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Machair Art Project underway with help of young crofters from Lionacleit School, Benbecula

20 April 2012

Alan Tissiman
Communications Manager

Students from Lionacleit School, Benbecula, in the Western Isles, have been learning about life on the croft with local crofter, Neil MacPherson. The recent visit included pupils participating in the  “Machairart” project along with students from the crofting course run by the school.

Also in attendance was Rebecca Cotton, manager of the RSPB-led Conserving Machair Life + project, who had arranged for the activities to be filmed by cameraman, Andy Mackinnon of Taigh Chearsabaigh, Lochmaddy, who has been commissioned to make a film about the project.

The students were given an insight into the challenges of animal husbandry by Mr MacPherson and his colleague Steve Carter, and had a chance to feed some of the new lambs and calves. The Machairart students were able to make drawings and photographs while on site. 

The group of twelve elected themselves to be a part of “Machairart” which combines art with learning about crofting on the machair. They are finding out how crofting can be sustainable in the future while preserving the delicate balance of rich flora and fauna. 

Rebecca Cotton explained: “Machairart is a collaboration between artists Olwen Shone and Laura Donkers and the Machair Life project.  It encompasses the year-long cycle of the machair.  Altogether there will be four field trips to various locations on the themes of harvesting, seaweed, ploughing and wildlife.  Students also attend after-school workshops in between the field trips.  As well as learning about crofting, each student is building up a record of their experiences in a sketchbook, including both drawings and photographs, which eventually will reflect the yearly cycle of the machair.  

“The project started last September and this visit was preceded by an earlier trip to the the RSPB-managed Balranald Nature Reserve in December when the Machairart group recorded the activity of collecting seaweed for spreading on the land.

“These sketchbooks will be on show as part of the Machair Art project’s own art exhibition at Taigh Chearsbhagh in November 2012.  It happens to coincide with the CEUT exhibition ‘Crofting and Smiddy-work’ at Taigh Chearsabhagh."

Olwen Shone added: “Our hope for the project was to bring a new awareness of the importance of this unique machair environment to a young age group.  Now that we are part-way through the project, we’re really excited about what is happening.  We have such an enthusiastic group of young people who seem to be grasping the positive message about looking after this environment and the potential of sustainable crofting.  We hope we are helping to broaden their outlook further through the art approach.”


1          Project information

To find out more about the project you can view it online at All you need is to do is use this username and password to sign in


password: arctictern23 

2       Conserving Scottish Machair LIFE + project

Conserving Scottish Machair LIFE + is a four year project running from March 2010- 2014, which aims to demonstrate that traditional crofting practices have a sustainable future. The success of the project will help to secure the immensely important conservation value of the unique machair habitat, 70% of which is covered by the project.

Machair Life is supported by the European Union LIFE+ scheme, and managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (CnES) and the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF).

More information is available at: