Contemporary Memorial: Staffin Community Trust

A meeting of Crofters, engraving by John McPherson

ATLAS Arts is working with the Staffin Community Trust (Urras An Taobh Sear) to produce a series of pilot commissions with a view to creating a contemporary memorial to acknowledge the nineteenth-century crofters’ land struggle in the Staffin area. A central aim of the commissions is for the artists to contribute to the awareness and understanding of the local community of the potentially positive impacts and benefits of a commissioned public artwork/​contemporary memorial.

In early 2017 we invited applications from artists interested in researching and developing a contemporary memorial and in particular, artists that would demonstrate imagination and sensitivity in challenging perceptions of what a contemporary memorial to a historical event can be. Two artists were selected, sculptor, Henry Castle and design collective, Lateral North.

Research and development will underpin this project. Critically, go see’ visits and meetings with creative practitioners will help to shape and inform Staffin Community Trust /​the Steering Group’s approach to devising a brief and will help to illuminate different approaches to site within contemporary art practice in the public realm.


The Bhaltos Crofters and the Land Wars

lf the front line trenches of the Land War of the 1880s were in Kilmuir and Staffin, Glendale and Braes, the information and command centre was in Portree, the most politically motivated town in the Highlands at that time. Its name was heard in the corridors of Westminster, usually with misgiving.
— Skye Camanachd – A Century Remembered by Martin MacDonald

In 1877 in the Trotternish Peninsula of north east Skye, crofters were in dispute with landowners due to high rents, their lack of rights to land, and the prospect of eviction to make way for large-scale farming operations. After years of unrest, and following the 1883 Napier Commission recommendations, the Crofters’ Act was finally passed in 1886.

Through this project we intend to offer a series of pilot commissions as part of a feasibility study investigating the potential for creating a permanent, contemporary memorial that acknowledges the historically significant crofters’ land struggle in Staffin.

Staffin Community Trust

Founded in 1994, to serve a population of 600, half of whom are Gaelic speakers. Its aim is to enable proactive community, cultural, social and economic development in north-east Skye. Successful projects include a major harbour development, renowned Gaelic courses, the Skye Eco-museum and indigenous tree planting.