Rural Nations (Scotland) CIC is an artist led production company based in Stornoway which commissions film, experimental theatre and strategic arts projects.


1st- 4thAugust 2018


Harris Carnival & Arts Festival


The Reclaim the Future Nomadic

Carnivals for Change project enabled

Rural Nations artists to deliver an

exciting new Carnival and mini

International Arts Festival focussed

in the village of Tarbert and satellite

rural venues around the Island of Harris.


The Carnival & Arts Festival project emerged following 18 months collaboration with four other theatre companies in the Reclaim the Future project. The Harris Carnival was the 5th carnival following events in Sweden, Portugal, Latvia and Dunkirk in France in 2017&2018. The Hebridean artists, Job Shadower Rachel Kennedy and Artistic Director Muriel Ann Macleod were able to attend these Carnivals and meet with collaborating artists and all this activity informed the work we made in Harris with the new Carnival and associated Festival events.


The project was developed in partnership with Harris Arts and Heritage volunteers and representatives of various community organisations in Harris from January  2018 onwards. Working with a local committee of volunteers, promoters and with input from other significant community leaders like John Murdo Morrison the plans for the Carnival and satellite delivery locations of the Festival for Harris were realised.


Initial activities included  Buffone (Jester) workshops in the Hebrides in May 2018 with Italian actor Alfredo Angelici. In the three months leading up to the Carnival and Festival local people could get involved and attend workshops in banner making with Caroline Chaffer, (at her workshop in Shielibost) Carnival puppets and big Creature making workshops was led by Muriel Ann Macleod at Leverburgh Community Hall and weekly Acting / street Performance workshops in Stornoway Golf Club.  Local crafter Annalie Sinfield attended the Harris playscheme in July and children created boats on rods and Carnival headdresses for the carnival procession.


The Harris Carnival and Arts Festival presented a diverse and unique range of arts activities, film, theatre and music performances. Visiting international performers presented performances alongside local Scottish performers in village halls and outdoor locations in Tarbert and surrounding villages. Performances included local traditional music events like Psalmboat where traditional Gaelic Psalm singing took place in outside in the stunning location of the Bays Centre, Jazz at the Mission house ( a relaxed evening of jazz surrounded by the work of Photographer Beka Globe and Ceramic Artist Nickolai Globe)  Locally made theatre  Eve versus Lucy (an outdoor performance reinvented from Brigitte Mounier's French theatre show of the same name), Gaelic language theatre included  David Walker’s one man show A Midsummer Nights Dream and international performances included political theatre Transmission from Portugal and Days to Be music theatre from an older people's group with artists from Teatermaskinen Sweden.  The final Saturday night Ceilidh event in the Tarbert Community centre highlighted the blended diversity of the Festival with showcase performances including  international saxophone player (Juao Martins) and Swedish singers performing alongside local pipers, Highland dancers, traditional musicians, Gaelic singers and lots of  ceilidh dancing.


Local visual artist Geoff Stear designing the Festival artwork, 6 island based artists  and photographers took part in a small Artists Rooms project where unusual spaces were used to exhibit art during the Festival , like the Tarbert Masonic Hall, the Harris Hotel bar and the  Essence of Harris factory space.  In addition the Tarbert Masonic Hall main space was opened up for the Festival days and free screenings of Harris archive films  were presented from 10 - 5pm each day. The archive films featured Harris way of life from circa 1937 to 1965, the films were from the collections of John Murdo Morrison and the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive.


The Reclaim the Future portraits collected from all the Reclaim Carnivals were exhibited in the Caledonian Macbrayne's foyer at the Ferry Terminal in Tarbert. Around 300 portraits of participants from the Reclaim Carnivals in Sweden, Portugal,  Latvia, Dunkirk and Harris were displayed, the portraits highlighted their wishes for the future.  This inspiring exhibition was easily accessible to many people both visitors to the islands and locals during the Festival days.


The Carnival Parade through the village of Tarbert on the Friday afternoon brought everyone together in a small richly diverse parade. The parade included large coloured willow and fabric birds made in the Creature workshops in the weeks before the event, a willow and tweed boat and other local boats decorated for the street procession. Buffone performers including actor  Iain (Baba) Maciver playing Donald Trump with Ben Mcwhirter as Mike Pence driven in a sports car by Rachel Kennedy. Local children carried model boats on rods they had made at the Harris playscheme over the summer and the visiting international artists wore costumes from the Rural Nations collections parading as Victorian women, cleaners, clowns and entertainers. The specially made Harris Banner led the parade which moved through the narrow streets of Tarbert and down to the main car park then over to the church of Scotland car park where there were local food and craft stalls and teas all served from a large tent. Other local activities on Carnival day included promotion of the new Harris Marina and boat trips on traditional boats and smaller sailing craft were organised.