Three Lochs Book and Arts Festival: Review by Nic Goddard

Scientist, naturalist and wildlife campaigner Dr Mark Avery was one of the speakers at the festival. NO F37 Mark Avery
Scientist, naturalist and wildlife campaigner Dr Mark Avery was one of the speakers at the festival. NO F37 Mark Avery

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The Three Lochs Book and Arts Festival should have been holding its fifth biennial event in 2020.

Along with so many other plans during 2020 it did not happen but instead, operating with a ‘Covid cautious’ set of guidelines and reduced capacity, the last weekend in August saw a small but perfectly formed festival of events with workshops, talks and performances.

Held at the Sunart Centre in Strontian, with a programme including authors, artists,
musicians, adventurers, activists, scientists and historians, there was certainly something for everyone to watch, listen to or participate in.

Between us my family managed to attend six events. We all came away with hope, inspiration, plenty to discuss and go to find out more about. We felt we had learned things, been challenged and enlightened.

We also came away with several signed books and a feeling of having been part of the world reopening with a renewed sense that we all need to be more creative, responsible and aware of what is happening around us.

From the focus on the small at a monochrome drawing workshop where we were tasked with capturing detail from pinecones, lichen and lace to the bigger picture of the state of nature conservation or Marine Protected Areas we were prompted to engage fully with the world around us.

Committee member Joanne Matheson told me: ‘We were not at all certain we would manage to put the festival on this year but were determined to go ahead if at all possible.

‘We were delighted to welcome so many speakers, including well-known naturalist Dr Mark Avery, top- notch crime writer Abir Mukherjee, accomplished historian Andrew Mackillop and up-and-coming artist and writer Hannah Kelly.

Hanna Kelly on stage at the festival. NO F37 Hanna
Hanna Kelly on stage at the festival.
NO F37 Hanna

‘What is particularly rewarding about the Three Lochs Festival is that all of our presenters and performers always really enjoy their trip here and being involved, and we never seem to have any trouble persuading them to come.

‘This is reflected in their enthusiasm at the event, and our attendees therefore get a really good experience meeting and chatting to them in person.’

The world events of the last two years have had a huge impact on arts and culture; both in inspiring creativity and in encouraging people to slow down and take notice.

It was also where many of us turned instinctively for comfort – with many people learning to play instruments, joining virtual choirs, signing up for reading challenges, watching concerts and performances remotely and connecting with nature during permitted outside exercise.

It is no surprise that there was a real appetite for the speakers to attend the Three Lochs festival and for people to come and get involved.