The completion of the Ness Islands Enhancement Programme, Inverness, at a cost of £440,000 was marked today (Thursday) with an official gathering in the new central arena, where Provost Bob Wynd, Chairman of the Inverness City Committee of The Highland Council, and invited guests were joined by the four artists whose work forms a large part of the extensive environmental improvements that were phased over 15 months.
The “” arena was created by landscape artist Keith Barratt from North Shields. Keith worked with pupils from Central Primary School to make clay images of the things they find special about the Islands. These have been cast in iron and are inserted in the work, which is made of Highland stone, and Douglas Fir sourced from Evanton. The arena provides informal seating and will be used by educational groups and the occasional community performance. The first of these is the The Lyre Tree – a magical, musical theatre for families produced by Eden Court - happening tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday at 8.30pm.
Nigel Ross of Blairgowrie has sculpted nine large benches from Scottish oak. The flowing shapes are inspired by the setting and work with the natural shape of the timber. Huntly-based Chris Bailey has hand-carved three gateway entrance features from larch. These include maps to guide visitors through or around the Islands, and provide interpretation of the local wildlife and habitat. Finally, Adam Booth, an artist blacksmith from Dumfries, has crafted striking balustrades for two of the footbridges near the Ladies Walk entrance. The rippling curves reflect a fish’s eye view of the water currents around the Islands.
In addition to the artist-designed installations which collectively cost £193,000, improvements and remedial works were made to the street lighting, litter bins, footpaths, riverbanks and bridges. Tree felling and management works were also carried out bringing the total investment to £440,000. The whole project was made possible by the contributions from six funding partners: The Scottish Government – Cities Growth Fund, The Highland Council Inverness Common Good Fund, HIE Inverness and East Highland, Highland 2007, Inverness City Heritage Trust, and Scottish Natural Heritage.
Marie Mackintosh, city partnership officer, said: “Inverness City Partnership is delighted to have had the support of so many partners. This has helped to raise the quality of what we have achieved here and showcase what a wonderful area it is. We have had very positive feedback from visitors and regular users of the Ness Islands who appreciate the craftsmanship that has gone into the works, and that we have kept it natural.
Provost Bob Wynd added: “The Ness Islands is an important green space within the heart of the city. It provides a bit of calm among the hustle and bustle of city life and is readily accessible on the route to work or leisure activities. I hope this project sets the bar for other areas as we move forward with the Greeninverness Strategy.”
After a few words from the artists and Provost Wynd , the group were piped across the Islands and the General’s Well Bridge by local piper Ron MacLean. The Provost then unveiled a Caithness flagstone on the riverbank acknowledging the work of the artists and the contributing funding partners.
The Ness Islands Enhancement Programme forms part of the Inverness City Vision and fits with the theme of maximising the potential of the Castle & Riverside area.
The total cost of the environmental improvements and artist installations was £440,000. This covered the following.
• Creation of the Central Arena as an informal meeting are and performance space
• 9 handcrafted benches sculpted from Scottish oak
• Artist designed bridge balustrades at Ladies Walk and the Alt na Skiah burn
• New hand-carved gateway interpretation features at the 3 entrances
• Extensive tree management works
• New street lighting and combined litter and dog waste bins
• Footpath repairs and drainage improvements
• Remedial and protection work to the banks
• Two new bridge decks and repairs and painting of existing footbridges
• Production of educational story sacks for schools and nurseries
• A Ness Islands Management Plan to safeguard future maintenance
The project has been made possible by the financial support of the following funding partners:
Scottish Government – Cities Growth Fund £140,000
The Highland Council Inverness Common Good Fund £160,000
HIE Inverness and East Highland £ 60,000
Highland 2007 £ 30,000
Inverness City Heritage Trust £ 25,000
Scottish Natural Heritage £ 25,000