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Arts | 4th June 2021

Summer blockbuster

Project to show how generations faced adversity 75 years apart


A PORTRAIT of Langholm’s people, past and present, is the theme of a major, summer-long project incorporating photography, printmaking and multi-media skills.

The Langholm People Project was launched by OutPost Arts (OPA) on Tuesday and it runs until September 30.

The project focuses on bringing awareness of Langholm people from history, contrasting them with people from present times.

It will draw parallels between the adversity faced by displaced Polish people resettled in Langholm Camp after World War Two and the collective challenges our community has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lucy MacLeoad, OPA’s creative director, said: “Both issues link Langholm with a mass existential crisis, forcing us to confront ourselves in new ways; questioning our living spaces, our priorities and our lifestyles in unprecedented ways.”

Many Polish refugees lived at Langholm Camp, built on the site of a former military base on the Castleholm, as part of a national effort to resettle Poles displaced by war. Their important stories have yet to be collectively shared.

The refugees, who settled in the town, have made an important contribution to Langholm’s community and culture and those, who remember Langholm first-hand in the days and years after the end of the war, are dwindling.

Three artist commissions and a satellite programme of portraiture-related workshops and events will allow the community to collectively ask: Who are Langholm People? and be encouraged to become more creative as a result.

The project is part of OPA’s larger A Creative Place project, funded by the Holywood Trust, Robertson Trust, Stevenson Trust and Muirhall Energy.

Its exhibition, book and film are sponsored by the Langholm Alliance and will feature as part of its 400th Langholm Charter anniversary programme in September.

Lucy is project-managing the Langholm People Project, supported by Sophie Jarzyna, a descendant of one of the resettled Polish men.

Lucy said: “We’re excited to shine a light on Langholm’s people, their important stories and experiences in the face of adversity, both historic and present day.

“We’re also extremely pleased to offer paying commissions for Borderlands’ artists during this very difficult time for freelance creatives, who have really felt the impact of the pandemic.”

The three artist commissions will create original work inspired by historic and present-day Langholm people and their experiences.

The artists, all from Dumfries and Galloway or the Scottish Borders, will run four school workshops across all three commissions at Langholm primary school and the Academy, encouraging young people to engage with art and learn new creative skills and insights.”

Morag Eaton, an established Berwick-upon-Tweed printmaker, will focus on creating work on the subject of the camp, connecting with Polish descendants, local historians and people with their memories.

She will work with senior Academy pupils over two days in June, sharing her printmaking practice and creatively exploring the theme of ‘displaced people’.

Many of the Poles’ descendants have their own rich archives of stories, letters and photography for Morag to explore and use as starting points.

She will be supported by Sophie Jarzyna, a potter, and unpick these stories, accounts and visuals to create a large-scale narrative piece of work (or several smaller pieces) which honours their experiences and personal journeys.

Emily Tough, emerging Dumfries and Galloway multi-media artist, will create four portraits of Langholm’s COVID-19 Action Heroes who made important contributions to their community during the pandemic through their work.

Emily will work with P2 to P4 pupils, sharing her model-making practice during a workshop in August.

Kyna Hodges, emerging Dumfries and Galloway photographer, will create four portraits of the town’s COVID-19 Caring Heroes who looked out for more vulnerable residents during the pandemic.

Kyna will work with P5 to P7 pupils at the primary, sharing her photography practice during a workshop in August.

Langholm Faces portraiture competition launches this month and will encourage people of all ages to explore their creative side, contributing portraits towards a large-scale community exhibition from September 18 to 30 and publication.

The Langholm Faces exhibition will feature all the work from the artist commissions alongside competition winners and runners-up. Three, artist-led, community workshops, focusing on portraiture techniques and skills such as painting, drawing and photography will support and encourage people of all ages and abilities to take part.

Portraits can be of anyone from Langholm, historic or current and self-portraiture is encouraged.

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the charter signing, a hardback book featuring 400 portraits created from the whole Langholm People Project will be published and donated to all local libraries, becoming a ‘creative time-capsule’ for future generations.

Sian Yeshe, Langholm film-maker, will create a film charting the project’s progress and it will be premiered at the exhibition.

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