Think about plastics is exhibition’s plea

Taigh Chearsabhagh – the arts centre in Lochmaddy – has re-opened and the issues arising from “plastic consumerism” are at the centre of a major exhibition.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 5:19 pm
Taigh Chearsabhagh at night
Taigh Chearsabhagh at night

As ever, Taigh Chearsabhagh offers a creative programme of cultural activities for the people of Uist and visitors. The latest exhibition is a collaboration of art and science which challenges us to consider the urgent need to use plastics more responsibly.

It has been a tough year for arts centres and there is great relief to see them open to the public once again. Andy Mackinnon has been curating the arts programme at Taigh Chearsabhagh since 2003 and he explains how they have coped with lockdown.

“It’s been hard when we haven’t been able to open the galleries but the Post Office within the centre has been open all the way through as an essential local service. We have expanded our digital offer and because of that have reached an even wider audience than pre-COVID. Having to do things online has actually made it easier for us to be included in remote meetings where before we couldn’t attend due to time and costs involved, so that has also been a positive outcome.”

“We have had great responses to all the exhibitions we have been able to present including screenings of an amazing archive 8mm film collection of Berneray in the 1960s and 70s, the Lews Castle College UHI BA (Hons.) Fine Art Degree Show and student end of year exhibitions. It's getting really busy and its great to have people back.”

‘Beachdaich Plastaig| Think Plastic: Materials and Making’, a touring exhibition from the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh, will be in North Uist until the end of August. Andy explains how the exhibition is a good fit for Taigh Chearsabhagh.

“Our arts programme has focused very much on the climate crisis for many years. Being so close to the shore here in Lochmaddy we are already affected by predicted sea level rise and increased storm surge, the lowest floor in the old part of the building already gets flooded regularly at spring tides, and we can’t develop on this site anymore. In 2018 we commissioned two Finnish artists, Timo Aho & Pekka Niittyvirta to make the Lines tidally-activated LED light installation to raise awareness of the situation.

“As part of our programming around the climate crisis in the lead up to COP26 in Glasgow in November, and as part of the Outer Hebrides Climate Beacon partnership, we are pleased to host this unique exhibition curated by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. It combines art and science to provoke thought about plastic consumerism and how our choices impact on the global climate emergency and biodiversity crisis we face today.”

Andy says: "Through the exhibition, and associated public engagement programme, we will invite audiences to consider adjusting their own choices to minimise the impact on the environment by valuing plastic and changing the disposable attitude towards it.”

Lorna Fraser is a ceramic artist who is inspired by the botanical world and, along with another ceramic artist Carol Sinclair, was invited by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to be part of a project bringing together the creative and chemical industries. They worked with Professor Mike Shaver, University of Edinburgh, who gave them some sustainable plastics to “play” with to see what they would come up with. Lorna and Carol then invited artists in other disciplines to be part of the project.

Lorna explains the environmental theme of the exhibition and how it will be relevant to people in the Western Isles.

“Plastic waste is a problem that affects us all and I think we have a collective responsibility to tackle the issue. We have tried to highlight that plastic is a valuable resource and should be treated as such. Using unfamiliar plastic materials we have tried to create artworks that make you stop and think about your own environmental impact. Single use plastic is unsustainable and we can’t keep making things we don’t need. The Western Isles is surrounded by so many beautiful beaches and I’m sure local people have seen first hand the effect of plastic being washed up on their shores.

“We would like to encourage people to think about the relationship between their material choices and the impact this has on our environment and the urgency with which humans need to use plastics much more responsibly. The best thing we can all do is value plastic as a precious resource and to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in that order.”

Andy Mackinnon sums up the importance of the exhibition and how Taigh Chearsabhagh’s engagement programme will allow local people to address the issues raised.

“It's all about raising awareness of our overuse of single use plastic and generating a dialogue to reduce, re-use and recycle - its relevant to everybody, you can see it all along our shores and we all need to address the issue.

The ‘Message in a Bottle’ project, part of the engagement programme, will invite people, on these islands and beyond, to salvage a plastic drinks bottle from the shore, write a message about the climate crisis addressed to politicians and polluters, film themselves doing it and send it for inclusion in a multimedia installation to take place at COP26 in November.”

'Beachdaich Plastaig/Think Plastic: Materials and Making' will be in Galleries 1 and 2 at Taigh Chearsabhagh until Saturday 28th August 2021. More information at