Falkirk’s starring role in the Year of Coasts and Waters
Here in Scotland, we’re never very far from water – be it a loch, canal or coast.
So it’s easy to take the natural beauty we enjoy year-round for granted.
However, thanks to the return of the Scottish Government’s themed years in 2020, there will be no excuse for any of us taking the natural world on our doorstep for granted.
For this year has been designated the Year of Coasts and Waters and there’s a packed programme throughout the year for us all to enjoy, no matter where we live in Scotland.
It all kicked off at Celtic Connections in Glasgow on January 18, when the traditional music festival hosted a one-day Coastal Connections Day.
And the centrepiece of the event was a 10-metre tall puppet, named Storm.
Brought to life by Edinburgh’s Vision Mechanics, and eight puppeteers who will operate her, she was kept a closely guarded secret until the launch.
However, we’re reliably informed that her eyes are the colour of oyster shells, her hair thick strands of kelp and her voice the chorus of the waves!
Storm will now visit towns and villages across the country, including Falkirk, giving people a chance to enjoy her majesty.
A number of events have been supported by the Year of Coasts and Waters event fund, Storm among them.
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for culture, tourism and external affairs, said: “We have an exciting year ahead celebrating Scotland’s wonderfully diverse coasts, canals, rivers and lochs.
“The Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 Events Programme is full of tours and exhibitions, great events, cultural performances, community activities and festivals, supported by over £770,000 of Scottish Government funding.
“These events will be taking place in locations from Shetland, Dumfries and Galloway, Western Isles to Falkirk and in the heartlands of our great cities.
“We are also working across the Scottish Government to deliver several programmes for government commitments during the Year of Coasts and Waters, including £1,000,000 for the repair of The Waverley Paddle Steamer.
“Scotland’s themed years have been running since 2009 and we know they are a proven mechanism for us all to work together to create opportunities to diversify our tourism offering while promoting Scotland as a great place to visit for people from around the world.”
But there’s plenty of opportunities for locals to get in on the action too.
Here in Falkirk, the town’s community trust was successful in its £35,000 bid for a trip down memory lane.
Canal Festival Time Machine will be held on Sunday, May 24 – 18 years to the day since the Falkirk Wheel was officially opened by the Queen.
The Wheel will be one of three key sites along a four mile corridor of the Forth and Clyde canal which will host a packed programme of entertainment.
It will all kick off with Storm’s visit to the Kelpies, where even more jaw-dropping spectacles, aerial performances and activities will be lined up.
People will then be invited to walk to Loch 16, the time machine’s next entertainment hub, before finishing at the Falkirk Wheel where a floating musical stage will be the main focus of activity.
While the programme is still being finalised, Anna Plant, Falkirk Community Trust’s senior events officer, was able to reveal some details before its official launch next month.
She said: “The aim is to bring to life the tales of the Forth and Clyde Canal through art, music, and performance along four miles of the waterway.
“As it’s a fully accessible route, we’re asking people to walk from the Kelpies to the Wheel or vice versa, and will lay on shuttle buses for their return journey.
“Entertainment will be staged at three key points along the route but we’re also planning to have pop-up performances at various points so that there’s something of interest to see along the route too.”
While the history of the canal will be to the fore, its future will also be celebrated.
Anna explained: “This canal corridor has been incredibly important over the years, from the industrial era through its decline and reinvention as a green space bringing people together.
“We’ll be offering visitors a journey of sound, science and engineering, travelling back in time but also forward into the future.”
To achieve that, the trust has commissioned artists to create bespoke artwork.
But local pupils will also be invited to play a part.
“We’re planning to speak to school pupils about what the future of the canal means to them with the aim of bringing their ideas to life,” added Anna.
With a flotilla of canal boats from all over the country also expected, you’d be wise to keep May 24 free on your calendar.
For more information on the programme, and other events in Falkirk, visit www.visitscotland.com/about/themed-years/coasts-waters.
Rowers to pass the baton around our coastline
One of the most unique events this year will see more than 1000 rowers from towns and villages along every stretch of our coastline pass a commemorative baton in a relay which will take around six months.
Some 70 clubs from the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association will be involved, having received £11,000 funding for the event.
The idea was first mooted last October when the association held its annual regatta on Loch Tummel.
Sue Fenton said it would also help the group to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
She said: “The regatta ties in with our AGM. At that event, talk turned to how we would celebrate our tenth anniversary – that’s how it all started.
“Then we heard about the Year of Coasts and Waters and thought it would be ideal to tie in with that.
“We decided to apply for funding and were delighted that our bid was successful.”
The association’s 70 member clubs, which stretch around the coast of Scotland, will all be taking part, starting in Annan in April. And there may even be a wedding!
Sue explained: “We’ve got a member who proposed to his girlfriend at the world championships in July and there was not a dry eye in the house when she said yes.
“We’re trying to persuade them to tie the knot in Gretna and have her dad follow the eloping couple in another skiff, kidding on he’s chasing them!
“It would be a memorable way to start the baton relay.”
The baton will have a tracker so you can watch its progress.
Starting in Anstruther 10 years ago with one skiff, towns and villages around the country have since built their own. There are now 160 skiffs worldwide.
Sue added: “The first skiff and association was launched on May 29, 2010.
“It has grown every year since, with more and more communities along our coastline building their own.
“We’re all looking forward to the relay which will travel more than 1000 miles around the coast and involve more than 1000 rowers.”