A Slice of Scotland: ForArgyll.com
Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Scotland. There's something about Scotland's natural beauty that calls to so many - and the Scots people are so friendly and welcoming. One of my favorite places in Scotland is Argyll - and I've recently discovered site that shares both place and people. The site? ForArgyll.com. From the Photo of the day, to events, to local businesses, to life stories, ForArgyll.com is a lovely slice of Scotland, online. We were lucky enough to sit down with Lynda Henderson, of ForArgyll.com, to discuss the site, economic development, history, and more. Here's what she had to say:
WE: Please tell us about For Argyll...
LH: For Argyll exists to contribute to accelerated development in Argyll - by providing immediate and high quality information and energetic promotion in terms of internal and worldwide consciousness-raising.
Argyll's topography is daunting - communities are divided from each other by hills, glens, sea loch and major freshwater lochs and by the Atlantic. Argyll has 25 inhabited islands. This means that there is no tradition of Argyll-wide awareness of who's doing what or of what's going on where. The puffers used to carry news and gossip along with the freight but when they stopped, the major grapevine withered.
Ofcom regulations mean that there can never be a radio station to cover the entire territory and the local news papers stick to their traditional localities. ForArgyll.com is therefore the only single source of news and information serving the whole of Argyll. Being an online service also means that information can be made available virtually immediately - which has the most profound developmental potential as people cotton on.
WE: What was the genesis of ForArgyll.com?
LH: ForArgyll.com grew from a proposal to establish a Community Radio station for upper Loch Fyne in Mid Argyll. Part of the proposed coverage area overlapped with the northern extremity of the coverage area of another Argyll radio station so Ofcom could not grant a licence. This turned out to be a solid gold-lined experience.
Researching to reinvent how we could do what we knew was needed gave us hard evidence of a scenario we hadn't realised before. If we had been licensed to take the radio station route we would have been walking into a very expensive cul de sac. Audiences and advertisers alike are migrating to the internet for their news and business dealings. This is happening at a rate which is already seeing traditional print and broadcast media struggling and restructuring to survive. Only the BBC's Vision Multi-Platform division read the runes with imagination and prepared the way for communications in today's world. And For Argyll is out there too.
We decided to switch from analogue radio to online delivery of our service and we decided to cover all of Argyll. We did this because the communication problems faced by the communities divided by Loch Fyne were echoed everywhere in Argyll. And, as with Barack Obama's signature call to action, we decided to do this 'because we can'.
WE: How does this site help businesses in Argyll?
LH: We headline their successes and we keep reminding our audiences in Argyll and elsewhere of the existence of first rate and innovative companies, initiatives, opportunities and events here.
Argyll has very rich resources in renewable energy generation; in high quality food and drink production - who hasn't heard of the Islay malt whiskies; in access to wildlife experiences and the richest biodiversiy in the UK; and in outdoor activities of every conceivable kind - in most cases with the best natural resources in the UK, as in sailing, diving, sea kayaking, canoeing and walking the great core long distance paths across Argyll.
The major annual events in Argyll reflect these resources and then add an astonishingly joyful sense of fun and a light hearted serendipity. There is a raft - excuse the metaphor - of major sailing events and races like West Highland Yachting Week, the Brewin Dolphin Yacht Racing Series, the Round Mull Race and the Round Bute race. There is the Tour of Mull rally that makes F1 look like the dreamchild of every health and safety bore ever born. There is the Tiree Wave Classic, bringing international boarders out to Tiree each October. There are half marathons on many of the islands and mainland areas - Jura, Colonsay and Mid Argyll to name a few. There are the music festivals -the Islay Jazz Festival, the Bute Jazz Festival, the Kintyre Music Festival and the magical Mendelssohn on Mull. There are the Festivals that bring activities together - like Cowalfest, linking walking to the arts; and Islay Whisky Week, with music and a dram - well, a lot more than one dram.
Then there are the joyful and serendipitous. There's the Ride of the Falling Rain - a one hundred kilometre social cycle ride around Islay - well, round and round Islay. There's the Easdale Island World Stone Skimming Championships, where the slate that historically made Easdale one of the slate islands now fuels a quite different contribution to island life. And there's the Strachur Swamp Soccer World Championships which I guess finds its audiences somewhere on the border line between second childhood and fetishism.
There are renowned gardens, wildlife reserves, bird and orca watching experiences, golf courses - including the first to be built within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) - the Machrihanish Dunes Golf Course due to open in late Spring and freshwater and sea angling. These have to form a dream portfolio to support.
WE: I love the life stories section of your site - can you please tell us more about this?
LH: We're starting from the belief that everybody has a story worth telling but that few people's stories ever get told. We have published one and have some other's in the pipeline - and they all prove our point. It's good to remind ourselves that we live side by side with remarkable people and that we may be remarkable ourselves. The enduring value of an intelligent use of the internet is that this material can be archived and made available on demand in perpetuity. Telling one's story does redeem from time in a very
interesting way. A story somehow always exists in the present, even when the life which is its focus is gone.
We want people in Argyll's communities to look around them and tell us who's story we should be telling. We'll come and listen and ask daft questions and then write the stories.
WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
LH: Too much to start - the rough and the smooth, really. There's exhaustion and exhilaration. There's the despair of seeing deadbeats failing to put their shoulders to the wheel for Argyll even when they're paid to do it. There's the inspiration of meeting so many inventive and forward looking people everywhere you look. There's the stunnedness that comes from tallying up Argyll's huge resources. There's the pleasure of watching the Council abandon old-fashioned and deforming party politics and work together to create and approve a budget in difficult days.
We're doing what we're doing in interesting times. Whatever your politics, Scotland can at least be seen to be having its first genuine government. And something below the general radar is the number of communities taking charge of their own sustainability - buying out crucial community businesses of very many kinds and accepting this sort of responsibility. This is revolutionary stuff and no-one's really putting the picture together yet. The
consequences could politically be very far reaching.
WE: Thanks so much, Lynda. I love your site - every time I visit, I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time, reading and learning and dreaming of our next visit. Brava!
For learn more, please see: www.ForArgyll.com
Feature photo by Sue Anderson of Island Focus. It shows Ardminish, the township on the Argyll Isle of Gigha, taken from Gallowhill. Courtesy and Copyright of Sue Anderson, Island Focus.