Freelance February Recap: Insights from #ThinkUHI Creative Industry Experts

Did you know that according to the Creative Industries Federation, a third of the creative industries sector are either self-employed or freelance?

This article features a summary of useful insights from creative industries staff at the University of the Highlands and Islands, sharing their practical advice and links to resources to help navigate a career as a freelancer. The university ran a social media campaign labelled #FreelanceFeb throughout February to raise awareness and encourage a dialogue around the challenges, benefits and realities of being self-employed.

Build contacts and collaborate  

Stacey Toner, Creative Industries Curriculum Team Leader based at Moray College UHI, has developed her own arts organisation, providing work for freelance artists.  Stacey Toner

From the perspective of arts administration, her advice is to dedicate time to paperwork every week – and if you commit to a piece of work, follow it through.  Securing the next gig will often come from successful delivery and building a reputation of being reliable.

Lesley Mickel


Lesley Mickel, Programme Leader, for BA (Hons) Drama and Production based at Inverness College UHI gives advice for people doing freelance work:

“We have a flourishing performance culture in the Highlands, but this does require a significant degree of entrepreneurship and self-motivation…

Don’t wait for the opportunities to fall into your lap – go out and make them happen.”

Patience, determination and self-motivation  

Anna McPherson, Lecturer, Contemporary Film Making in the Highlands and Islands:

“It’s important that you work at your craft. Determination will get you through challenges and you’ll reap the rewards. Anna McPherson

Your work may take you to the four corners of the world.

I had the amazing opportunity to carry out documentary work in remote Nepal after the 2015 earthquake I’m planning to revisit this Easter.  Here’s a short extract of the footage.”

Frank ToFrank To, Art and Design Lecturer, Inverness College UHI.

Frank To (instagram @Frank_To_Artist) is a celebrated artist using gunpowder to promote peace. “You have to be prepared to go all out and break your limits. It’s better to strive to be the best than to settle for less.”

Develop diversity and be innovative

Professor Keith McIntyre, Interim Director of the Centre for Rural Creativity at the University of the Highlands and Islands:

“The notion of the artist working in self-imposed isolation is not an unfamiliar story. Keith McIntyre studioHaving private creative spaces are essential, however, I have found enormous benefits to collaborating with other artists or technical specialists.

Do seize opportunities to work on multi-disciplinary projects. It can be creatively and professionally rewarding. Returning to the privacy of the studio can be reinvigorated by this valuable process.”

Simon Reekie, Contemporary Art and Contextualised Practice leader at Perth College UHI: 

Simon Reekie, Trying to Understand detail 1“Outside my work at the university, I work as a self-employed artist and freelance art therapist.

Through working as an artist and art therapist, I have learned that it is vital to find meaning and joy in all the work that I do.  I have found a way to follow my passions and hopefully be of use to others at the same time.”

Faye Hackers is a technical knitwear designer and mixes freelance work with her contemporary textiles Programme Leader role based at Shetland College UHI:Faye Hackers

“Freelancing helps me keep my practice fresh and informed. I work predominantly with trend forecasting, technical structure design and technical shape design for kids and women’s knitwear at a high street level.

Staying on top of trends is a key part of working in design. I have a home studio, containing all the machinery and equipment I need to take on design jobs from afar.”

Katie Masheter, Curriculum Development and Employer Engagement for the Creative Industries Subject Network:

“Seize all the opportunities flung your way or seek them out. Never underestimate the power of your network and potential connections you meet day-to-day. There are lots of mentors out there who can help you hone your practice. Someone recently said to me; if not you, then who? If not now, then when?”

Develop good organisational and planning skills

Pete Honeyman, Creative Industries Subject Network Leader, musician and wood turner:

“Take care of business. Be proactive and professional with contracts, communications and finances, be aware of and plan for your responsibilities.  With that taken care of you create a safe and less stressful space to work and express yourself – which is the important stuff.”

It’s important to manage your money well, @HMRCgovuk have online resources to help you understand the different tax thresholds & what you can claim as expenses – all key if you don’t want to end up with an unexpected bill!

Mandy Haggith Literature Lecturer based at Inverness College UHI comments on the benefits of being freelance:

“The beauty of being freelance, for me, has been the ability to organise my work as an activist and researcher to make sure I always have time to prioritise my own creative projects, like writing my historical novel trilogy, The Walrus Mutterer, The Amber Seeker and The Lyre Dancers, plus grabbing opportunities for pieces of work that directly support my writing by helping with research for the books, such as working with archaeologist as a writer on an iron age dig.”Mandy Haggith 2

Mandy’s top tips for working freelance are:
1) cultivate a couple of really strong, core relationships with client organisations and be reliable and consistently available for them;
2) have a sense of where you’re trying to get to and regularly pitch for work that will take you there, even if it’s a long shot;
3) there will be times of feast (too much work) and times of famine (not enough), don’t worry; 4) take inspiration from trees, which root deeply, work hard when the sun shines and take time for resting;
5) don’t let work take over your life, otherwise what’s the point of being free?

Make use of the #supportingresources available and network, network, network! 

Blogs | Do you want to know how to make the most out of your camera? Llewellyn Bailey from the university’s webteam shares his top tips for video production, featuring short informative videos from our YouTube channel. Check it out

@CreativeScots support the arts, screen & creative industries across Scotland. As well as a helpful resource for funding and reports, the ‘Creative Scotland Opportunities’ page is where you can find and promote any role or position for free – sign up for a regular newsletter that helps keep you in the loop.

Business Gateway offers practical help for new and growing businesses. Online resources, tailored advice, workshops, events and business development programmes. Not sure if they can help you? Just ask!

Check out the Creative Rebels podcast – inspiring interviews with creative people who have rebelled against the 9-5 (and advice on how you can too). Hosted by David Speed and Adam Brazier, co-founders of Graffiti Life & Parlour Tattoo.

Scotland’s first Impact Hub serving the Highlands and Islands offer a flexible co-working space in the heart of Inverness. It brings together lone workers, to combat social isolation and encourage social entrepreneurship. A space to work and to connect with like minded individuals and organisations. Rent a desk for an hour, a day, a week, a month. Book a meeting room, join for coffee or a networking event.

With thanks to all the contributors and the University of the Highlands and Islands Careers and Employability Centre and the webteam for producing the #FreelanceFeb campaign.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Careers and Employability Centre offers all students and graduates support with personalised careers advice and support with skills development. Book at appointment via Future Me

Check out the list of Creative Programmes on offer to study at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Feel free to share your own advice and tips in the comments

Reference: Creative Industries Federation website accessed on 28/02/20


Video is everywhere – top tips for video production

Video has become one of the primary methods of communication in our society. Not exclusive to film, TV, music or advertisement, but for everyone and pretty much everything we do, video is a part of it. With services like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, coupled with the fact that almost everyone has a device in their pocket allowing them to communicate with almost anyone, anywhere, at any time, this is more prevalent than ever. I am, of course, talking about mobile phones. Modern day mobile phones are seriously powerful devices that are portable and part of that power comes in its camera technology. This puts video at the fingertips of everyone.

In this article I will be giving some general advice on equipment considerations for video production.


Before we get into the crux of the matter, I would like to give a special mention to planning.filming-4371566_1920 Planning is, in my opinion, the most important part of video production or film making. One might think that the actual film content is paramount, but I would argue otherwise. How are you going to film anything if you don’t know what, where or how you are going to film?

Without an idea of what to expect on a shoot comes a great increase in the possibility for things to go wrong. Often you only have one chance to get what you need so you should be prepared. Create a shot list, have a rough storyboard and write an itinerary to keep yourself on track. Thinking about these things before going out on a shoot will help you greatly and make for a smoother more productive video shoot.


camera-1701049_1920The first thing everyone is thinking is probably, ‘I need a camera’. I would agree, you absolutely need a camera. Which camera though, is possibly the more important question.

My answer, which has always been my answer, is use whatever you have at your disposal. It would be fabulous if we could all get Red Epics or Arri Alexas, proper cinema quality cameras. Unfortunately, those are extremely expensive cameras and not everyone can afford to use these. I take the view that if you want to create then you should, don’t let the fact that you don’t have the best or latest equipment inhibit that. Create if you want to create.

There is one thing that people can use that they probably already have on their persons smartphones-4746601_1920right now: a mobile phone. Mobile phone technology has leapt forward in the last ten years and part of that is advances in camera sensor and lens technology. I believe that the camera in most current mobile phones will produce a better picture than dedicated camcorders would’ve produced ten or even five years ago. So don’t be afraid to use it. Just please film in landscape, there are some cases where portrait is appropriate to film in, but the majority of the time, landscape is king.

Really a camera and a microphone are the only things you need to create video content. The other equipment is secondary, it’s valuable and useful to have, but not necessary. A mobile phone covers both those so, if you have one, you are set to start creating video.

If you would like to step up your game, then there are a few other pieces of equipment you might want to consider investing in.

External microphones

MicFirstly, an external microphone. A mobile phone does have a microphone built in, but it is normally not of the best quality and often the camera won’t be placed right next to the subject, so it will be picking up a lot of other sounds in the vicinity as well as your subject. Getting a microphone that is a bit more directional like a label or clip mic will help with this. A clip mic is exactly that; a microphone that you can clip onto clothing. It brings the microphone closer to the subject speaking and is directional so will be better at picking up just their voice.

For more information of audio considerations, watch this video.


A tripod may also be a good addition to your equipment collection. Holding your camera in your hands comes with its own set of problems, stability being a big one. Even holding the camera close to your body and close to your own centre of gravity will still introduce some camera shake. Putting your phone on a tripod will remove this. You can get fairly low-cost tripods that have phone mount adaptors and which are lightweight.


light-4236089_1920The third and final equipment consideration I will talk about in this article is lighting. This is quite a dense topic, so I won’t go into detail about it. Just know that it is something to consider and you can get good information online about basic video lighting setups, the most common one being the three point lighting setup. This, as the name suggests, uses three lights to light a subject in a flattering manner. It is pretty much the base of most, if not all, lighting setups. Learning that will be a useful skill.

For more information on lighting, watch this video.

For more information on equipment considerations, watch this video.

In summary, all you need is a camera and a microphone to make video. Your mobile phone is more than good enough, but if you want to step up your video production game, then think about investing a little into some equipment to aid your video journey.



Llewelyn Bailey

Web Officer

University of the Highlands and Islands


The University of the Highlands and Islands offers a range of courses with links to video production skills, including BSc (Hons) in interactive media and a BA (Hons) in contemporary film making in the Highlands and Islands. To find out more about our courses, visit

Student volunteering week: Why volunteering is good for you and your community!

There are lots of reasons why volunteering is a great thing to do and there are many ways you can become a volunteer! As part of Student Volunteering Week 2020, some of our student have shared their experiences and thoughts on the benefits of volunteering.

Holly Young

MSc archaeological practice at Orkney College UHI

ArchWhat do you do as a volunteer?

My experience of volunteering at the university has been mainly with excavations during the summer as well as some finds processing during the semester. This mostly took place throughout the time I spent doing my undergraduate degree. I got the opportunity to take part in several seasons of volunteering at the Cairns, the Ness of Brodgar and as part of the Yesnaby Art and Archaeology Research Project. Along with these, I got the opportunity to engage with the local community through the Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I was inspired to volunteer within the archaeology department originally as a way to support my studies and help me develop my skills for a possible career within the profession. However, the more opportunities I got to be involved, it became more of a labour of love and I selfishly began doing it much more for my own enjoyment than any other reason.

What are the benefits to you and your community of volunteering?

The opportunity to gain new skills or develop those which you already possess. Volunteering also helps to integrate you into the community of your university department as well as with the local community at large which was a great help given that I had move so far to be here in 2012 and at 17 years old I found it hard to be confident within my university surrounding. Simply put, it’s a great way to make friends and develop new connections.

What do you gain from it?

It sounds cheesy, but volunteering played a huge role in me finding a community that I felt comfortable in. One which I found myself drawn back to when I had finished my undergraduate degree which is why I ended up moving back to Orkney to do a masters. I also gained a great number of friends as well as a great group of archaeologists with a fantastic range of skills willing to support me and help me grow my skill set.

Why should other students try it too?

It’s a great way to learn new skills and support your studies. It also helps to build your confidence and find people who share similar passions as you.

Stephen Simpson

Pathway to Hospitality at Moray College UHI

Baillie Gifford Caledonian Challenge 2013What do you do as a volunteer?

I’ve volunteered at my local farm for four and a half years. I do a range of farm work varying from taking horses to local agricultural shows to mucking out stables.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I knew I would widen my knowledge and would be doing a good thing by helping others.

What are the benefits to you and your community?

At the end of the day I know I’ve done something good. The benefit to others is that they don’t have to pay wages and make themselves be put in a financially difficult situation.

What do you gain from it?

Experience, knowledge and building my self-confidence.

Why should other students try it?

It helps to widen your knowledge of many different things and builds self-confidence. The main thing is that you’re doing something good to help others!

Susan Dyke

Archaeology at Orkney College UHI

Susan_DykeWhat inspired you to volunteer?

My interest in archaeology inspired me to volunteer with the Archaeology Institute at Orkney College UHI.

What do you do as a volunteer?

I volunteered for around 10 months before my archaeology studies began and started off helping with post-excavation ‘finds processing’. The work involved carefully cleaning finds from previous years’ excavations, then packing them for storage or further analysis. This gave me invaluable experience learning to identify finds and I also learned something of the sites they came from. When I came to help excavate my first site in Orkney, I was able to recognise finds as we unearthed them, knew something of how to treat them and a little of what their discovery revealed about the site. That first dig was also undertaken as a volunteer!

Further volunteering experiences included another excavation – the Viking/ Norse/ Medieval Skaill Farm site on the island of Rousay – and field walking, measured survey, archive research, cataloguing of finds and participation in workshops with the Archaeology Institute.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

My volunteer experience has helped deepen and broaden my archaeological knowledge and skills and has hugely benefitted my studies, so much so that I’ve been able to secure a bursary to allow me to undertake project work developing my palynology experience.

The benefits of volunteering have not only been academic, I’ve volunteered alongside many interesting people of all ages from across the Orkney community, we’ve traded experiences and stories, learned much from each other and had a lot of fun.

One of my favourite excavation memories of 2018 was swimming in my lunch hour at both The Cairns and Skaill Farm and being joined by seals both times!

Why should other students try it?

There are so many varied opportunities supported by enthusiastic and encouraging staff – it makes a great student experience at the University of the Highlands and Islands even better!

Kath Darley

BA (Hons) politics and criminology at Moray College UHI

Kath_DarleyWhat do you do as a volunteer?

I’m a student ambassador and volunteer in helping with things like induction days and S3 taster days.

Outside of college, I volunteer as a leader in a children’s holiday club with my church every summer and help out with church events. I’m also the secretary of my Lawn Bowls Club.

What inspired you to volunteer?

One of my lecturers recommended being a student ambassador and, as someone with supported learning needs, it seemed like an opportunity to grow in confidence, acquire and apply new skills and give something back to the college and staff who have supported me so well.

I volunteer at my church as it’s an important aspect of my faith and something I enjoy doing.

I’m inspired to volunteer at my Lawn Bowls Club as this enables me to contribute to a community I am part of and supports the running of the club.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

Volunteering gives me growing confidence and experience, plus skills that I can use in my CV when I go job hunting that will hopefully make me stand out more and improve my chances of success.

The things I do benefit the community as they are very much ‘service’ roles and often mean the workload is shared and the community have confidence that their needs will be met and in a professional and compassionate manner.

What do you gain from it?

Personal development and growth. My roles provide me with an opportunity to push myself and when I succeed my confidence is boosted. When things don’t go quite so well, I am given the opportunity to reflect and consider how to improve in future.

Why should other students try volunteering?

Volunteering is an opportunity to increase personal development, use existing skills and develop new ones. It can enable you to be a part of a community, gain new friends, create contacts and networks. I get a great sense of achievement from it, so others might too. And, of course, it can be added to your CV, hopefully making you stand out from the crowd when it comes to job seeking!

Bob Carchrie

BA (Hons) archaeology at Perth College UHI

Bob_DavidsonWhat do you do as a volunteer?

I mainly work on archaeology digs with some other heritage associated work such as helping run events and workshops.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I volunteered on a local community archaeology dig on a hillfort near where I live. I saw a poster looking for volunteers and applied, I’ve had a lifelong interest in archaeology and had just left a long-term career and was looking for a change.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

It was great for both mental and physical health. I met lots of new people and made a positive contribution to my local community which has continued beyond the end of the original project.

What do you gain from it?

I found a new vocation and, with the experience I gained, was accepted to do a degree at the University of the Highlands and Islands. It had a huge impact on my wellbeing and I finally found my tribe!

Should other students try it too?

Absolutely, particularly in archaeology as it’s vital to get out there and get involved in digs to boost your skill set, meet new people and build a network.

Jacqueline Johnstone

BSc (Hons) environmental science at the North Highland College UHI

Jacqueline_JohnstoneWhat did you do as a volunteer?

I assisted a hydro chemist in water analysis over the summer. I worked on peatland restoration as well as commercial work.

I have been helping with a paper on nutrient release from peatland undergoing restoration, which was formerly afforested with pine and spruce trees.

I have also taken part in the university’s Future Me programme where I was assigned a mentor in the industry. I was invited to Cairngorm National Park to see the careers available in my field.

What inspired you to volunteer?

The flow country is a site of global significance currently under consideration for UNESCO World Heritage site status. Peatlands are a carbon store and hold 30% of the soil carbon in the world. This contributes to conserving carbon below the ground aiding in slowing down climate change.

It is also beneficial to network and gain experience in your field. The people you meet help you decide what path to follow in your chosen career.

What did you gain from volunteering?

Peatlands are home to many different organisms and species which need to be preserved for future generations. They minimise flood risk and can help mitigate climate change. I feel it is my responsibility as a student of environmental science to contribute towards the preservation of our environment.

I have gained invaluable experience in peatland science and feel I have contributed to helping preserve my surroundings.

Future Me helps with deciding what area you would like to follow in your career. Your mentor can help with any questions you have on your chosen degree or course, expanding your knowledge.

Why should other students try volunteering?

If you help a person in your field of work, you gain experience for your CV and your future career. That person can guide you and introduce you to others in your career field. Your knowledge of that field will increase making a better understanding of the subject.

Spencer Manclark

SCQF level 5 built environment at Moray College UHI

GuitarWhat do you do as a volunteer?

I volunteer with the army welfare service, mainly as a guitar tutor for children between the ages of 7 and 12, but I’m also on call in case there are staff shortages with any other youth groups.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I wanted to teach young people guitar as it’s a skill that not many people want to achieve and I wanted to bring back that skill in the community.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

I not only have something to do, but it also gives other people a chance to meet new people and socialise with people of different backgrounds. As I am with the army welfare service, we are helping children and young people who may be anxious or depressed with a parent or someone they love going away with the army. We help the children interact with different activities and socialise with different people and try and help them through the process.

What do you gain from it?

