By Kirsty HalcrowJanuary 9th 2015

Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve artist residency programme begins next Friday (16 Janurary 2015), with artists travelling from across the UK to live on site and create new works at the lighthouse.

The Occasional Keepers flat, originally used for assistant and visiting NLB lighthouse keepers, with a magnificent view across the coastline to Fitful Head, was refurbished earlier this year. The property, which will also be used as bunk accommodation for guests, provides living and studio space for artists, writers and musicians. Whilst in Shetland they will have access to the Visitor Centre displays and research of the key themes of lighthouse history, the marine and coastal environment and radar history.

The residency can be a reflective space to work on new developments, not necessarily for public display, and for those who want to test public reaction. The Education Centre has been equipped with a sound system, projection facilities and a 3 metre wide screen. This creates a perfect location for a contemporary film maker to screen new and experimental short films to a wide audience, as the Summer months will bring an international audience, alongside local visitors.

Visiting artists have generously agreed to contribute to cultural and educational activities at Sumburgh Head, with either a talk, presentation or workshop linked to their special area in the arts. Josephine Gornall, for example, is a very experienced leader of community and school workshops and whilst at Sumburgh in April she has agreed to deliver workshops which combine her craft expertise with her promotion of the use of recycled materials in art. Josephine is intrigued by the alchemical and sometimes unpredictable nature of the felting process. Manipulating and transforming fibres, fabrics, silks and other media into a new dimension, she states “Exploring its undervalued potential as an art medium and form of expression. I like that it is ecologically sustainable and ultimately will degrade back into the earth.”

This will link to content in the Marine Life Centre where the displays inform on the underwater coastline habitat of Shetland; the valuable work of the RSPB; monitoring of migration and bird activity, along with information on the annual Voar Redd Up to clean the coastline of bruck, which has been organised throughout Shetland by the Shetland Amenity Trust for 27 years.

Statements from each resident artist, and details of the linked events held at the lighthouse will appear on The Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve website ( and Facebook page (www.facebook/sumburghhead). The artists who will visit between January and May work across different areas of arts practice.

Morgan Downie is a poet, short story writer and artist who works primarily in literature but also encompasses visual art, installation and sound work. His sound poetry films, previously shown in the Berlin film festival, will be screened during the two days when the Visitor Centre is open for Up Helly Aa.

Mixed media and textile artist, Jennifer Talbot, has been visiting Shetland for many years to further her research of archaeology, landscape, memory and place. She said “I am looking forward to this residency with great anticipation. Sumburgh is an incredible site and the wide seas and skies and winter weather will provide a dramatic canvas for new work

For Sandra Hammer, whose work is “primarily about energy; energy in the landscape and energy in the painted mark” it will be an opportunity to continue her work walking in the landscape in all weathers with her sketchbook. She has expressed keen interest in Shetland's unique landscape: “Shetland will be a totally new experience for me and will provide an interesting contrast to my last residency which was working on the Cornish coast”. Sandra will take this back to the studio where she aims “to produce a body of work which captures my response to this experience and isolates the essence of a sense of place”.

On-site Operations Manager, Angela Hunt, commented:

“There has been a high level of interest in the opportunity to explore and respond to Shetlands dramatic scenery. A clear benefit to the development of art at Sumburgh Head is from the insight and understanding of the formation and geology of our unique and unspoilt landscapes. We welcome fresh perspectives, alongside the continuation of development of projects with Shetland based artists. Next season we will introduce new products developed by local craftspeople for exclusive sale through our Sumburgh Head gift shop, and for order from the online Shetland Heritage shop”

Opening times for the Visitor Centre can be found on the website, including Up Helly Aa hours. The first season at Sumburgh Head saw staff deliver highlight tours of the site to school pupils from across Shetland and visitor groups from nurseries, care homes and special interest clubs. During the winter, more focussed lessons which promote understanding of the geology and wildlife of Shetland and the lives of the lighthouse keepers have been developed to extend our menu of education activities.