An Lanntair’s Anniversary

On Saturday night I went to the 25th anniversary of an art gallery in the Hebrides that myself and two friends (Andy Bruce and Malcy Maclean) founded. Here’s the speech I made with the gang of three.

Speaking at An Lanntair's anniversary

An Lanntair has been a source of immense pride and inspiration to us over the  years.

It’s truly hard to believe that it’s 25 years since the three of us shared the stage to together at the opening in the Town Hall.  But if the 25 years has taught me anything, it’s that the only one constant in life is change.

Indeed, it was the need for change that brought us together and crystalised the idea of the Gallery. As artists, we wanted the opportunity to exhibit and perform our art. But equally we wanted to bring new and inspiring ideas to the Islands.

We wanted to make a space where wonder, debate, controversy, beauty, excellence and passion were the norm.

What we envisaged is encapsulated in the logo, which was designed by the much missed Robby Neish. There was plenty of debate and passion around what it should look like, but Robbie’s idea of the lighthouse was inspired and beautifully executed.

A beam of light announcing a presence. But also a beacon that guides and welcomes. It is the embodiment of enlightenment.

Of course as you’d expect, there are far too many stories to tell. But if I had to pick one story that summed up what we set out to do it is this….

In 1985, a musician from Mali turned up in Ullapool with Robbie the Pict from Skye.

Ali Farka Toure was the John Lee Hooker of Africa, a megastar in the world music scene. He was our first big fish….but a big fish that didn’t swim.

Ali, a religious man, had no idea getting to Stornoway involved a boat journey. Mali is a landlocked country and they banish all their demons into the sea. He told Robbie that he couldn’t possibly get on the ferry.

Robbie, not a religious man – but a desperate one – said, ‘In this country our men work on the sea and our gods protect them’. And so, to help combat Ali’s terror, they agreed to pray on their knees non-stop for four hours on the back deck of the car ferry (the Suliven) till they passed the light house at Arnish.

That night, 150 people crammed into the old Gallery space to listen to a man who had literally defeated his demons. It was the most extraordinary performance I have ever witnessed.

I shot a video with him in Paris eight years later and Ali still talked about that night in Stornoway as one of his most memorable performances. This from a man who filled stadiums around the world.

To all of the staff, members, board members, artists, performers, volunteers and visitors who have taken on the idea from the glimmer it was 26 years ago to the shining beacon for change it is now…we thank you.”

Peter Capaldi formerly of the Dream Boys, visited by his past

Apart from the gang of three, the real headliner was Peter Capaldi. A little known fact about Oscar winning Peter Capaldi was that he was in a band called the Dream Boys. This band was made up of actor Peter, CBS talkshow host Craig Ferguson, George Lucas’ visualiser (apologies, didn’t catch his name and Google wasn’t helping), and Roddy Murray, long time director of An Lanntair. Roddy took a trip down memory lane with a shoebox of memories, bad hairstyles and tales of a transit van. All credit to Peter for retaining his cool.

2 responses to An Lanntair’s Anniversary

  1. lee

    I am so glad we were all there together, i had tears in my eyes listening to you all talk. I am so very sad I did record Andrews speech, he writes them down, the children have all asked me if i took a video and am sad i did not. I will see if th gazette quotes any of you. it was a great night, we were tired, a lot of nasty stuff happened to us the previous week and tho you might not have known it Andrew was almost at breaking point by the time we got to Lewis, the weekend just lofted us all up. He was remembering that you stayed with Barbara and Iain when your house was being built.

    Do stay in touch and visit if ever you are up this way. Andrew would love to be in touch more.
    Lovely to meet your gorgeous lady.

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