I gain a very big sense of achievement as I am helping children and young people do something that they might end up wanting to carry on with.

Why should other students try it too?

It’s really fulfilling to do something productive with your time. Rather than sit at home playing Xbox, you could be out shaping kids with a skill you’ve got or helping people who are at risk and that is such a great feeling to have.

Looking to volunteer?

The university’s Career Centre can help you prepare, get involved and find opportunities. Check out the Job Shop or book an appointment to chat with us, simply log in to Future Me using your normal student username and password.

Student Volunteering Week 2020 takes place from Monday 10 to Sunday 16 February. The week encourages and celebrates student volunteering across UK colleges and universities. For more information on student volunteering, visit  

e-bike smiles – exploring how e-bikes may support people affected by cancer

Across the world the incidence of cancer continues to rise and will affect the lives of one in three people. The good news is that an increasing number of people are surviving their cancer in the UK. In 2019, this equated to 2.6 million people. Unfortunately for many this means that after receiving cancer treatments they are left with health problems such as extreme tiredness, mental health issues, lack of confidence and problems with mobility to name but a few.

The number of people surviving cancer is an excellent reflection on how treatable cancers have become. However, developing effective interventions and self-management programmes to support people to improve their health and wellbeing during and after cancer treatments is a priority within cancer care.

CaptureThe shifting paradigm within cancer care in the 21st century is one that is now striving to understand and meet the needs of an increasing population of people surviving their cancer diagnosis, but whose lives are affected by immediate and late complications of anti-cancer therapies. Effective solutions are required to help enable people with cancer to adopt self-management behaviour habits which enhance their recovery. A shift in approach to care which focuses on recovery, health and wellbeing is a priority.

I am really interested in how we integrate everyday recreational activities into cancer care from diagnosis. There has been an emphasis on effective ways to increase the physical activities of people affected by cancer which is commendable and improves symptom burden, wellbeing and may in fact reduce recurrence in some cancers.

I love my job. My favourite part is listening to the stories of people wiStockphoto Imagesho have been affected by cancer. It is a real privilege. It was listening to stories that inspired my PhD. After having had bone marrow transplants, people who were really unwell, would tell me of how their family or friends would drive them to their favourite places – be that a beach, the woods, a car park with a view. Even if they were too weak to get out, they could just look at nature, wind down the window and feel the wind on their face. They felt that it helped them put their experiences into perspective and helped them mentally to undertake the work required to get well again.

To this end then, I became interested in how nature is or could be used in health care to improve peoples’ health and wellbeing.

Frumkin (2013) advocates that “nature interactions are widely available and inexpensive; they don’t need to be prescribed or dispensed by highly trained professionals; they are easily personalized according to age, ability, and cultural preference; they inflict few adverse effects; and they offer numerous co-benefits -claims, by the way, that few medical treatments can make. This field deserves far more research attention than it has had.”

Therefore, what do we have in abundance in Highlands?

Natural environments – from sweeping mountains, turbulent seas, golden beaches, meandering rivers to majestic woodlands.

Loch Morlich in the Cairngorm National Park, Scotland

What if there are numerous psychological, physical and physiological benefits to people affected by cancer journeying through our landscapes? Could a nature-based intervention be woven through clinical care which improves people’s adjustment through cancer and their health?

We know that nature appears to provide people affected with cancer with familiar and contemplative spaces where they can develop new emerging perspectives, caring connections (with themselves and others) and enabling spaces to find their way through clinical and personal significances of their cancer. After many conversations with people affected by cancer in my clinical work, the use of electrically assisted bikes seemed to be increasingly popular for helping people keep active, yes, but also to have micro-adventures on.

Inverness College Campus building photoshoot, November 2015Cycling is one form of mobility which promotes exercise and access to the outdoors and could support improved health and wellbeing. E-bikes offer the opportunity to people who may not be regular cyclists or who have health issues to undertake moderate levels of physical activity to improve their health and wellbeing.

