The End of This Road

27 Mar 2013 in Showcase

THE DEMISE of Northings is, I believe, a severe blow to the arts community in the Highlands & Islands.

AS THE only editor of the journal since its inception ten years ago, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

HOWEVER, a succession of e-mails, Facebook comments and personal communications have confirmed that I am not alone, and many of them have been extremely gratifying, both to me personally and the Northings team, of which more below.

As Robert Livingston noted in his eloquent explanation of why we cannot continue in our present form, Northings has created a record of a decade of fascinating activity in the arts in this region and beyond. It will remain accessible online for at least a year as things stand, and I hope that in that period some way of reviving the site may be found.

James Hawkins - The Rough Bounds of Knoydart

James Hawkins - The Rough Bounds of Knoydart

Our demise comes at a point when it is difficult to escape the feeling that many of the gains put in place in that time are eroding at an alarming rate. Northings follows The Booth, venues are struggling to maintain audience numbers, and money gets harder and harder to find – Moray Council have just axed their arts budget completely (and there may be more such blows to come).

And yet, I don’t see it as a completely gloomy outlook. Yes, times are hard, some companies and organisations will go the wall, the infrastructure may be weakened. The arts are no stranger to this kind of dilemma, though, and I remain confident that artists in our part of the world will continue to do what they do, creating good work whatever the duress, and will be there to step in when matters improve again, as they surely will.

I have had the privilege of editing Northings since we launched the site, but I had already decided to step down as editor at the end of this month. I feel ten years is long enough under a single editor, and if Northings is to be revived in some way at some point, it is time for new ideas and fresh energy.

Although I am continuing with a little writing, this will be my final substantial job, and I’m looking forward to pursuing some of my other interests – it won’t be slippers and pipe so much as walking boots, binoculars and bike (at least as long as the legs will allow)!

I would like to thank Robert Livingston for both his vision and unstinting support, and apologise for dropping him into several stushies for which he was in no way responsible, but took the flak. Likewise, my thanks to all at Hi-Arts, notably Marcus Wilson and Fiona Fisher (without whom, etc), and also, in no particular order, John Saich, Peter Urpeth, Karen Ray, Laura Martin, Elizabeth Sinclair, Avril Souter, Jelica Gavrilovic, Caroline MacLeod, Maggie Dunlop, Sian Jamieson, Pamela Conacher, Alistair Peebles, Andy Ross and the late Helen Slater (apologies if I have missed anyone). It has been a pleasure working with the team, and given that none of the core team was ever remotely full-time on Northings, I think we did a pretty good job.

My thanks also go to all of the contributors who have provided such rewarding material over the years. I believe the quality of much of the work we published was as high as anything currently happening in arts commentary in the UK, and it is difficult to imagine that events up here will get a similar level of attention in the media.

Although their support is now ending, we owe a debt of gratitude to Highlands & Islands Enterprise for ten years of funding, and to Creative Scotland and its predecessor, the Scottish Arts Council, for additional financial support.

Final thanks, though, has to go to all of you who have used the site, whether as regular visitors and commentors or occasional lookers-in to see what was going on. My best wishes go to everyone involved in the arts – we may have reached the end of this phase of our journey on Northings, but I am confident that the artistic spirit will continue to thrive in our beautiful region.

Kenny Mathieson


© Kenny Mathieson, 2013