Photographer and archeology student, Tomas Hermoso describes the Orkney art scene…

The hub of the Orkney art scene can be said to be the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness. Originally the office and stores of the Hudson’s Bay Company, this building was bought over in 1979 by Margaret Gardiner to provide a home for an important collection of British fine art donated to ‘be held in trust for Orkney.’ The buildings were extensively renovated in 2007 and are now a cultural hub, offering gallery space to Orkney art graduates as well as artists from all over the UK.

Photo by Puck MacPuck
Photo by: Puck MacPuck

Throughout the rest of the islands there are many other great small galleries to be found such as the Hoxa Tapestry gallery in South Ronaldsay, Land Art in Papa Westray and the Wheeling Steen Gallery in Westray, with many exhibitions all year round for both locals and tourists to enjoy.

Hoxa Tapestry Gallery Orkney
Photo by Hoxa Tapestry Gallery

There’s been a long held tradition of textiles and knitwear as well as other crafts in Orkney and the Orkney Craft Association offer a great craft trail to download in their website, from Orkney Chairs to hand knitted garments made from North Ronaldsay wool it encompasses a variety of workshops and galleries throughout most of the islands showcasing the creative work of Orkney natives.

Hume Sweet Hume Orkney
Photo by: Tomas Hermoso, Hume Sweet Hume knitted accessories

There’s also a very vibrant and exciting folk music scene in Orkney, with most pubs round the islands having folk nights. The Reel in Kirkwall is a great example with accordion and fiddle nights on Wednesday and traditional folk nights on Sundays. In addition to this, The Reel also doubles up as a school of music, teaming up with the ABRSM and the RCS to provide music courses to the people of the islands. It also has a recording studio on site for local artists to use.

The Reel Orkney
Photo by: The Reel.

Every year in Midsummer, the St Magnus Festival is held. A large scale arts festival started in 1977 and which has now grown into a major music and arts festival with its own fringe festival, the Magfest, showcasing everything from cabaret to drama. The festival tries to use everything from Parish halls to the St Magnus Cathedral as a venue, in an effort to build up participation with the community.

St Magnus Festival Orkney
Lezdek Mozdzer at St Magnus Festival, Orkney media Group.

All in all, Orcadians are spoilt for choice when it comes to cultural activities, with some great places to visit, never mind the beautiful scenery and community life.