Hello and a warm welcome to the new issue of the Voice for Arran. We hope you have kept well during January, and as we move into February, and the Chinese New Year, we have a wee poem from Yuan Mei to start things off.

In different ways, poetry has taken a renewed presence for me over the past month, and so it was great to hear last week about the launch of the Arran Junior Poetry Competition. As part of the McLellan Poetry Fringe Festival taking place at the end of April (booking lines have opened), young people are invited to send in poems on the theme of Scotland’s Year of Stories and will have the chance to read their entries at the Festival. As Glasgow Poet Laureate Jim Carruth says, poetry can be a powerful way of “providing the opportunity for people of all ages to find their voice.”

In his piece, ‘Our World, Our Future’, Carruth describes the benefits of poetry in primary schools and the inspiration he finds in being part of this creative process. The recent theme for young poets in the city’s annual Lord Provost’s Poetry prize was based around COP26, and the Our World, Our Future saw a huge number of submissions. Many poems highlighted the current state of the planet and the challenges it faces in relation to weather, pollution, fossil fuels and the decline in animals and plants. Carruth says the process revealed great understanding by the children of the problems we face as well the imagination needed to do something about it.

As well as poetry, in this issue we bring accounts of Arran ventures old and new, including the first part of a history of Robert the Bruce by Jim Henderson, and a recent film about Holy Isle, which marks the 30th anniversary of the island under the custodianship of Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre.

If you are interested in the development of crofting on Arran, the Arran Crofting Committee has just been established and is looking for the community’s input. Currently there is one registered croft on Arran. This compares to Shetland, the Western Isles and Skye where almost two-thirds of all households are under crofting tenure. The Arran Crofting Committee’s vision is for a “thriving crofting community that strengthens the rural economy and benefits the environment.”

In another project, Eco Savvy is developing plans for a mobile zero-waste café, an initiative they hope to trial from March. The café will look to incorporate food from the food share, provide bulk goods in zero-waste dispensers, locally grown fresh produce and will also offer an affordable hot meal and refreshments. How could the mobile café work and what would you like to see in it? They have a short online survey for you to share your views.

As well as all this, there are volunteer tree planting days, a Valentine’s ceilidh, and a new reading group with the Arran Geopark. And booking lines are now open for the Arran Mountain festival, which includes for the first time, a poetry hill walk… Lots to do and a lot to look forward to as we begin to climb out of the fallow period of winter. We hope you enjoy the issue and have a wonderful month ahead, Elsa