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24 Jan 2023

Schools flock to House of Dun

Written by Sarah Burnett
A flock of geese fly across a blue winter sky.
The Trust’s new ‘Flock to House of Dun’ art project, funded by The Wild Escape, will help Angus primary school children celebrate local birdlife and heritage.

Local school pupils in Angus will take a starring role in a 2023 arts project at House of Dun, celebrating the birdlife in the Montrose Basin and the property’s own collections. From January, pupils from local primary schools will take part in a series of bird-themed creative workshops and then display their art and poems in an exhibition at the museum, launching on Earth Day (22 April).

The project, called Flock to House of Dun, has been created by the National Trust for Scotland, supported by funding from The Wild Escape. The conservation charity’s successful bid to the UK-wide initiative was announced earlier this month by Museums Galleries Scotland and will enable 100 schoolchildren at local Angus primary schools, including Lochside Primary School and Borrowfield Primary School, to take part in free workshops and activities.

Inspiration for the Flock to House of Dun project comes from the rich variety of bird species that feed and roost in the Montrose Basin and the abundance of birds in House of Dun’s collections of art and artefacts, as well as the poem ‘Wild Geese’ by previous inhabitant of the house Violet Jacob (1863-1946) celebrating the sight of thousands of birds in flight. Weaving together these different strands, the team at House of Dun will host a series of creative workshops and outdoor activities with a creative practitioner and the Trust’s local ranger team.

Activities planned include workshops exploring how birds feature in the House of Dun collections, including an ostrich-themed candelabra, parrots and macaws hiding in tapestries and fire screens, and bedding embroidered with exotic birds. The ranger team (supported by the Scottish Wildlife Trust), which is based at Montrose Basin, will also organise activities around the estate. Children will then be encouraged to produce a poem and artwork inspired by one of the bird species they have learned about in the activities. These will feature in a public exhibition at the House of Dun, opening on Earth Day 2023.

The idea for the project came from Sarah Cowie, Senior Heritage Learning Advisor, and Scott Byrne, Operations Manager for the Trust’s Angus Cluster.

As Scott explains, ‘The Wild Escape is a UK-wide project uniting museums and schools in a celebration of wildlife and creativity. Given House of Dun’s unparalleled views over the Montrose Basin Local Nature Reserve, which is home to over 100,000 migratory birds including pink-footed geese, wigeon and other wildfowl and waders, it was a natural choice to focus our project on the birdlife around House of Dun, including in the property’s own collections.

‘We’re thrilled that our funding bid has been successful and excited to start working with local primary school children on the activities we have planned for 2023. A key objective of our 10-year strategy Nature, Beauty & Heritage for Everyone is to enable more people and communities to access our properties, so we’re very grateful to The Wild Escape project for supporting this new initiative for Angus schools. We’re also thankful to our local Angus National Trust for Scotland Members’ Centre, which is helping with the costs of running the project.’

A view over Montrose Basin during sunset
The project also celebrates the amazing wildlife to be seen at the Montrose Basin

Sarah Cowie says: ‘By the end of this project, we hope that pupils and teachers will have a greater understanding of their local area and the amazing wildlife and biodiversity on their doorstep in the Montrose Basin, as well as a stronger sense of connection to House of Dun. As a result of the renovation work in 2019 and then the Covid-19 pandemic, the Trust’s engagement programme at House of Dun had to be paused, so we’re delighted that the funding from The Wild Escape provides an opportunity to relaunch it.

‘Through this project, we aim to engage local school children with their local environment and heritage, supporting the engagement goals in our Nature, Beauty & Heritage for Everyone strategy, as well as The Wild Escape’s aim to encourage the next generation to picture the future of UK wildlife through museum collections.’

Read more about our 10-year strategy

The Wild Escape is made possible by lead support from Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants, with additional support from Art Fund and a group of generous individuals and trusts. The £3,000 funding award will help House of Dun to cover all the costs of the project for schools, and will contribute to the National Trust for Scotland’s engagement objectives, including to provide access and enjoyment for everyone.

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