2011 has seemed a time of turbulence and change for many of us, writes Trust Chair Amanda Raven. We have witnessed the human consequences of the Japanese tsunami; the floods in Pakistan and Thailand; the earthquakes in Turkey. We have seen the equally challenging human consequences of economic instabilities in Europe and in wider Western economic systems.
As the Indian writer and artist Shakti Maira commented in his address at the International Futures Forum in Edinburgh in September ‘Is it philosophically and ethically reasonable that the most dominant social force for shaping policy and behaviour is nothing more than the rate of return on capital’? Whether the disasters we witness are manmade or natural (though these relationships in the knowledge of climate change and its impacts are not simple) how can we learn to move from them towards a more balanced and sustainable world?
At an individual level this challenge can seem immense. And where does a small charitable Trust in the West of Scotland sit in relation to these larger concerns? We are small in number and resource, and our principal activity is modest. We gather up 30 to 40 people each year in North Argyll, and temporarily lodge them amidst a wider community of 300 people. Here we try to find a space in which a subject of mutual interest to our different rural communities can be shared, explored, challenged, lifted and changed. You can read some of the accounts of these gatherings here and our former Chair, Simon Pepper’s reflections on them here.
A Japanese artist Keiko Mukaide, who is based in Scotland, and spent much time in Japan with her family following the tsunami and the Fukushima aftermath, created a moving installation in the village of Pittenweem this year. She gave space, hidden behind the old stone fishing stores, in a makeshift shelter of chainlink fencing and tarpaulin, to the transcribed stories of how people were helping each other to overcome the difficulties. Her imaginative response reminded us how individuals can work together to achieve change, and how artists can reflect the experience of being human back to us in new ways.
The Andrew Raven Trust takes lessons from this and understands the importance of the small scale, the articulation of the human scale, to change. The Trust grew out of a desire to honour the memory of one man. It has slowly evolved to provide a connecting space for a growing number of individuals who attend the weekends, and shape them. Those connections will continue to multiply in all the varied ways of the individuals involved. Meantime, we at the Trust continue to concentrate on keeping the space open for new connections each June. It may not seem a large ambition but, so far, it seems an occasionally useful anchorage in this turbulent world.