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Community walking and artists are the focus of Aberdeenshire Covid memorial project


By Kyle Ritchie

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Artists and community walking from mountain to sea forms Aberdeenshire’s contribution to the Remembering Together project, marking the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on communities across Scotland.

The coronavirus pandemic changed the lives of everyone in the country, but the ways by which it affected each community were unique.

Remembering Together is a national project which seeks to give each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities their own way to remember and mark their experiences of the pandemic.

Community walking from mountain to sea forms Aberdeenshire’s contribution to the Remembering Together project.
Community walking from mountain to sea forms Aberdeenshire’s contribution to the Remembering Together project.

Aberdeenshire Council and Live Life Aberdeenshire in collaboration with Greenspace Scotland have commissioned lead artist Claudia Zeiske to create a cultural legacy that reflects the experiences and hopes of the region.

The initial phases of the project began in summer 2022, when Zeiske undertook the initiative of walking a 250km journey from mountain to sea, beginning at the highest point in the region – at the summit of Ben Macdui – and ending at the lowest point in the ports of Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

The inspiration for this journey was taken from Aberdeenshire native and community planner Patrick Geddes, whose Valley Section model continues to be a marvel of the complex and interrelated relationships between humans and their environment.

Throughout her journey, Claudia met with more than 200 people from across Aberdeenshire who shared not only their own experiences of the pandemic, but also stories of how it impacted their wider community.

These discussions aided the primary goal of the project, which is to not only commemorate those that were lost during the pandemic, but to offer a tribute of hope and healing that looks to the community’s future.

This extensive journey was alleviated by the kindness and welcoming spirit of all kinds of communities within Aberdeenshire – from mountain climbers to food banks – and in a range of locations from care homes to cafés.

Along the way, Claudia carried a bespoke printed pink tablecloth, encouraging those she spoke with to sign it and add drawings which she has since embroidered into the fabric.

This tablecloth is set to be toured around community spaces in the coming months.

Claudia carried a bespoke printed pink tablecloth and encouraged those she spoke with to sign it and add drawings which she has since embroidered into the fabric.
Claudia carried a bespoke printed pink tablecloth and encouraged those she spoke with to sign it and add drawings which she has since embroidered into the fabric.

Walking outdoors was a key part of many people’s experience of the pandemic, and the collective vision that emerged from this phase was creating opportunities to walk across the region.

Benches are set to be embedded at key points along the walking journey that Claudia took for residents to sit, take in their surroundings and reflect on their own pandemic experience.

Joining Claudia in realising this project is Aberdeenshire native and world-renowned fiddler, Paul Anderson.

Together they are also working with sustainable furniture maker, Chris Nangle. The benches, crafted with sustainable materials by Chris, will be fitted at scenic spots along the route, and will have QR codes fitted that when activated, play original music composed by Paul, that has captured the stories and emotions that Claudia took from her journeys with local folks.

After the fitting of the benches, members of the public are warmly invited to join in re-creating Claudia’s journey.

This can be done in various ways, and visitors can do all or parts of the walk while still gaining a sense of the wider project’s message.

For those who have additional needs with accessibility, there will be a series of "proxi-walks" hosted by Claudia offering guided embroidery sessions that form a similar means of contemplation, as well as a broader message about the paths and pilgrimages that they wish to take in life.

Avril Nicol, head of Live Life Aberdeenshire said: "Remembering Together is more than just a project; it is a collective expression of resilience and hope.

"This project marks the impact of the pandemic, through stories and the crafting of a cultural legacy that reflects the strength and spirit of our communities."

Claudia Zeiske, lead artist on Remembering Together Aberdeenshire said: “It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to meet so many people from Mountain to Sea in Aberdeenshire and who shared with me so generously their many different experiences last year.

"Walking and the appreciation of the outdoors, as well as reaffirming the need for family, friends and neighbours were some of the sentiments that many people shared with me.

"I am now looking forward to working with such fine artists as Chris Nangle and Paul Anderson and to walking again with people from all walks of life across Aberdeenshire to allow people to appreciate what the county has on offer as a form of hope and healing."

Remembering Together Aberdeenshire is commissioned by Greenspace Scotland in collaboration with Live Life Aberdeenshire and Aberdeenshire Council with funding from the Scottish Government.


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