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Lochaber Story Quilt exhibition opens

Next Monday (6 February 2023) will see the unveiling of the Lochaber Story Quilt at Fort William Library, a project that marked the year of Scotland’s stories in 2022. The quilt will be on display at the library from Monday, and people are invited to view the quilt close-up and share their stories of taking part in this exciting community project.

Around 900 people have taken part in the project.

Each square is unique and represents the makers favourite place, wildlife, sport, hobby – whatever is special about the area for that person.  Workshops provided fabric paint and pens and the option to learn how to needle-felt which proved very popular with all ages.

The quilt tells the stories of Lochaber, both ancient tales being retold and new tales being aired for the first time. It includes old storytellers mingled with new, weaving together the rich traditions of the area and recording them for this and future generations. It reflects that there is a story in every one of us that begins at birth and continues after death (through the retelling of a story). The aim of the project was to bring together people across all the communities of Lochaber to create the community story quilt, each person creating a square that would represent something special about the area.

Michelle Melville, Highland Heritage Ranger at High Life Highland led the project and takes up the story, saying:

“Lochaber has a wealth of stories to tell through it’s history, culture, languages, landscapes, wildlife and people.  From a special place in people’s heart, to how they came to live in the area, from Gaelic, Scots and English to Traveller Cant and Beurla-regaird, from nature to industry and traditional skills and tools, myth and folklore to real life, music to shinty, the area is rich in stories just waiting to be told and 2022 has been the year to do so.

“The area is full of iconic stories and storytellers, rich local tales and legends, brimming with landscape and nature inspired stories and overflowing with the stories of local people and visitors, with iconic sites such as Glenfinnan and Glencoe which have played a vital role in Scotland’s history and more recently in Hollywood to Viking and clan battles, vitrified hill forts to cleared villages, slate to aluminum, crofting to fishing, Lochaber is an incredible area to live, work and call home.

“It was with this in mind that we sought and were given funding from the Scotland Year of Stories 2022 fund to enable us to collect people’s stories through the creation of a story quilt.” Michelle continued:

“From Rum to Kilchoan, Duror to Lochaline, Mallaig to Glencoe, Spean Bridge to Acharacle and Fort William to Kinlochleven, over the last six months we have been out on the road visiting nurseries, primary and High Schools, ESOL classes, adult groups and local Scouts as well as running holiday drop-in sessions where members of the public could drop in to create their own square.

“There was no age limit, no set stories or techniques for square creation, this project was for the people of Lochaber and was individual to each person taking part.  To help inspire people taking part, the Scottish author and storyteller, Jess Smith, came along to Rum nursery and Primary School and Duror Primary School to share some of her stories and tales about her life.

Michelle continued:

“The story quilt looks fabulous. It’s really big piece of work and a major achievement for everyone involved – we had around 900 people taking part in the project!  With last year being Scotland’s year of stories, the quilt stemmed from looking for a project that could involve everyone in the communities of Lochaber. As I like stories and folklore, I came up with the idea of the story quilt.

We are very grateful to the 2022 Year of Stories community fund for their support for the project. During the project we visited all parts of Lochaber, including communities in Rum, Ardnamurchan, Mallaig, Ballachulish and Kinlochleven,

The 900 people taking part each contributed to making a square through needle-felting, crocheting, painting or whatever way they wished. Each square was amazing, and each square was personal to the maker, perhaps illustrating their favourite place, their favourite animal, their favourite sport or something else that was special to them.”

Marie Christie, Head of Development at VisitScotland said:

“We are delighted to be supporting the Lochaber Story Quit through the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund. Events play an important role in our communities as they sustain livelihoods and help to celebrate and promote our unique places, spaces and stories. Themed Years are all about collaboration and Museums Galleries Scotland, National Lottery Heritage Fund and VisitScotland are pleased to work in partnership to create this fund to showcase community stories. By supporting events taking place within our communities, including the Lochaber Story Quilt, new opportunities with be provided for locals and visitors to come together and find out more about the diverse stories, past and present, that our communities have to share.”

This event has been supported by the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund. This fund is being delivered in partnership between VisitScotland and Museums Galleries Scotland with support from National Lottery Heritage Fund thanks to National Lottery players.