Spotlighting Scotland’s hidden depths

Marine and freshwater Natural & Built Environment
13 February 2024

Argyll Hope Spot: A creative approach to engaging people with Scotland’s marine life

Elaine Gibb

Kiera Anderson, Project Development Officer with Argyll Coast and Islands Hope Spot. Photo by Scott Richmond

Under our Natural and Built Environment theme the Foundation makes a number of grants to causes which help people and communities to connect with Scotland’s rich marine environments.

Key learnings:

  • Many people don’t realise the challenges facing Scotland’s seas.
  • Around Scotland’s coast communities are coming together to safeguard our inshore waters.
  • Raising awareness of these very special environments is key to securing their future.
  • In Argyll, artists and local marine groups are using the arts to spread this message near and far.

For Keira Anderson, her job is about light bulbs! Light bulb moments when someone finds out what is under the surface of the sea and why it is so special. And it’s about light bulb sea squirts (aka Clavelina lepadiformis) glowing in the water! And serpulid worms with luminous orange feathery gills… and brittle stars with long thin dancing legs.

“These are things you think you’d find in the Great Barrier Reef, but lo and behold they’re just off your local pier on the Argyll coast.” Kiera explains.

Keira describes an amazing picture. Given her own artistic talents, this is perhaps not a surprise. These talents, together with what she has learned from a background in service design and a lot of time spent in rock pools, are put to full use in her work championing the Argyll Coast and Islands Hope Spot.

The Hope Spot is a (unique to the UK) collaboration between four local Argyll coastal community organisations. Their aim is to help people discover what exists just off shore, why it is so special, how it is doing, and – if it is in trouble – what they could do about this.

“When you see those moments happen and you hear somebody say, ‘Wow, I had no idea’, that’s really fulfilling,to know that you were part of what led them to that light bulb moment.”

The Hope Spot is a stretch of water extending from the Ardnamurchan peninsula down through the Sound of Mull to the Sound of Jura. It is the first internationally designated Mission Blue Hope Spot in mainland UK waters due to its world-class natural riches.

Art as a voice for the environment

One of the most unusual projects Keira organises is a unique snorkelling artists’ residency programme, which supports professional artists to sketch underwater. Back on dry land, they produce works inspired by what they have seen and learned, reaching new audiences near and far. Exhibitions held locally have attracted hundreds of viewers, with the art sitting alongside scientific information, making it relatable in a different way for more people.

Curretly, Keira is ramping up this side of the project, while the volunteer-led schools programme she co-ordinates gets more local pupils educated and excited about their local seas.

Photo by Scott Richmond

“We can’t speak to every single person in Scotland about why this environment is so special, but we are trying to take more folks a step closer to it and inspire something a bit deeper so they can become champions, too.

Often people look out onto our oceans and they think it’s blue on the top, water underneath and mud at the bottom – and that all sounds kind of dull. Turns out there’s a lot more going on than that – even the mud is special!”


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