Isle of Lewis
On the 26th July our tour ventured to its furthest destination, the Isle of Lewis. This island provides beautiful and dramatic landscapes and is located just off the west coast of Scotland. The Isle of Lewis is connected to the Isle of Harris, together they form the main island in the Outer Hebrides.
In order to begin our Hebridean adventure, we boarded the Ferry from Ullapool in the morning and excitedly found seats on the top deck so we could watch the Ferry disembark at 10.30 with the hope to see dolphins and whales. The weather was windy but the sunshine was glorious and kept us in great spirits.
We managed to spot a dolphin swimming and occasionally jumping in the wake of the boat. However Laura and Ann took the animal watching gold medal as they spotted whales. Two hours and 30 minutes later we arrived in Stornoway the largest town on the island. We settled in and prepared ourselves for our upcoming performances.
On Tuesday 27th July we drove to Tong Community Hall and performed two shows. Sadly the good weather had dissipated and we were worried how this would affect our outdoor audiences. Yes, numbers were fewer, but the spirits were high and we had an absolute blast sharing the stories of HMS Pinafore and the Pirates of Penzance with the local audience.
We appreciated their good humour and willingness to join in the dance moves, which had the added bonus of keeping our bodies warm under wet conditions. In between shows we kept ourselves entertained by sight-singing four-part harmonies from Bach chorales to Disney tunes. Here is a short clip of the team singing And So it Goes by Billy Joel.
Our next location was Spòrsnis, a recreational centre in Lionel, which caters for a variety of sporting activities and a fantastic spot for children’s birthday parties thanks to the Ten Pin Bowling alley and soft play area, sadly the bowling alley was very popular and we couldn’t get a game in between shows. But it was probably for the best, competition between company members could have got feisty – haha!
Luckily the rain paused on Thursday and we were able to do a little sight-seeing before the afternoon shows. Ian, (guitarist) thinking quickly on his feet, found a route to the performance location that would pass by the Calanais Standing Stones, a piece of history we were all keen to visit. It has been said that the Calanais Standing Stones are an ancient centre of power, a testament to the skills and determination of the people who lived here 4,000 years ago. The stones were probably transported using brute strength, rollers and wood frames. The purpose of the stones remains a mystery, during the Neolithic period and bronze age stone circles were built across Scotland. People constructed large monuments of stone and earth, perhaps to give the local community a common identity or to provide a place of worship.
After our history excursion, we arrived at the Grinneabhat Centre in Bragar, a community business that welcomes visitors to enjoy a spot of lunch in their homely café, a place to rest their heads, and now enjoy some pop-up opera! We performed here twice and the final show of the day was a real treat as a little boy joined in with our musical numbers by singing along and copying the dance moves. A burst of happy energy to keep you warm on a cold and windy day. I would like to take this moment to thank Heather Moger from An Lanntair, a multi arts venue based in Stornoway who helped our team feel at home at the three locations on the Isle of Lewis.
We prepared ourselves for the long journey back to Glasgow on Friday, but not without enjoying some local culture in Stornoway first. We had the pleasure of visiting Museum Nan Eilean at Lews Castle, which offered an interactive exhibition of the history and culture of the Outer Hebrides. It was a celebration of local memories and housed a collection of The Lewis Chessmen. A collection of chess pieces which were found in a cove on the Isle of Lewis. The pieces have found popular appeal thanks to their interesting and mysterious history and their characterful carvings. I really like their bulging eyes and my favourite was the grumpy queen who rests her chin in her hands, as if nursing a toothache or fretting about the weather.
For a closer look at the finely worked walrus ivory and whale teeth chess pieces watch this interesting video about where they were found and their history.
After our spot of history we queued up to board the Ferry to Ullapool and arriving there around 17:00. Laura and I then shared the 5 hour drive back to Glasgow. On Sunday we had the exciting prospect of performing two evening shows at Edinburgh Zoo. We are back there next week so I shall save the zoo details for next week’s post.