Investing in Creativity: how art is the new way to enhance the Small Isles ’ economy.

This month will see the completion of Sweeney’s Bothy on Eigg,. It is the latest building in the Scotland-wide Bothy Project (TBP) initiated in 2009 by artists Bobby Niven and Will Foster.

Sweeney’s Bothy is the third in the planned network of small-scale, off-grid art residency spaces in distinct and diverse locations around Scotland.

Bobby Niven, who is running the Eigg project explained how TBP’s objective is to create platforms for artists to journey and explore the peculiarities of Scotland’s history, mythology, landscape and people. The first two bothies were Inshriach Bothy in the Cairngorm National Park built in 2012, and the Walled Garden Bothy in Glasgow.

Sweeney’s Bothy was funded by Creative Scotland as part of the Year of Natural Scotland 2013 and was planned in cooperation with architect Iain MacLeod and artist Alec Finlay.

It was inspired by the mythical flight of Suibhne, or Sweeney, an Irish king whose unruly temper and violent actions caused him to be cursed by St Ronan to live as a bird on a nest of thorns,  for a life of peregrinations which took him from Ireland to Scotland’s West Coast, including the isle of Eigg. Hence the design incorporated elements of the story such as the bed as Sweeney’s nest of thorns, actually a comfortable platform supported by beams with sticking out bits! “The resident artist will have to come down from his nest to enjoy the vista of the Rum Cuillins opening into the bothy through the window wall“, explained Bobby, who spent the whole winter building the bothy with help from Eigg residents as well as friends and family.

TBP’s commitment to using sustainable materials and natural building techniques to create simple, modern designs and experiment with solutions for renewable energy systems and the challenges of living off-grid was in perfect harmony with the green ethos now developing on the isle of Eigg as well as its budding creative economy fostered by Lucy Conway’s Eigg Box project.

“I had heard about Eigg Box as a creative enterprise on Eigg and I got in touch with Lucy in May last year” said Bobby. “ I had a good look at many spaces on the island, but what soon became obvious was that Lucy and Eddie had a great spot on their croft with a fantastic view over the Crofting landscape and the isle of Rum with the Cleadale cliffs at the back, so that’s the place we decided upon. It was ideal for Sweeney’s Bothy or Bothan Shuibhne as it is called in Gaelic.”

Sweeney's Bothy

Sweeney’s Bothy

view from the bothy

view from the bothy

You can find out more about the processes that led to the whole vision being developed by looking at Sweeney’s Bothy and the blog posts associated with it.

The Bothy warming party on Saturday 15 February will be followed by constant occupation of the space by visiting artists for the next few months as it is fully booked until June! The focus for the residencies will be wilderness ecology, and we are looking forward to some stimulating interaction between the visiting artists, the Green Team and the Earth Connections Centre on Eigg.

Any artist interested in using the space should contact the TBP team through their website.

In the meantime, Eigg Box is helping 10 creative islanders involved with music, media and crafts to get off the ground and become self-sustainable.

Creativity is now becoming firmly established as an innovative way to sustain our islands’ economy. Let’s have more of it!


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