Images Words and Songs

Anna Davis has been a regular artist and participant in our North Light Arts activities over the years.

We create many opportunities for people to participate in the arts, often within our landscape so that the local community, but also the artists can engage and inspire through meaningful workshops and education initiatives that promote participatory practice while focusing on the environmental themes we generate. Anna  is a local artist who has been involved in many projects with us, mainly using her printing skills, but especially by her valuable contribution to the schools project ‘Plankton’ in 2016.

This community engagement project was commissioned by artist Donald Urquhart who had been commission by the Harbour Trust to develop a site-specific installation for the Battery on Victoria Harbour: our project was designed to respond to his theme which had inspired the etchings on his polished steel cubes.

Anna worked in tandem with the artist and teacher Linda Greig and working to their individuals skills they created a series of workshops with all five streams of Dunbar Primary School – that’s a lot of students!: They explored the science behind the plankton to be found in the harbour and the plankton found in deeper waters out at sea – their importance in the food chain, how plankton were to be found in differing patterns and how they could also light up.

Anna took the stencils developed by the children and taught them how to make their own tow colour screen print, choosing to have their plankton floating around in light blue sea as if lit by the sun or a black ground to demonstrate the sea in the deep ocean.

Dozens of flags were created from the printed fabric and were displayed in the Community Room above Donald exhibition ‘Coast’, held at Dunbar Town House. The colourful flags would later be exhibited in the town and were then returned to the school and their original creators.

Anna wrote recently:

‘Fantastic article in the Scotsman and how wonderful for you to look back at all the interesting and collaborative projects that you have generated with North Light Arts, a great achievement. 

Personally I have enjoyed many of the projects and events, in walking a line, I found the walks informative and inspirational crossing the boundaries of art practice, science and archeology 

with a shared awareness of the environment and how we understand it and our place in it. Also enjoyed taking part in the first Hub exhibitions and adding to the collaborative books, by leaves we live? 

It was fun to be involved in the plankton project and creating a series of screen print flags, working with Linda in the schools and seeing how the children responded with such enthusiasm to the project of our seas and plankton and how much they learnt and absorbed by learning through a creative medium, drawing, printing.

I also greatly enjoyed the film poem event which was a wonderful platform of film art poetry spoken word ,from Scotland and beyond, a brilliant weekend and also inspiring. I have also enjoyed the many talks and exhibitions, and the harbour art hut, and once you start thinking about it there has been so much, it has all added to my enjoyment of and awareness of the East Lothian landscape/environment.

amazing and well done


Carl Gent

Carl was the first artist to inhabit our beach Hut on Victoria Harbour and travelled from the south of England to take part in ‘Taking A Line’. He was camping in atrocious weather and walked the coast down to Siccar point just south of Dunbar in search of his inspiration.

‘So good to hear from you and wonderful to see the What If exhibition.

I was thinking about my times at Dunbar only the other week. Lockdown has given me the opportunity to properly tidy my studio and my papers. My two summers in Dunbar were vitally important personally, as the last art I made before starting my masters. The work started in the Beach Hut looking at James Hutton’s work with Siccar Point was the starting point for my work at Goldsmiths, which, roughly put, was all focused on how to make explicitly ecological work. Looking back at it, the memories of camping by the nuclear power station, drinking red wine by the North Sea and getting kind of annoyed at the noise of the kittiwakes (sacrilege I know!) was such a turning point.

Strangely the work that ended up coming out of it (in a roundabout way) were these mezzotints I started making of movie studio logos: which remain the only work I ever sell (haha). There were some earlier versions that more explicitly referenced Hutton. I’ll see if I can capture them when I’m back in the studio. I also ended up making a more full photographic series of the confetti-cannon launcher works I started in Dunbar and Thorntonloch and a slideshow-performance about it all called Tongue of the Preinoculated that I exhibited in Bath at some point. Will try and dig up the photos of these at some point too.

But yes, just to be more specific. This sculptural practice of heading into the literal stuff of the world (in North Light’s instance, the ocean) and making some kind of offering unto it, trying to encode it in a more literal sense – putting words into a body of liquid. In many ways it started at Dunbar and remains a consistent working method that I trust more and more.’

By Carl Gent


Ken Cockburn
Below are some reflections on my own involvement, eight (!) years ago now. I took part in Northlight in 2012

‘I remember the little beach hut at the harbour that served as a temporary gallery, but I’d forgotten the work I’d made for it until I looked it up: photos of objects arranged in ‘sixteens’, made on trips that summer to Orkney and Moray as well as along the coast of East Lothian.

The images strike me now as both impersonal and poignant, of that past summer as well as vivid still in their present-ness. They show ordinary things, found in quantity, none of them very special; their focus is narrow, shutting out the wider scene, yet they have their own power of recall, of evocation, perhaps all the more powerful for not fixing that wider scene as a single image. Walking through Elgin with a friend and arranging those willow leaves on the parapet of a bridge; my then-partner on a warm but overcast Orkney beach absorbed by collecting those (and many more) coral fragments. The paradox of each piece’s individuality being highlighted when placed next to one similar but not quite the same.

I’m a poet rather than a visual artist, so this was something of a departure from me, though as I noted in the blog, it grew out of an earlier project. One day I bought a copy of John Muir’s autobiography, and was struck by a line about his childhood in Dunbar; he wrote, ‘we loved to watch the passing ships and make guesses as to the ports they had come from’. I grew up in Kirkcaldy, and had watched the same stretch of sea from the other shore, similarly imagining connections to far-flung lands beyond the horizon. From that line, and walks along the East Lothian coast that summer, came this poem, lke the ‘sixteens’ another exploration of similarity and difference.’


a coracle of willow and skins beneath a changeable sky
a Roman flotilla edging north to Ultima Thule
a Viking longship breaking open the honied south
a Genoese galley blockading the castle
the Great Michael floating the woods of Fife
Sir Patrick Spens sailing the king’s guid schip
the widowed queen’s fleet arriving in thick mist
the brig Covenant of Dysart bound for the Carolinas
the clipper Isabella bringing tea into Leith
a herring-laden zulu tacking for Fisherrow
a U-boat periscope scanning the waves
the crude oil tanker Seadancer flying a flag of convenience

By Ken Cockburn
June 2020


‘What If ?’ Taking a Line Project 2010
The first in our Retrospective on-line Exhibition June to December 2020

What if‘ saw lots of sharing of skills and experience in the project ‘Taking a Line’ in 2010 – by artists, specialists such as Fiona McGibbon and historian Maggie Struckmeier together with our Community in a year long journey. From Hill to shore, to the community woodland and then to exhibitions at John Muir’s Birthplace and the Harbour Trust offices in McArthurs Store – works inspired by the journey.

It culminated in the celebrated knitted harbour where Ross Combe helped Susie Goodwin to organise around 20 artists and over 100 people who dropped in to collaborate on a representation of Victoria Harbour in locally spun and dyed wool: boats, cottages, kittiwakes, the yellow burger van, the fisherman and the lifeboatman as well as the chair of the Harbour Trust – spot him in the dark glasses. The completed harbour was later to be curated by Malcolm Innes and Susie Goodwin with and displayed at John Muir’s Birthplace and the Peter Potter Gallery in Haddington.

Watch out for more in the coming weeks!

Follow some images of our shared journey across our landscape in 2010 in this short video: