Published: 22/09/2014 11:53 - Updated: 18/09/2014 12:14

Wester Ross community's boat building challenge captured on film

The Coigach skiff that is the star of 'Afloat'.
The Coigach skiff that is the star of 'Afloat'.

SCULPTOR Neville Gabie left the woodwork to others for his latest project.

Although the South African born artist says he has always liked making things, particularly from wood, with his film Afloat, he captures other craftsmen at work as the community of Coigach in Wester Ross build a traditional skiff and go on to compete in the Great River Race on the Thames and the inaugural Skiff World Championships, which the Coigach team won.

Afloat’s first screening was to a capacity audience in Coigach earlier this year and it will also be show at the first Findhorn Bay Arts Festival on Wednesday 24th September and at the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther on Saturday 27th September.

Although Gabie says that more than anything else he would have liked to help make the boat as well as row it, for Afloat he just watched instead.

"I watched as the planks were cut, shaped and bent into place," he stated.

"I watched as each was first glued, planed, sanded and finally painted. I watched as winter became summer and the skiff was carefully carried down to the sea.

"In making this film I became a passive observer, obscured behind a lens, which is slightly out of character. But at the heart of this film are concerns which permeate everything I do; a yearning to understand my own relationship to place."

The project began in 2012 when Gabie was invited to be part of ROAMING, a programme which spanned diverse situations from Culloden Battlefield to the north west Highland coastline.

"Afloat began simply, as the best things often do; with a conversation and the sense that the timing was ideal for an artist’s intervention and unique perspective, specifically to explore the challenges currently facing remote and rural communities," Cromarty-based arts producer Susan Christie explained.

"Sensitive to the situation, we felt that it was imperative to enlist an artist who would respond with enthusiasm and diplomacy, who could establish trust in a small tight-knit community and who could work alongside the community to tap into this special moment.

"One memorable afternoon Alan and Iseabail Pendred spoke compellingly in their home in Coigach about the impacts building of the first skiff, about the physical, social and psychological changes on people locally and the way in which people of widely differing ages within the community had become actively involved.

"Communities across Scotland were getting fired up by coastal rowing. This felt like a genuine zeitgeist moment. Specifically, a second boat was being planned. Here was the impetus we needed for Afloat."

Afloat had its London Premiere on Saturday 13th September 2014 in the Floating Cinema at St Katherine’s Dock as part of the Totally Thames Festival.

Its Findhorn Bay Arts Festival Screening takes place on Wednesday 24th September at 8pm  at the James Milne Institute, Findhorn.

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