We Have Won the Land - new theatre production

A theatre production telling the story of community land buyouts in the Highlands and Islands is to tour Scotland.

The production ‘We Have Won the Land’ will be launched in September at Balallan School, Isle of Lewis, at a four-day conference being organised by the Islands Book Trust. It will then tour the Highlands and Islands as well as central Scotland.

It’s hoped the production will stimulate debate in the same way that the iconic musical drama ‘The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil’, and its telling of the story of Scottish economic change, has captured the imagination of audiences since the 1970s.

The project, which aims to celebrate, inform and promote discussion on the significance of community land ownership in its wider historical setting has been developed by the Islands Book Trust in association with Outer Hebrides based company Rural Nations. It is being supported by Creative Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

John Randall, Chairman of the Islands Book Trust, a social enterprise which promotes appreciation of the history of the Celtic and Nordic culture of Scottish islands, said: “This will be a high quality performance created for rural communities showing the significance of community land ownership today and reflecting on recent successes and the continuing challenges.

“This year sees the 125th anniversary of the Pairc Deer Raid where hundreds of landless residents of the Pairc region staged a deer raid in protest of their treatment by the landlord – adjacent to where the current-day community has been seeking to buy the Pairc Estate. The play is being developed by the actors with input from the local community using the very room where the Pairc Deer Raid was planned by schoolmaster Donald Macrae and the crofters in 1887.”

The bi-lingual production will tour thirteen communities in the Highlands and Islands. Many are the same communities whose achievements and aspirations have inspired the content of the play. Performances will also be held in Glasgow and Edinburgh, raising awareness of the cultural heritage of the land ownership movement and the regeneration opportunities for communities. After-performance discussions with the production team and actors will provide an opportunity for the audience to explore issues raised in the play.

Laura Mackenzie Stuart, Portfolio Manager for Theatre at Creative Scotland, said: “Creative Scotland is delighted to support We Have Won The Land – the multimedia format and use of humour will engage audiences in a positive way both locally and nationally. By working with local communities to source the content the production will encourage debate amongst those directly affected by community land buy-outs. More widely the production will raise awareness at a national level of these issues.”

Pam Noble, Development Manager at HIE, said: “This project will stimulate national interest in the social and economic opportunities which land buy-outs and asset ownership create for ambitious communities. HIE, which has a long history in supporting communities develop these assets, is now working with the Big Lottery Fund to administer the Scottish Land Fund. This £6m investment over three years by the Scottish Government will create new opportunities to assist rural communities to buy local land assets.”

The production will be premiered on Thursday 6 September. The experienced theatre performers from Rural Nations include actor David Walker from South Uist and Director Muriel Ann Macleod from Stornoway