EILEAN All photography copyright of Laney Tamplin http://laneyphoto.wordpress.com May 2012 Designed by Mina Bach http://www.minabach.co.uk Printed and bound in London, UK
by Laney Tamplin
The feeling of belonging to, or being part of a community, is something that is becoming less and less common.
I was drawn to the Isle of Eigg by what I perceived as a strong sense of community that is reinforced by collective ownership. Having raised the money to buy the Island, the residents of Eigg now have possession over the land they live on. This ownership of their space and affairs reduces dependence on external services. It fosters an admirable spirit of self-sufficiency, and encourages collaborations; furthering the community led ideals. This shared responsibility gives Eiggâ€™s people more freedom, and
in turn makes for a non-materialist culture - one that has a much stronger affinity with the natural world. Elements, landscape and the weather become something of huge importance, as normal daily life and work function around them. Though Island life can be demanding and difficult, Islanders take pride in their forward thinking, independent, and vibrant community. Leading by example, they show what can be accomplished when more power is given back to the people.
The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust: 1997 -2012
On 12 June 2012, the Isle of Eigg is celebrating fifteen years of community ownership. This is a coming of age for a small community of not quite a hundred people, which has shown what can be achieved when people are given the chance to use the land as the means to develop the community. Before the Eigg community buy-out, it was still generally accepted that only private landlords, wealthy individuals with deep pockets, could afford to own estates in the highlands and islands, because these were invariably loss-making. There was little belief in the ability of ordinary people to look after large tracts of land. In 1997, when the inhabitants of Eigg won backing of the public for their buy-out appeal after joining forces with the Highland Council and the Scottish Wildlife Trust and raising 1.6 million pounds, it showed that in modern day Scotland, what amounted to feudal power from private landowners over people living on their land was no longer acceptable.
Yet, having won the fight to own the land and gain security for its inhabitants, the new community owner, the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, still had to prove it was capable of doing better than previous owners. What has happened in the last 15 years shows that expectations have been largely surpassed. With the community’s increasing feeling of confidence, new ideas have been unleashed, new projects carried out to revitalise the natural and cultural environment, and conditions have been provided for local entrepreneurship to emerge. Islanders have had their houses renovated or been given opportunity to build affordable homes. Jobs and training have been provided in forestry and tourism. The local infrastructure has been vastly improved, with an award-winning renewable energy scheme providing 24 hour electricity from sun, wind and water replacing cranky and noisy diesel generators . By taking part and winning first place in the 2009 UK Big Green Challenge run by the National Endowment for Science,
Technology and the Arts (NESTA) the islanders have also build on their strengths and are working to turn Eigg into a green island, whilst preserving the island’s wilderness and natural beauty that makes it so attractive to visitors. The island’s dynamism means that population numbers have increased as well, with new people moving in, some doing so after sampling island life through the Trust well-subcribed volunteer scheme. And whereas in the past, to get on meant to get away many young islanders now have chosen to make their life on the island. The Eigg example is showing what ordinary people can achieve when they have control of their assets and are able to use their decisionmaking powers to benefit the environment as well as the local community. Today, there is as much optimism for the future as there was 15 years ago, because the islanders have a personal stake in it.
MISSING HI RES!
Marshes, Meadows, Heather and Gorse; self sustaining life force. Microcosm of human relations, Eilean is or is not isolation. Mouth to hand, affected land, celestial seas and singing sand.