Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) has launched a three-year partnership with the Bothy Project. ECA will support four week-long residencies for selected participants each year. The inaugural awardees are recent ECA graduates and the residencies give them an opportunity to develop their creative practice in off-grid spaces - Inshriach Bothy within the Cairngorms National Park or Sweeney’s Bothy on the Isle of Eigg. 

In this first of a series of articles, we hear from Music graduate Alice Hayward who visited Sweeney’s Bothy in November 2019. Read on as she reflects on her time away, discussing the impact the Bothy has had on her personal and creative development.

“I enjoyed visiting the beaches, caves, woodland on Eigg, all features of the natural landscape that have been preserved through minimal human interference. I took advantage of the daylight as much as possible for explorations as it would get dark very early and the Bothy could feel quite claustrophobic and isolating. I took an acoustic guitar with me, partly to generate musical ideas but more so to pass time in the Bothy, and I was very grateful to have it. 

Photograph of the landscape of the Isle of Eigg
Image: Alice Hayward
Alice spent her time exploring the Isle of Eigg

"Whilst hiking I was able to reflect on the sustainability aspect of my trip. It was eye-opening to realise how little I really needed to feel fulfilled while staying in the Bothy. I realised that I can feel satisfied and happy eating very simple foods, wearing clothes for comfort and warmth, and  finding gratification from my surroundings and creative pursuits. "

Alice Hayward

Having to work hard for simple things, such as having to light up a fire to warm up my feet after a long day out in the cold, having to walk an hour to pick up simple groceries or call a loved one, or clamber over rocks and through muddy fields to find a beautiful view, make these things so much more worthwhile.                                                         

I ultimately believe that when we discuss how to be sustainable as individuals, we should be simplifying our lifestyles, reducing the number of things we purchase and dispose of on a daily basis. However to accomplish and sustain this, I think spending time reaping value from the things we own, whether that’s by finding new uses for things, repairing them or adapting them to suit our preferences, actually makes this process much easier and means we can get so much more gratification from those things.  

The experience of the Bothy has really pushed me to work on these aspects of my lifestyle. I also felt I should simplify the process of writing music to emulate this experience. My goal was to write a piece of music that reflected the concepts of sustainability and captured some of Eigg’s landscapes.  

Photograph showing the rock formations outside the cathedral caves. Black and green rocks can be seen at the foreground of the photo surrounded by green moss. In the background the sea and small waves crashing with little visibility of the horizon
Image: Alice Hayward
Rock formations outside the Cathedral cave
Photograph showing the entrance to the Massacre cave, which is grey stone and rocks covered in green moss and grass
Image: Alice Hayward
Entrance to the Massacre cave

I began with the most basic collection of musical ideas, all based upon slight semitonal shifts, and I listened to the ways the sounds interacted in order to find combinations that were harmonious. I wrote the piece for orchestra because I hoped to capture a sense of magnitude. I wanted to build these small fragments into these great crashing waves and towering cliffs reflecting what I saw on the island. 

I aimed to write in a way that was an authentic response the surroundings and sound, having make no plans in terms of arrangement or structure beforehand, so I was not so consumed in constructing a narrative. The island was not a linear narrative but a collection of expansive harmonious landscapes, so that is what I created.”

Stay tuned for the next residency takeover articles to find out what other graduates got up to... 

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