Cumnock Tryst Reveals First Stage of Major Community Project

In April this year the Cumnock Tryst was awarded a major grant to work with local communities to create a musical celebration of their own heritage, culture and environment.

The project, The Musical Celebration of the Coalfields is part of the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership for which East Ayrshire Council raised £2,220,500 through the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Working full steam ahead, the Cumnock Tryst was to have launched the project in October engaging local community groups in every part of writing, composing, producing and performing their stories.

However, in adapting the project online, The Cumnock Tryst has now jumped on the opportunity to open up the project to everyone, especially those in Cumnock and Doon Valley, allowing more people to take part.

The Cumnock Trust is delighted to reveal today the first stage of this major project: a series of free online workshops on the creative process and self-expression through writing, photography, video and sound recording with some of the most famous and best exponents in their fields, hosted by Sir James MacMillan.

Naturalist, nature photographer and television presenter Chris Packham, author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series Alexander McCall Smith, visionary landscape photographer Colin Prior and award-winning poet and librettist Michael Symmons Roberts, and composer and sound artist Pete Stollery, have signed up to deliver these sessions set to inspire the community to see their landscape, culture, people and history in new ways and then send them out to create their response through the medium of text, video, sound or photograph.

These free workshops will refer to places of particular significance within the Coalfield Community Landscape area, for example: disused mines, the Barony A frame, open cast mining areas, dairy farms, Kirk of the Covenant, the Scottish Industrial Railway Centre, and the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory.

Following the workshops individual participants from the local community will send in their responses by 11th December 2020 which a professional film-maker and sound artist will then develop into four major piece of new work to be presented at the Tryst’s Summer Festival, planned for June 2021.

On Wednesday 23 September at 7.30pm, Colin Prior, one of the world’s most respected landscape photographers leads Seeing the Unseen. Colin’s photographs capture sublime moments of light and land, and his workshop will focus on finding photographs within the landscape, rather than of the landscape.

“Often in the absence of big views, or when there’s flat light, hunting for photographs at your feet can be very rewarding.” Colin commented, “It’s what I refer to as the intimate landscape – these are not specifically close-up photographs but essentially landscapes in miniature and the reward is that when you find an image it is unlikely, ever, to be replicated by anyone else. This pursuit also compels you to look more closely and connect with the landscape at different level.”

The tutorial will look at ideal lighting conditions, seasonal opportunities and at some examples to change perceptions of familiar landscapes forever.

Alexander McCall Smith, one of the world’s most dynamic, prolific and most popular authors, joins the project for a workshop on Wednesday 7th October at 7.30pm. The session will look at how to describe through words, what it is that makes us human – our character traits, ambitions, and our context, and explore language to paint a picture of a local historical figure for instance, or even a family member. This will build confidence and ability to start to describe the people of the community.

On Wednesday 21 October at 7.30pm award-winning poet and librettist Michael Symmons Roberts delves into the meaning of the community’s connection to coal. The session will encourage them to explore their history in relation to their present and their future, and look at the influence of the coal mines. At the end of the session, participants will be asked to go out and explore, research and write, just a few words, or sentences, that allow them to express something of themselves in relation to the theme of coal.

On Tuesday 10 November at 7.30pm Pete Stollery brings his passion for listening and exploring how we as human beings relate to the aural environment around us that we so often ignore in favour of what we can see. This interactive workshop is designed to get participants to listen to, rather than just to hear, the sounds around them and to think about what those sounds might mean in an increasingly visual world. Headphones or earbuds recommended for this one.

Finally, on Tuesday 1 December at 7.30pm Conservation hero and wildlife champion Chris Packham will lead a session to inspire the community to look at their environment in new ways; talk about the sounds they might record; the animal and plant life they could photograph or film; and answer any questions they might have.

Workshop registration opens on 2 September at 10am. The workshops are free. Numbers are limited to 50 per session and priority will be given to people local to Cumnock and the Doon Valley. Sessions will be interpreted/captioned for access where required.

Composer and Director of the Cumnock Tryst James MacMillan said,

“Community and creativity are at the heart of The Cumnock Tryst. We know that every individual has the capacity to create something new, often in ways which might be until now be unimaginable to them. This project will give community groups across Cumnock and Doon Valley the opportunity to create a piece of music theatre reflecting their own response to their landscape, social history, community, people and place.

“We are really delighted with an excellent line-up of renowned professionals in the fields of literature, poetry, composition, nature and environment, photography, video and sound recording as well as, at the next stage, companies specialising in opera and music theatre. We will pool our experience and resources to ensure the highest quality experience for all participants providing the opportunity to be involved in the production of a major community opera for an international festival.

“I really hope that as part of this project we will be able to reach those who live in isolation, those who may be looking for employment or those marginalised for other reasons. This is a wholly inclusive project not only about developing musical and performing skills but also about providing opportunities that have a real and tangible outcome for those taking part. Together we will create a fantastic production to be performed in Barony Hall, the new Robert Burns Academy concert hall, at the Cumnock Tryst in October 2021 and 2022.”

Workshop registration opens on 2 September at 10am. Numbers are limited to 50 per session and priority will be given to people local to Cumnock and the Doon Valley. To take part in this exciting project you can register at Sessions will be sign language interpreted to give access to everyone.

Alexander McCall Smith, world renowned author, said:

“Language is a hugely powerful tool that enables us to not only engage with the world around us, but also to analyse our position within it, both on a personal level and as a community. A Musical Celebration of the Coalfields is a brilliant project that will allow those taking part to delve into what their local area means to them, their family and friends, and I am very excited to be a part of it.”

Chris Packham, conservation hero and wildlife champion, said:

The landscape, and indeed soundscapes, in and around Cumnock and Doon Valley will have changed significantly over the years and the A Musical Celebration of the Coalfields project is a fantastic way for this new environment to be reflected, perhaps even allowing locals to see it in a different way, so I am delighted to have been asked to be a part of it.’

Pete Stollery, composer and sound artist, said:

“The sounds that surround communities differ greatly depending on the environment, both natural and manmade, that these communities are in and very often we forget to really listen to them. I’m very much looking forward to engaging with those living in and around Cumnock and Doon Valley to help them explore the soundscapes of their day to day lives, and in doing so contribute to such a fantastic community project.”

Colin Prior, one of the world’s most respected landscape photographers, said:

I am very much looking forward to hosting an online photography workshop as part of the Cumnock Trysts’  A Musical Celebration of the Coalfields community project, as I enjoy sharing my creative processes with others and in doing so, enabling them to see world around them in a slightly different way.”

Michael Symmons Roberts, award-winning poet and librettist, said:

This project offers a fantastic opportunity for those living in and around Cumnock and Doon Valley to explore their heritage and the impact that the coal industry has had on their lives, both as individuals and as a community and I feel very honoured to have been asked to play a part in it.”

James MacMillan added:

“We are absolutely thrilled to receive such strong support from the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership and National Lottery Heritage Fund for our ambitious, musical celebration of the coalfields. It will make possible a two-year-long creative project with community groups, music organisations and young people from across the area. The Cumnock Tryst exists because of the communities in East Ayrshire so we are delighted that investment from such an extraordinary grant can now have a positive impact on so many lives. I’d also like to thank the Cumnock Chronicle for its support in spreading the word across our local communities in an engaging and exciting way.”

The Musical Celebration of the Coalfields is supported by Communities Landscape Partnership – East Ayrshire Council through the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and by The Cumnock Chronicle.

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