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13 Jul 2023

Cats Gu Leòr on Canna 2023

Written by Fiona J Mackenzie, Canna Archivist
Brightly coloured stone cats stand in a line in front of a stone wall.
Some of the Canna cats bask in the sun before the Pussycat Picnic.
This year’s Solas residency on Canna shone a light on our Canna Cat collection through a weekend of arts, crafts and music events.

June is traditionally the month when we deliver artistic residencies on Canna, based on the archives in some way. This year was no exception, even although Canna House is now officially in the hands of Simpsons the Builders, who are undertaking the reparation work programme.

We decided to use the cats of Canna House as the main focus of the residency, timing it to commemorate the marriage of John and Margaret Campbell on 15 June 1935. Cats were of prime importance in Canna House from 1938 all the way up to Margaret’s death in 2004 – they brought light, colour and fun to the house.

This year’s event was also the last on-site element delivered as part of the Solas project. This project, which has particularly focused on film and still images, has been delivered over the last 5 years with financial support from the National Trust for Scotland USA Foundation, for which we are extremely grateful. Solas means ‘light’, and we certainly enjoyed celebrating this around the summer solstice.

Read more about Solas

It felt fitting to conclude with the cats theme, as the Cats Gu Leòr trail marked the beginning of the Solas project back in 2018. Our first event this year was a Pussycat Picnic held at the Rhu Church, with art and film-making activities offered by filmmaker Alastair Cook from Edinburgh. Our stone pusses from the first trail were gathered up and brought to the picnic!

After a very interesting cyanotype printing session with Alastair, we had a film night in the Shearing Shed. Here, we were treated to a world premiere and a Q&A of Alastair’s filmpoem My Heart Always Goes Back to the North, bound for the Brest Film Festival the following week. We also screened the Solas film about Margaret’s life, produced a couple of years ago. This film has just been re-pressed in NTSC format for the North American market, again thanks to the Solas funding.

The following days were filled with crafts, art, music and storytelling activities from our artists and musicians. Floral artist Lynne Knot decorated the stone cats with handmade, individually designed floral crowns. The stone cats were also given a spruce-up after spending a few Canna winters outside! These events were all well-attended by visitors, who loved the cat theme.

Yvonne Lyon delivered a wonderful songwriting session with several visitors; the songs produced are now in the process of being recorded. Raine Clarke helped visitors produce some amazing pieces of painted stone craft, most with a cat or animal theme.

We hope that Margaret and John would have enjoyed our adventures with their favourite animals.

Five brightly painted stone cats are displayed in front of a low stone wall. An island is visible in the background. A poster board sits beside the cats.

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