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Ullapool stop for Heartstone's trailblazing Cùra Guardian environmental roadshow

By Hector MacKenzie

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Dragonfly by Nick Sidle.
Dragonfly by Nick Sidle.

The first Cùra Guardian roadshow event will take place at The Macphail Centre in Ullapool on Monday (March 25) at 2pm.

The event will be opened by Councillor Isabelle Campbell, a local ward representative.

Sitakumari, director and principal dancer/storyteller for Heartstone, will introduce the Cùra Guardian Gateway at www.curaguardian.com, followed by an online presentation from Arvind Paranjpye, the director of the Nehru Planetarium, a keen supporter of Cùra Guardian, currently assisting with bringing new partners from across India to the environmental initiative. He will join from Mumbai.

The welcome will include an address by the Highland Indian Association, Highland Multicultural Association and Edinburgh’s Women’s Interfaith Group, alongside Heartstone.

This is an innovative concept, created by Heartstone photographer/writer, Nick Sidle, which aims to shine a new light on the natural world through documentary, including spectacular images, latest scientific research highlighting the issues we are facing today, global cultural story and history intertwined.


It opens in Highland Scotland but then spreads out to make connections with cultures across the world.

It's described as a visually stunning and entertaining route into the environment, which is also insightful and powerful, connecting people and the world that surrounds them. Heartstone is a Highland-based non-profit organisation which produces story – literature, photodocumentary, history – presented through exhibitions, events, performances, publication and online.

In the second half of the event, Sitakumari and will be joined by young Ullapool dancers in supporting roles to present a dance-drama drawn from one of the stories on Cùra Guardian, ‘In the Beat of a Dragonfly’s Heart’ .This story can be accessed from the link below: https://curaguardian.exposure.co/in-the-beat-of-a-dragonflys-heart

The Southern Hawker Dragonfly is important as a climate change marker. It is now being seen regularly in the Highlands, previously only recorded much further south, demonstrating the climate really is changing as evidenced by the presence of new species such as this.

An exhibition of some of the breathtaking images on Cùra Guardian, including those of the Southern Hawker, which inspired the choreography for the dance-drama, is on display at the centre.

Badger by Nick Sidle
Badger by Nick Sidle

Heartstone has acknowledged funding and support from NatureScot and The Pebble Trust for the website development and staging of this event. Sitakumari said: "We are also grateful for the support of High Life Highland and Ullapool High School for their support, including locating the Ullapool dancers and local volunteers who have made this event possible."

Cùra is a character from the book Heartstone was founded from, ‘The Heartstone Odyssey’. He is a badger and his name in Gaelic means ‘protector’ or ‘guardian’. In the story, his role is that of a protector of place and home, both social and the natural world, and he has a strong Highland historical connection, a story for children which is also capturing the hearts and minds of adults.

Sitakumari explained: "One of the aspects of the Cùra project which makes it stand out as a unique concept, is the connection which is being made through it with indigenous communities across the world. The partners currently include Canada, USA, Colombia, Peru, Kenya, India and the Pacific Islands and more are being added with time. These communities are sharing their own cultural stories for Cùra Guardian which demonstrate the connection they have had with the environment which surrounds them over millennia and which has shaped their worlds, as well as raising some of the issues they face now.

Dolphin by Nick Sidle
Dolphin by Nick Sidle

"These connections have been made possible through a photolibrary of over 2m images which, alongside the Cùra story, provides the starting point for the entire project. Built over a period of 30 years, this is the work of Highlands-based photographer, Nick Sidle, Heartstone’s photographer and writer and the man who created the Cùra concept. Many of the images have been gathered with special access from environmental partners within Scotland and globally and the library is still growing. The environmental part of Nick’s photolibrary includes plants, animals and habitats which bring Cùra’s world in the Highlands to life. In this project, it has a further role – it provides the mechanism through which the global connections are being made."

Heartstone stories aim to bring people together across all cultures and backgrounds, to see a common human experience. Encompassing both social and environmental themes and designed to reach all age groups, this is a new route to get closer to and be inspired by the world which surrounds us all, to see what may be familiar with new eyes.

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