Artful Migration Residency Programme 2023

Artful Migration is aresidency programme which supports artists to create work informed by wildlife, the natural world, the environment and climate change. 

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Leeming + Paterson. Photo by Colin Hattersley
The Species Scrolls, Morag Paterson. From the 'Much Ado About Nightjars' exhibition at Gracefield Arts Centre.Photo by Mike Bolam
Much Ado About Nightjars exhibition, install shot. Photo by Mike Bolam
Nightjar by Leeming & Paterson
Work by Ted Leeming. Photo by Mike Bolam
Morag Paterson, Unmade charcoal. Photo by Mike Bolam

The Artful Migration residency programme offers artists a unique insight into the migratory birds of Dumfries & Galloway through partnership working with local nature reserves and the opportunity to create new, high quality artworks in response for public display.

The programme is being developed by Upland in partnership with Ginnie Wollaston and Nicholas Paton Philip of Moving Souls Dance. It is also supported by Creative Scotland. This years project partners are Forest and Land Scotland and RSPB Scotland.

This residency follows on from two previous residencies - a pilot residency which took place in 2017-18 at WWT Caerlaverock, undertaken by Angela Alexander Lloyd, and a second residency, undertaken by John Wallace, which ran from June 2020 – August 2021 at NTS Threave Garden & Estate. It is the final phase of a three-year programme during which the project partners wish to:

  • encourage and support artists, including emerging artists, who primarily create work informed by the fields of wildlife, the natural world and issues posed by climate change to the ecosystems
  • give artists the opportunity to research and creatively explore the themes identified surrounding the selected migratory birds and the scientific research on their migratory pathways to Dumfries & Galloway
  • give artists the opportunity to create new high quality art work that will be informed by this research
  • increase the provision of interpretation and participatory opportunities within the wildlife reserves of Dumfries and Galloway
  • connect with international partners or artists along the migratory routes
  • deliver events which will facilitate learning, sharing of knowledge, discussion and debate around conservation on both a local and wider level

The 2023 artist in residence programme will focus on the elusive nightjar in partnership with Forest and Land Scotland (FLS) and RSBP Scotland The residency has been awarded to Leeming & Paterson, whose work explores the landscape and our human interactions therein in the context of climate change and biodiversity loss. The natural world forms the basis of inspiration for many of their collaborative images and projects.

The artist’s research will take place at Lochar Mosses (approx. 4 miles from Dumfries) and they will work closely with Forest and Land Scotland who will enable access to the site and support the artists to view the birds in their natural habitat. The artists-in-residence will be present when key conservation activities take place such as ringing the birds. 

The Nightjar is one of Scotland's rarest and most unusual birds, which appears to be thriving in Dumfries and Galloway, with the majority of the population nesting in South West Scotland. Due to their largely nocturnal habits, nightjar populations are estimated by counting the number of males heard singing, or 'churring', after sunset. In 2016 a record number of 40 churring males were counted in Dumfries and Galloway, the highest number since survey work commenced there in the 1980s, and double that recorded in 2015.

The UK nightjar population suffered historical declines due to habitat loss, and nightjars are now amber-listed birds of medium conservation concern. Nightjars only stay in the UK during the summer, spending their winters in central and south eastern Africa. The birds usually arrive in the UK between late April / mid-May and mainly leave in August.

Little is known of the bird’s migratory journey, which provides an opportunity for new research with the project partners. The nightjar has secretive behaviour and an almost supernatural reputation, being only visible at night.

The artists will work closely with the project partners to ensure best practice in relationship to conservation issues of the specific location and protection of the birds that nest on the specific sites.


The artists created a new body of work for public display at the end of the residency period in early autumn 2023. The exhibition, 'Much Ado About Nightjars' ran from 14th October  - 11th November 2023 at Gracefiled Arts Centre.

The Artful Migration Conference took place on 20th October 2023 and you can read more about this and watch videos from the day here.



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