Camille Dressler, Isle of Eigg
Since the community buyout of the Isle of Eigg in 1997, the resident population of the island has risen from 65 to almost 100, with young people in particular settling on the island, as well as some former residents. Here is a post from resident Camille Dressler at Eigg’s latest festival.
I am writing this blog as the 6th Howlin’ Fling, Eigg’s” boutique” indie festival is under way. 300 people are converging to the island for a weekend of music which is attracting people as far afield as Baltimore, USA. There is a real buzz on the island, despite the rain, and the pier café is heaving with good humour banter, as people dry up after setting their tent in the steady Hebridean drizzle.
As an extra hand this weekend, 18-year-old islander Struan is handing out coffees and the twice cooked chips which the pier café is famous for. He is looking forward to the bands playing tonight when he will be off. Early on this year, as part of his High school’s Foundation Apprenticeship in S5, Struan helped design and develop the online donation page for the well-known Lucky2BHere website which provides defibrillator location information. This experience of online apprenticeship which helped promote the Highland-based charity to a global audience, has consolidated his ambition to work in the digital world, and after the summer he will be off to University of Dundee to study computer science. He is the next generation of young folks that are off to try their luck in the big wide world. In the meantime, he thinks that living on an island is cool, especially one where Eigg based Johnny Lynch from Pictish Trail gets to invite so many bands you’d have to go far to see.
Johnny is lucky, there is a bunch of folks here he can depend on for the logistics, online promotion and the all the work associated with running such an event. The creative industries have made a big difference to those islanders who chose to return after a spell on the mainland to bring up their families. Eigg’s own Community Interest Company providing them with better broadband than in many other places on the mainland makes it easier to make a living from graphic design, music, writing or photography. The marketing and mentoring programme devised by Eigg Box made all the difference in getting the island entrepreneurs to where they are now. Johnny’s Lost Map record label is a perfect example. This year, his sweatshirts with the label’s logo will go like hot cakes.
Johnny’s partner Sarah is working on the family farm with her parents. They are heavily diversifying into small scale tourism and just finished their third holiday bothy in time to host Arthur King, the Californian experimental 4 piece band who will be projecting their footage of the island landscape whilst improvising with digital sampling including the island sounds they recorded earlier on in the week. “I really look forward to their performance” enthuses Johnny, “it will be amazing, and the best is that we will release it all on Lost Map later on this year.” Johnny runs Lost Map from the home he built with Sarah after a long enough spell in a caravan, using the island’s community Trust’s shared equity scheme. By enabling islanders to return or settle on the island and build their own home on one of a number of designated plots of land, each within reach of a spring for the water supply and the island’s self-maintained electricity grid, the scheme is one of the biggest factor in Eigg’s growth and success. To this and the success of this year’s festival, I am raising my glass of “Session Ale” brewed to perfection on the island!