Vertical farms to take shape across Scotland under plans to stage hundreds of harvest festivals

Hundreds of harvest festivals and “vertical farms” are to be created across Scotland as part of the UK’s biggest ever culture celebration next year.

The Dandelion project is described as a 'reimagination of the harvest festival' in Scotland.

Musicians, sound artists, scientists, designers, food producers and community groups are expected to be involved in the six-month Dandelion project.

Billed as a reimagining of the harvest festival for the 21st century, it is expected to see “grow your own food” initiatives take shape in locations across the country.

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More than 250 food-growing “cubes of perpetual light,” from which specially-commissioned music will emanate, will be distributed to island communities, redundant industrial sites, empty buildings, parks and schools.

Mark and Gemma Stewart helped to launch the Dandelion project at Govan Dry Dock in Glasgow. Picture: Wattie Cheung

Dandelion is the cornerstone of Scotland' s involvement in the £120 million UNBOXED festival, which will see some of the country’s most iconic landmarks and landscapes transformed using the latest technological innovations.

Billed as “a once-in-a-lifetime celebration of creativity,” it will be staged across Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales between March and October.

The initiative, previously known as Festival UK 2022, was instigated by then Prime Minister Theresa May in the aftermath of the EU referendum vote and has been dubbed a “Festival of Brexit” by critics.

However the devolved administrations have thrown their weight behind the cultural celebration, which has a bigger budget than the £97 million UK-wide Cultural Olympiad staged to coincide with the London Olympics.

New food growing initiatives are expected to be created across Scotland as part of the Dandelion project.

Paisley will host the opening event in March with the unveiling of About Us, which will see the town’s buildings and landmarks become a canvas for cutting-edge animation taking audiences on a 13.8 billion year journey from the “Big Bang” to the present day.

Other elements include the Dreamachine, an immersive kaleidoscopic light experience based on a 1950s invention, which will be designed to be experienced by audiences with their eyes shot, which will visit Edinburgh, where a project to create a “monumental pop-up forest garden” will be launched.

Dundee and Dumfries will both host StoryTrails, which will bring together augmented reality and new developments in 3D internet technology for an immersive living history experience – billed as a “virtual portal” into how 15 different parts of the UK have evolved.

Running between April and September, Dandelion will see the organisers of Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival programme one-off events of various sizes, including large-scale concerts in Inverness and Glasgow.

Paisley will host the launch of the UK-wide celebration of culture and creativity when it hosts About Us, a series of events taking audiences on a journey though 13.8 billion years of history, in March.

Large-scale “unexpected gardens” with their own musician and creative producer embedded will be created in 13 locations – Caithness, Ross-Shire, Moray, Uist, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Falkirk, Scottish Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, Inverclyde, Argyll & Bute and Fife.

A further “floating garden,” which will be moored in Falkirk, will tour Scotland’s canal network.

Angus Farquhar, founder of Edinburgh’s Beltane Fire Festival, which marks the transition from winter to summer in the city, is creative director of Dandelion, which will fund new food-growing initiatives as well as support established projects.

He said: “We thought that the best thing we could do with a big chunk of public money was just spread it as widely as possible.

National parks and world-class landscapes across UK, including sites in Scotland, will be transformed by dramatic lighting effects as part Green Space Dark Skies.

“We’re very keen to support the next generation of musicians and creative producers to come through and develop their own ideas. Their will get their own programme and budget to play with.”

Dandelion, which Scotland’s Rural College, traditional arts organisation Fèis Rois and the James Hutton Institute are all working on, is being planned to involve urban, rural and the most remote relocations.

Farquhar added: “Growing your own food is one of the few positive things you can do in the light of all the climate problems we have got just now.

“We want hundreds of thousands of people across Scotland to celebrate the act of food growing and sharing next year.

“The point of Dandelion is that it is invitation for everyone to grow, particularly first-time growers. We want to get plants into the hands of people, even if they don’t have a balcony and are only growing herbs for the first time.

“We also really want to celebrate the amount of community growing that’s already happening all over Scotland.”

Edinburgh will host the launch of a project to create a 'monumental pop-up forest garden.' Image: Carl Robertshaw & Bronia Housman

A key strand of Dandelion will be celebrating Scotland’s traditions of sowing, harvest, cooking together and making music in different parts of the country.

Donald Shaw, creative producer at Celtic Connections, said: “It's a very exciting project, with several big strands to it.

“There will be two big one-day festivals – one in Glasgow around midsummer and another in Inverness in September – as well as multiple other small, medium and large festivals in September.

“We’ll be specially commissioning some new pieces of recorded music which will feature almost like sonic installations at the vertical farm cubes, which will be the only place you’ll be able to experience them.

“We want to engage with as many musicians as possible who are inspired by the natural world.

“The Dandelion project will hopefully have elements that will allow everybody and anybody to get involved.”

Paul Bush, director of events at Scottish Government agency VisitScotland, said: “The exciting plans for Dandelion and the wider UNBOXED programme are a wonderful example of how innovation and creativity can truly flourish when individuals combine their knowledge, expertise, and perspectives, and are given the opportunity to imagine events in bold and ambitious ways.

"Scotland has a long and proud history of pioneering spirit and ingenuity – it’s a place where great minds continue to collaborate and connect.”

UNBOXED creative director Martin Green said: “Hundreds of creatives from across science, technology, engineering, arts and maths are creating extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime events and online experiences for millions in the UK’s biggest and most ambitious public creative programme to date.

"UNBOXED represents an unprecedented, timely opportunity for people to come together across the UK and beyond, taking part in awe-inspiring projects that speak to who we are while exploring the ideas that will define our futures.”

The Dandelion project will run between April and September. Picture: Alan McAteer
Empty and redundant buildings are expected to be transformed under the Dandelion project.
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