Northings No More

27 Mar 2013 in Showcase

Robert Livingston explains why Northings cannot continue

BACK at the turn of the Millennium, I was keen to set up an online journal that would properly represent the dynamism and diversity of the arts and culture in the Highlands and Islands.

REMOTENESS —real or perceived—continues to deny those based in the Highlands and Islands a fair coverage in the national press, and, with a few honourable exceptions, local press rarely have space, or the confidence, to deal with the arts.

Northings was the result, and we were very fortunate right at the beginning to be able to recruit, as editor, Kenny Mathieson, a highly experienced and well-connected arts journalist who is based at Boat of Garten. Kenny quickly established editorial templates and standards which have stood the test of time, and recruited a network of writers, new and established, from across the Highlands and Islands.

Black Watch

The National Theatre of Scotland's Black Watch was one almost 2,000 events reviewed in Northings

In its first year Northings won a Broadband Britain national award, and in the subsequent ten years it has published 761 features and 1,961 reviews, as well as countless news items. It was a fundamental policy of Northings that all writers and reviewers should be paid. A website made up of purely voluntary contributions would have been valid, but it would have been a very different site. Our aim was to take a professional approach to writing about the arts, and in many cases that meant that the online format could allow for a much deeper and more considered coverage than would be feasible in print. This means that scores of artists and arts companies, over the years, have been the beneficiaries of detailed and thoughtful assessments, by writers who, if they were not already recognised, came to acquire a reputation through their work for Northings.

But all this comes at a price. The actual cost of hosting the Northings site has been minimal since we moved to a WordPress platform a few years ago, but to maintain an appropriate level of new content each month means a budget for writers’ fees.

Up till now those costs have been met by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, but with shrinking budgets and changing priorities, HIE is no longer able to continue that support. It’s with the greatest regret, therefore, that, with effect from the end of March, Northings will become a static site and we’ll be unable to commission new material.

A key part of our aim was to build up an archive, and we now have a ten year portrait of the extraordinary wealth of cultural activity in the Highlands and Islands. For at least the next twelve months that archive will remain fully accessible and searchable, as a unique document of a period of growth and change in the area. Our aim will be to find a permanent host for that archive and also, if possible, to relaunch Northings in a new form which can remain true to the original vision of presenting the arts and culture of the Highlands and Islands to the rest of the world in an inclusive and professional way.

Finally, I’d like to thank Kenny Mathieson for his skill and dedication in the task of editing Northings over the past decade, and also everyone who has written for Northings, and indeed everyone who has logged on, read, and shared our articles

Robert Livingston, Director, HI~Arts

© Robert Livingston, 2013