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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 03/12/2020

Scotland’s coasts and waters are home to a tremendous variety of flora, fauna and wildlife, and a range of organisations have made the most of this connection, using the Themed Year promotional platform to shine a spotlight on their own content, products and experiences to attract and inspire audiences. 

Catriona Webster from NatureScot told us about the wide range of activities they have designed and delivered to celebrate the Year of Coasts and Waters (YCW20/21).

Why did your organisation decide to get involved with Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21 and have you been involved with Themed Years previously?

The themed years are a fantastic platform to celebrate the best of Scotland, and NatureScot has always been an enthusiastic supporter and participant. We were really excited about the Year of Coasts and Waters as, from our coastal, marine and freshwater teams to our wonderful National Nature Reserves (NNRs), much of our work is about encouraging and inspiring people to enjoy and connect with our coasts, rivers, lochs and seas at the same time as increasing awareness and understanding of their biodiversity.

What are the main activities, content or campaigns you’ve created around the Themed Year? What success stories have you experienced with your Themed Years activity?

At NatureScot we developed a special programme of activities and projects to celebrate YCW2020. We launched a £150,000 Plunge In! Coasts and Waters Community Fund to help communities mark the year in style. The fund generated a huge amount of interest and ultimately funded 25 new projects across the country, reflecting the amazing reach and diversity of our shorelines and waterways. From river rangers to ocean-inspired artwork, saltmarsh stories to sea safaris, Gaelic song and orca watching, the successful projects will ensure Scotland’s celebratory themed year leaves a lasting legacy in dozens of communities.

We commissioned acclaimed traditional musician Ingrid Henderson to create Message in a Bottle, a new musical composition inspired by the movements of ocean currents. The audio-visual performance with music, song, Gaelic language, film and animation celebrates Scotland’s unique marine environment and premiered at a special performance at Celtic Connections in January to great acclaim, followed by a well-received virtual performance in the summer. Continuing the musical theme, we also launched our In Tune with Nature competition, a partnership with Fèis Rois to inspire people to connect with nature through music. From almost 150 entrants, the 12 winning artists composed a piece of music inspired by one of 10 National Nature Reserves across Scotland.

We also launched a national photography competition to create a celebratory Year of Coasts and Waters themed calendar for 2021. In addition to these special activities we have continued to promote a range of fantastic content arising from our day-today work – from the launch of a new Community-led Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Project to the exciting hatching of a captive skate egg in a first for the species.

Have there been any unexpected outcomes?

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic inevitably impacted on many of the activities we had planned for the Year of Coasts and Waters, with events cancelled, launches delayed and other work postponed. Like many others we have had to think creatively to ensure that as much of our work to mark the year as possible could continue, and some innovative solutions have emerged, such as Message in a Bottle moving to a virtual performance and many of our Plunge In recipients rising to the challenge with online talks and events, art parcels for local residents and even virtual song sessions!

What do you have in plan for 2021?

Whether planned or as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of our work to celebrate the year will carry on into 2021 and we look forward to continuing to support and promote these activities, starting this winter with the launch of our 2021 Year of Coasts and Waters calendar and the premiering of our In Tune with Nature music videos, filmed by our winning entrants on our inspiring nature reserves. Many of our community fund projects had to delay their plans until next year as a result of coronavirus restrictions so we’ll be highlighting and celebrating their work, and we look forward to Message in a Bottle returning to music festivals next year, should circumstances allow. And of course, we expect to have plenty of exciting work to highlight on the theme - from basking shark tagging to peatland restoration, blue carbon research to sea cave surveys – throughout the year.

Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve

Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve © NatureScot

Natural Environment & Wildlife – how other organisations are engaging with the Themed Year

RSPB Scotland planned a range of guided walks on their reserves to celebrate the Themed Year, from early morning sunrise goose walks at Loch Lomond to leisurely high-tide guided walks at Crook of Baldoon Nature Reserve in Newton Stewart. Coasts and waters-themed family activity packs were produced for reserve sites aimed at self-led pond-dipping and rock-pooling sessions. The planned DolphinFest festival in Aberdeen wasn’t able to take place in April 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, but organisers hope to hold the event in 2021 instead, providing opportunities for people to engage with, and be enthused by, local marine wildlife. RSPB Scotland’s Nature of Scotland Awards progressed in a digital format for 2020, including a ‘Coasts and Waters’ category to celebrate those working hard to maintain Scotland’s unique wildlife and natural environment.

Every year is a year of coasts and waters for the Marine Conservation Society, but the organisation got on board with YCW2020 in all sorts of ways, using the Themed Year and #YCW2020 hashtag to help promote their own campaigns around ocean recovery and encourage participation in projects such as the Great British Beach Clean. The society created online and member’s magazine articles about the year, and Scotland Conservation Officer Catherine Gemmell highlighted the year in an ‘ocean optimism’ blog for BBC Springwatch. The Themed Year was highlighted again at the organisation’s digital AGM in November.

Scottish Canals looks after five Scottish canals as well as caring for bridges, buildings, locks, The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies and 19 water supply reservoirs in locations across Scotland. The organization supported the Year of Coasts and Waters via a creative microsite which used the brand to highlight some of the ways in which Scotland’s canals can be enjoyed. It is also a partner alongside Falkirk Community Trust and Great Places Falkirk in Canal Festival Time Machine, part of the YCW2020 supported events programme. This special event has been postponed but it is hoped it will be able to take place in 2021, bringing the past, present and future of the canals to life.

The John Muir Trust made the most of the Themed Year across a range of activities, producing online content with inspiring stories, such as joining a conservation officer on virtual walks along the North West coasts of Scotland. They also produced extensive educational resources celebrating the year which could be downloaded from their website.