Between February and June Catherine MacPhee (from Highland Archives) and I organised reminiscence events in Dunvegan, Breakish, Edinbane, Glendale, Braes, Sleat, Kilmuir, Waternish and Plockton (Staffin, Kyle and Raasay have gone silent since initial contact but hopefully we’ll get them back involved soon). The aim was not nostalgia or therapy or fund-raising, but a way of getting people back into their community spaces without agenda or any great strategy beyond using a public resource and helping that resource to thrive again.
Many hadn’t been in their local hall for years. Some had previously been regular attendees prevented by the pandemic, but many had simply fallen out of the loop, gradually persuaded by a shifting social landscape that these community spaces weren’t relevant to them or that they were some how no longer welcome. There is a perception in some areas that the village hall is merely a hobby for committee members, something to be looked after rather than shared around, the entry barred by gate keepers, no longer somewhere to gather at a moment’s notice or lit up by the warmth of spontaneity.
But these beliefs are so often baseless, drawn from miscommunication or presumption, inferred from a world where familiar things are gradually eroded. These halls are there, they exist and they are for everyone. And they are mostly all water tight and sometimes even warm.
The emphasis on memory in this project has not been because there is something intrinsically old fashioned about a community hall. There is a big difference between out of date and timeless. These structures take on the shape and colour of the people that use them, they reflect and reinforce us. Memory is just something we all have in common, so where better to start when searching for common ground.
So for the next stage of this collaboration with the Archive Centre, we will be returning to each hall for tailored events based on what people have expressed an interest in or what themes people were particularly enthusiastic about. In some cases this may have nothing to do with stories or archives but it all ties in with community and shared experience.
More information on upcoming Summer and Autumn events will be announced here in the coming weeks and through SEALL’s social media.