A Carrying Stream - Exhibition

This year the University of Edinburgh’s Summer Exhibition, ‘A Carrying Stream’, utilises ethnological material from the School of Scottish Studies Archive (SSSA) to create an immersive experience which takes visitors on a sensory journey around cities and towns, countryside and coasts in Scotland. For the exhibition, artists Blair Coron, Fraser MacBeath and Carla Sayer were invited to respond to a chosen theme based on their previous engagement with the archives.

We asked Blair Coron to tell us more about his work in the exhibition and how he became interested in these wonderful recordings. Here's what he had to say:

How wonderful it is to commune and find comfort with someone from the past whom you have never met. We can learn so much by listening to the stories, songs and reminiscences that exist within the archives of the School of Scottish Studies, told by those who are no longer with us.

Throughout the course of research for 'A Carrying Stream' and my previous project 'Cairn', I would spend countless hours entering the living rooms and kitchens of those who once lived in the Highlands and Islands. I found it comforting, entertaining and emotional… the number of evenings I sat listening to these voices with tears running down my face. I implore you to spend some time with them and let their voices reach your ears and touch your heart and soul.

'The Sea Close By' is the title of my contribution to 'A Carrying Stream' It specifically follows those who worked and lived by the coast and on the water. I intended for it to be gentle and for my music to never be overpowering. To be the soft waves that carry the voices safely across time, and to create new compositions that feel familiar somehow, like small, whistled tunes heard once on the wind. It is not simply an immersive space to be, but also to learn. And with these melodies guiding us, we learn of forgotten moments. We are taken far out to sea, to St. Kilda, and hear of puffin fowling by the last remaining inhabitants. To the Isle of Tiree to learn methods of weather forecasting by reading signs of the sky and sea. To be welcomed with open arms into an old cèilidh-house in Oban where fisherman would share tales of water-horses and selkies with one another. The stories may be decades old but to many, the words spoken provide an insight that will likely be new to the ears that listen.

The exhibition is open at the University of Edinburgh's Main Library until 30 September 2023. Be sure to call in if you are in the area.

*The photo aboves shows Blair in the exhibitions space. Photo credit: Blair Coron.