Hello dear readers, it’s been a blustery day here on Arran as October makes way for November and all that she will bring. This is the time that the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain has traditionally marked the end of summer and the start of winter, and it has recently felt like the island has been drawing in. And while the deep concern at world events and the conflict in Israel and Gaza is holding my attention, there is a resolute sense of ‘local’ to this issue that brings me back to Arran ground.
The concept of a ‘sense of place’ has been helping with this, and is an idea that forms the basis of a recent report by The Arran Civic Trust. The report considers how ‘sense of place’ may inform the future of development on the island. Development which ACT hope will take into consideration the needs of a contemporary and changing population as well as the island’s distinctive built and natural environments. They cite the importance for old buildings to be renovated where possible, and for new buildings to fit sensitively into the surrounding landscape.
Looking a bit further into this idea I found the entry in the International Encylopedia of Human Geography, which says, “Sense of place refers to the emotive bonds and attachments people develop or experience in particular locations and environments, at scales ranging from the home to the nation. Sense of place is also used to describe the distinctiveness or unique character of particular localities and regions.” There is then a suggestion of demarcation, a separation between one place and another, which would seem to apply to the physically separate entity of an island. Yet as seen in today’s world, what happens in one place can have a huge impact on another and no place seems to be totally isolated.
This is no more clearly seen than in the notion of climate tipping points, a phenomenon of climate change that a major study has recently highlighted. In her piece Climate Change and Risk, Sally Campbell reports on the increasing number of tipping point scenarios the world is likely to see in the coming years. One of the lead authors of the study explains how the loss and destabilisation of the Amazon rainforest for example will have huge implications for the Greenland ice sheet and Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. On Arran we are more familiar with the term Gulf Stream for this oceanic system, but it is on this that our current Atlantic climate depends.
Coming back to a closer sense of the island, the ACT paper says, “Villages, coast, moors, mountains, history, archaeology and geology are all part of what is unique to Arran.” Then referring to the proportion of holiday homes, they say: “When a village is gutted of people there is no ‘sense of place.’” The following pages are full of concerts, films and exhibitions to go to, talks and meetings to attend. There are calls for volunteers to help with the Eco Savvy Food Share, with the Art in Mind project, and the Arran Repair Café. Elsewhere we learn about the work and lives of an island based artist and GP. So the feeling I get is that it is perhaps here, in all the activity of our daily lives, that a real sense of place might be found. I hope you enjoy the issue! Elsa