Hello, welcome to the first Voice for Arran of 2022 and a very happy new year to all our readers! Writing at the end of the old year I sense the promise of the new, and this issue brings with it a feeling of possibility, created in part by the theme of ‘stories and storytelling’ that has taken shape as it has come together. 2022 is Scotland’s Year of Stories, and in this context I have been thinking what this might mean for the coming year – what stories do we tell in, of or about Arran. The concept of ‘stories’ seems to encompass a lot, may even take us to the heart of what it means to be human.
According to the online National Geographic Resource Library, storytelling is universal to the human experience, and may have evolved not long after the development of language itself. Stories can be told orally, or in print, through recordings, or images; they can include poems, songs, rhymes, myths, legends, fables, prayers, and proverbs. Throughout time and across cultures, much of life has been devoted to telling stories – about what we have done, where we have been, where we belong, about our place in the world.
As W. M. MacKenzie says in the classic text The Book of Arran, “Islands have a type of history of their own”, and to open this year of stories we have reprinted parts of MacKenzie’s introductory chapter. The author describes the island’s physical presence in the Clyde, and connecting this to Arran’s place in Celtic folklore, writes “It is in some such magic mist of poetry and myth that Arran appears on the dawn of history. Legends of gods and heroes lightly brush its shores, as the vapours of cloud flicker over its mountains.”
Such myths about a place may continue to serve a contemporary social purpose, but stories are also created from the experience of everyday life, and which often reflect the relevance as well as hard realities of people’s lives. This is apparent in a number of the articles, particularly around the current issue of climate change, and in the piece ‘Storytelling brings dangers of climate change to life’, we learn about the Withernsea community’s experience of coastal erosion in Yorkshire. The authors highlight how stories can bring people together across generations to explore a matter relevant to their lives, and in doing so also give rise to the possibility of a new response to these issues. Not only can storytelling narrow the psychological distancing to climate change but it can create new connections and inspiration.
A similar community education project has been taking place in Arran’s primary schools, as described in Climate Change Message in a Bottle. Island communities are among the first to experience the adverse effects of sea level rise and increased storm surges, and last year school children created a film and sent messages to COP26 about their learning on these issues. In the second stage of the Message in a Bottle project in 2022 they will write stories of their islands’ sustainable futures.
The possibility that storytelling can offer and the promise of change it can hold, I find is perhaps best captured by Sally Campbell at the end of her account, Fairtrade, Climate Change and Climate Justice. She writes, “Every story has a grain of truth in it and yet is partial. It’s only when we can move beyond the boundaries of our current narrative and explore the unknown territory of a new way of being in the world that we find our true path of service. When we let go of the story of ‘me’ we naturally and gracefully move into a story of ‘we’ that encompasses all of life. We create a new mythology through the daily acts of beauty that stem from stepping into this new and interconnected universe”.
We would love to hear your stories throughout the coming year, please get in touch if you have any you would like to share, about Arran or beyond! Wishing you a great month, Elsa