Energise Residencies Get Started


Blog post by Ted Leeming (artist-in-residence)

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The Glenlochar Barrage can raises the level of Loch Ken and acts as a storage system for the Tongland power station below.
The Glenlochar Barrage can raises the level of Loch Ken and acts as a storage system for the Tongland power station below.

Working on the Upland Energise artists’ residency is proving to be a wonderful opportunity to explore a landscape we’ve inhabited for over 20 years with new eyes.  It has allowed us to immerse ourselves in the workings of the Galloway Hydro Electric system from its history, through the technical aspects of design, construction and operation to how it defines and co-exists with the glens and culture of Galloway today.  We’ve worked with the local community, from the nursery to the Men’s shed, the youth group to the farmers market, hearing peoples stories of working on and playing alongside the rivers and dams, from both long ago and the present day.

Part of the engagement has also been and exploration of peoples’ attitudes to energy and climate change, asking questions such as “Is climate change real?” and “What would I give up to help halt climate change?”.  The answers have been as diverse and insightful as they are fascinating.  In a world where demand for electricity and consumerism place an every higher burden on our natural resources there remains ongoing opposition from some to the new infrastructure to produce it, just as there was in the 1930’s.  Views on change and comfort for the familiar across generations a fascinating discussion.

Ted, Morag and Jason working with Dalry Primary and Secondary pupils.

Exploring the Tongland Power Station provided further insight into history and understanding, the absolute power of the system and the lives of the people who built, operated and live with the hydros. Past and present. An entire community based around them that has changed with time, technology and working practices. Culture and society, technology and our environment have together “advanced" dramatically as we career across the 21st century whilst the dams stand stoic and robust. A statement of the past, a precursor to current lifestyle and yet in today’s world also an acknowledgement and recognition of decisions yet to be made.

Wordcloud based on responses received as a result of our community engagement.

Working with fellow artist Jason Nelson has been inspiring. Understanding through collaboration with another artist’s practice an ongoing experience of vision, concepts and ideas. Our minds expanded and challenged, more elastic and absorbing than they have been for years. Exploring new avenues, reading, thinking. Of being immersed in what is around us, at both a local and global scale.

We now prepare for the next phase of the project where we take collective and collated thoughts and apply them to individual - and potentially joint - works. Personal responses to all that we have experienced and learned to date. As ideas gestate we begin to contemplate the nature of the final outputs as we continue to explore the scheme as a whole and as individual elements. It’s heritage and environs. The shear scale and bravado of the project itself at its conception. It's legacy and resonance with the people that live with and around it. But also the questions the project has raised with respect to society, lifestyle, impact, consequence and sustainability. With respect to climate change, population and consumerism. With respect to place, culpability and capability.

The next phase will be nothing if not exciting.

The Energise project is supported by Creative Scotland and the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership.