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About | Infinite Scotland
Infinite Scotland is an exploration of a country’s DNA – one strand is its biodiversity, the living and inert elements it is made of: rocks, insects, animals, plants, soil and fish – the other strand is the culture of the human beings that live in it: the way they celebrate, express themselves, live, play and describe their environment.
We look at how these two DNA strands are connected and suggest the true personality of the country is better appreciated by both, as we wouldn’t look at any other living thing this way.
The title Infinite Scotland comes from one of those joining strands – a poem by Hugh MacDiarmid Our Scotland – where a man reclines on a hillside looking around and seeing only heather and note the multiform variety, the infinite Scotland of species that surround him. We’re all guilty of it – not looking, or maybe not knowing what we’re looking at, or for.
Infinite Scotland is a starting point. It’s not an encyclopaedia or a definitive guide to Scotland’s flora, fauna and culture. But we hope it’s a comprehensive taster of some of the most distinctive aspects of each, and that it whets your appetite to find out more, and perhaps to add your own thoughts, images and knowledge.
WHA’S LIKE US?
Scotland is a crossroads – of climatic zones and ocean currents, of arctic and temperate species. Weather systems typically build from the south west, bringing us relatively warm and wet weather, especially in the west; and this is complemented by the tempering influence of the Gulf Stream. But Arctic air frequently pushes back westwards to bring the cold crisp days of winter and cool spring sunshine. Arctic currents push into the North Sea from time to time, reinforcing the distinct climates of east and west.
This climatic variation is complemented by a great range of geology, landforms and nature. In all, Scotland has 65 out of the total 159 conservation priority habitats listed in the European Habitats Directive. And because of the variation in climate and landform, many species in Scotland find themselves at the extreme of their range or living in atypical habitats, where they have adapted as local varieties.
Scotland is internationally important for its heather moorland, its upland blanket bog and lowland raised bog, for its machair, and for its freshwater and seawater lochs. Some of our mountain summits are akin to Arctic tundra, while on the west coast there is our ‘temperate rainforest’.
On the west coast of Scotland and on some of the larger islands grow ancient oceanic woodlands – so rich in species that these forests has been likened to that of temperate rainforest. Oak, birch, bird cherry, rowan, alder and many other familiar trees grow in these woods. But what is truly remarkable is the variety of mosses, liverworts and lichens which thrive in the moist.
In the deep waters to the west and north off Scotland are corals, growing on the seabed, in some cases in large reef-like colonies. The main species involved, Lophelia pertusa, is as beautiful and remarkable as many of its tropical relatives, and colonies support more than 800 animal species. Even more remarkable, it is thought to grow in water up to 3,000m deep.
These reefs were being rapidly destroyed by deep water fishing trawls until fisheries control measures were introduced in 2003 to protect them. stable oceanic climate and the unpolluted air.
In the clear waters around many of our west coast and islands can be found a rich and unusual habitat – several species of calcareous red seaweed growing on the seabed. European maerl (a strange hard seaweed crushed by the waves and bleached by the sun) supports over 1,700 animal species and 300 seaweed species. A recent study of Scottish maerl beds found species previously unknown to science.
Each of the six areas is profiled in words by Kenny Taylor, one of the country’s best and most thoughtful writers about natural history who happily happens to be a decent musician, raconteur, and know more than a little about the country’s geology. You can hear Kenny talking about each of the areas in a podcast too.
Almost all the photos you see are by Laurie Campbell and are the result of a lifetime spent crouching in wet hides with a thermos of tea and an unending supply of patience, waiting for the right shot. He’s brilliant. Additional landscape photos were by William Stark of Bluemungus. Check out some of these photos again.
Each of the six areas has a ‘theme tune’, composed by David Allison, a wonderful musician and composer who has put soundtracks together for films of Scotland’s Islands (as well as the silent horror classic, Nosferatu). In each track you can hear a voice of Scotland – an archive recording of someone from that area, and in most you’ll hear the beautiful singing and lyrics in Gaelic of contemporary singer, Maeve MacKinnon.
The ‘hidden art’ of Infinite Scotland is the design and mechanics of the App and website, their layout and how you move about it. This is the DNA of our project and it’s provided by the rather wonderfully-named design company, Bluemungus. Luckily, again, staffed by musicians, photographers and artists as well as tech wizards.
The project was conceived and developed by Bryan Beattie of Big Sky, a company with a growing reputation and portfolio for doing interesting things with Scottish culture.
One of the most exciting project developments is the live stage version of Infinite Scotland – due to hit various venues during February 2012, and hopefully touring later that year – the Year Of Natural Scotland. For that we’ll be joined by two more creative inputs – John McGeoch of Arts in Motion will create the visual backdrops and immersive animated environment.
This project began with an approach from Scottish Natural Heritage to Bryan Beattie, and they have supported its creation and development ever since with an investment of finance, time, guidance, experience and belief.
An equal level of financial investment has come from Creative Scotland who got behind the idea as soon as they heard of it, quietly, efficiently, and effectively (and thankfully…). Sometimes public funders get a bad name for being overly bureaucratic or hard to work with. Not from us.
And finally, our parent body the cultural consultancy, Creative Services (Scotland), has completed the funding package ensuring that the project can go ahead.
Our thanks to them all – and to any of you who buy tickets to see the live show or any of the related Infinite Scotland products that might start appearing. The income we get from audience, users and supporters is absolutely critical to the success of the project, and helps us show to future investors that folk want to see interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking Scottish projects like this. Thank you.
Concept : Creative Services Scotland
Words : Kenny Taylor
Music : David Allison
Design : Bluemungus
Images : Laurie Campbell & William Stark
Video : John McGeoch at Arts in Motion