestry is being created as part of the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project, a partnership project between The Highland Council and High Life Highland, which is being delivered in collaboration with VisitScotland.

The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project will encourage visitors to explore and experience all parts of the Highlands and Islands, as well as inspiring them to attend and support festivals and events, visitor attractions and outdoor locations across the area.

The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project is supported by a grant from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund (NCHF), led by NatureScot and funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands project is part of the Inverness Castle project. The Castle, opening in 2025, will benefit from £30m investment to support its redevelopment from the Scottish and UK Governments, The Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and a range of other partners.

The Inverness Castle project is part of the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal, which is a joint initiative supported by up to £315m investment from the UK and Scottish governments, The Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and University of the Highlands and Islands, aimed at stimulating sustainable regional economic growth.