Boat inspired by Bute children launches to celebrate island

Malcolm Mackenzie came up with idea as part of a new project for emerging artists set up by the Mount Stuart Trust.
Malcolm Mackenzie came up with idea as part of a new project for emerging artists set up by the Mount Stuart Trust.
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A small sailboat fashioned out of driftwood has been launched on a symbolic journey of discovery from an island in the Clyde as part of a new social and environmental art project.

The vessel, rigged with sails created from a mosaic of artworks by local children, was sent off from the Isle of Bute to “find” the island and what it means to the people who live there.

The vessel is rigged with sails created from a mosaic of artwork by local children.

The vessel is rigged with sails created from a mosaic of artwork by local children.

Another element of the project is a phone booth where people have been encouraged to dial up and leave a message to the island.

The initiative is the brainchild of artist Malcolm Mackenzie, who recently graduated from Glasgow School of art with a degree in sculpture and environmental art. It forms some of the work he has been doing as part of a recently established residency for artists, set up by the Mount Stuart Trust, which looks after land and property owned by the Marquess of Bute.

Mackenzie, 37, who grew up in a small village in Wester Ross, has been engaging with the Bute community over the past few weeks. Much of his inspiration for the project came after he was involved in workshops at the local primary schools.

“I had been thinking about the kids and how a large majority of them will leave the island at the end of high school for university or work, as most youngsters from rural areas make this migration,” he said. “I was wondering where these children might end up and whether they would ever return to Bute, where they might live and work and what opportunities there might be.

Some of the children on the Isle of Bute who took part in the project.

Some of the children on the Isle of Bute who took part in the project.

“I realised that if anyone is going to hold the future of the island in their hands and influence its direction it’s these guys.”

During the workshops, he asked the pupils to close their eyes and imagine they left the Isle of Bute by boat and sailed back 10,000 years. Then, after sailing through a storm, the skies clear and they discover their own Scottish island.

“I asked them to imagine what their island would be like in the future, where would they live, what would they do and what would they have on their island.

“Each pupil made a chart of their island and marked some of their ideas on cotton fabric. I then decided to build a wee boat that we could launch and gave the kids scraps of driftwood to decorate, which have been combined to become the boat.”

The boat has been launched towards the nearby Isle of Cumbrae, carrying messages from the local children to their counterparts across the water. It’s hoped the mission may inspire a dialogue between the communities.

Lorna Rae, a teacher at the island’s St Andrews Primary, described the project as “a celebration of community, commonality and sharing amazing outdoor spaces”.

Morven Gregor, education officer and visual art programme co-ordinator for the Mount Stuart Trust, said: “Malcolm has made a fantastic success of the inaugural residency. Some of this is captured in the stunning images he has made of his work, but he has also brought a generosity and warmth to his projects and interactions, which I believe will have an impact beyond his time here.”