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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 03/12/2020

Themed Years present a range of opportunities, and a number of organisations used Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters to create funding programmes aligned to the theme.

We spoke to Gillian Macdonald, Head of Sales & Marketing at Historic Environment Scotland (HES) to find out more about HES’s involvement with the Year of Coasts and Waters.

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?

We have participated in the themed years initiative since its inception.  We see it as a great opportunity to collaborate with partners in and linked with the tourism industry to get behind one core theme to increase tourism to Scotland. As a result of having different themes we have worked with a variety partners over the years. It also gives us an opportunity to promote different sites across our portfolio and different aspects of the organisation’s work therefore offering new reasons to visit and potentially attracting different audiences.

Can you tell us about the Coasts and Waters Heritage Fund?

At the start of 2020 we established a support fund linked with the theme of the year and in October, announced that we have awarded a special collection of grants amounting to £194,349 awarded to 18 organisations and community projects across Scotland. These grants are designed to help them:

  • Increase their community’s engagement with Scotland’s coastal or waterway heritage;
  • Build the resilience of their local coastal or waterway heritage to ensure its continued survival for future generations;
  • Promote knowledge about their local coastal or waterway heritage at risk of loss due to climate change.

What other activities, content or campaigns have you created around the Themed Year?

A lot of our activity has been delivering digital content particularly given our sites were closed for the early part of the visitor season. We developed a section on our website for all related content.

Throughout the year, we’ve been exhibiting fascinating collections of photography from our archives, related to Scotland’s coasts and waters and have posted themed blogs and social media posts. We have featured articles in our quarterly membership magazine and developed a retail product range currently available on our online shop.

Recently, HES funded the website which features the underwater filming of the Queen of Sweden shipwreck off the coast of Shetland. The site includes 3D scans to allow you to “dive” to the shipwreck.

We managed to open a touring exhibition at the Shetland Museum in February using our archives, which explores Scotland's relationship to the sea and its impact on everyday life. This is now moving to Fort George and will be open to view from the end of October to the end of January 2021.

Shetland Museum Exhibition © Historic Environment Scotland

What do you have in plan for 2021?

We are currently working on our plan for opening next season and how we can promote the theme with activity at our sites. We were fortunate to receive funding to run a YCW event and are now planning to reschedule it into 2021. We are working through how the event will be reimagined to work in the current context of events guidance, while aiming to retain the creative approach of digital projection and music. We plan to continue to tour the exhibition currently at Fort George and will consider if we can stage any other exhibitions throughout the year. Rangers’ Events are held annually at Holyrood, Linlithgow and on Orkney and will also form a key part of our Year of Coasts and Waters programme given one of the key strands is a focus on the natural environment.

We will continue to integrate Year of Coasts and Waters in our marketing focusing on our coastal, water linked sites to deliver content, themed itineraries and encourage visits. The theme also offers a key opportunity to focus messaging on initiatives linked with our climate change objectives.

Beyond HES, a range of other organisations created funding opportunities around the Themed Year

The National Lottery Heritage Fund funding is helping to inspire and empower people across Scotland, with five amazing projects above and below the waves. Funding awards went to Edinburgh’s science centre Dynamic Earth for an immersive exhibition about our deep-sea marine life, while the Hebridean Whale Trail – which links 33 sites across the west coast of Scotland – received funding to redevelop the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust Centre. Scotland’s first community-driven maritime rewilding project was awarded funding to help local people and businesses get involved in growing up to one million native oysters over five years in a loch on the mid-Argyll coast. Awards also went towards restoring the Plock parkland near the Skye Bridge, a community project on the Island of Gigha to develop foot and cycle access and to the Gateway in Tobermory to tell the story of Scotland’s precious marine environment in both English and Gaelic.

Museums Galleries Scotland encouraged venues across Scotland to celebrate the Themed Year through a number of different funding routes, including their Festivals Fund and Small Project Fund and Museum Development Fund.

NatureScot developed a special programme of activities and projects to celebrate the years, launching 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. 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. You can read more about NatureScot’s YCW-themed activities here.