Social media is full of stories of people who may or may not have been active cyclists who have transitioned to an electrically assisted bike which has enabled them to increase their confidence, maintain their social circles, keep moving, travel further and, most importantly, have fun. A new term seems to have been coined: “e-bike smiles!”

Electrically assisted bikes look just like regular bikes but have the benefit of a motor which can be used when the rider is tired or going up steeper terrain – but you have to keep turning the pedals! The top speed is legally capped at 22km per hour so it’s not a motorbike in disguise!

Picture1 copyMy PhD is exploring experiences and the potential wellbeing of people affected by cancer as they undertake nature-based journeys on electrically assisted mountain bikes. My emphasis is on the journeys through natural environs and the potential benefits these may proffer, rather than the physical activity of riding a bike. I will be capturing people’s experiences (by video and journals) in the Cairngorms National Park as it offers a wide array of natural environs and it may help to understand whether green or blue spaces have a greater impact on people.

To sum things up, an inspirational friend who has helped me to realise the potential of using electrically assisted mountain bikes, states simply: “Having biked for years and then being diagnosed with Myeloma (a blood cancer), I never thought I’d get the level of confidence, freedom and fun back, but having an ebike has proved this wrong.”

20191211_150753 (003)

Chrissie Lane

Consultant Nurse, Cancer Care, NHS Highland and University of the Highlands and Islands PhD student


Twitter: @nhshcancercare

New Year – New You?

01janEvery year in January people set resolutions. They plan to eat better, exercise more, get fitter or thinner or stronger.

By February, most people have lost momentum on their resolutions. There are many reasons why this may be the case and many blogs on how to set resolutions and stick to them.

This post is a little different – we are here to ask you to NOT set grand resolutions or plan to completely change your habits. Instead we are going to set out the case for doing something so simple absolutely everyone can do it.

Commit to having a walk.

That’s it.

Physical activity

Physical activity is essential for good health. We are designed to move, yet society has evolved so that overtime we spend a large portion of our days being sedentary. If you are reading this blog, chances are you are either working or studying at university or thinking about doing so in the future. Academic work often involves long periods of sitting – in lecture theatres, in seminars, in libraries or at desks (though this will vary by discipline). Simply by breaking up your day, standing up and moving around a little, and adding in a short walk, you can make a difference to your health.

Being more active can significantly reduce the chance (by up to 60%) of having to live with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It promotes mental health and wellbeing, improves mood and sleep quality and reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue. An active break from work or study can help you feel more alert and improve concentration.

Walk1Why walking?

Walking is something almost everyone can do. You don’t need to go to a special location or buy special equipment or the latest running shoes. Evidence shows that walking can provide as many health benefits as running the same distance.

It doesn’t have to be a long walk – research shows that a 15-minute walk immediately after eating was more effective at reducing diabetes risk than a single 45-minute daily walk.

Walking is something that can be done alone or with friends or family. It can be done as a walk for pleasure or as active commuting. It can reduce social isolation, improve health and combat climate change.

This simplicity makes it easy to incorporate into your existing daily routine. And, no matter how much you want to change that routine, it’s in existence because it fits your life and your daily tasks currently. It is far easier to make changes by adding something small and gradually increasing it, than it is to completely overhaul a routine.

The plan

TrainersStep 1 – Think about what you currently do, your daily routines and decide where you can add in some walking.

Step 2 – Set goals that make sense for you, and that you are confident (rating at least 9 on a 10-point scale) you can achieve most days.

Step 3 – Identify some cues to trigger walking towards your goals.

Step 4 – Some people find it motivating to keep a record of when they have met their goals. But most importantly, enjoy your walk(s).

If you are doing this consistently (at least 70-80% of the time) you can repeat this process as many times as you like to add in another walk, or a longer walk, or some other form of exercise.

That’s it.

It may not seem like much, but by taking this simple step, you are well on your way to reaping the benefits of moving more and sitting less.



Ronie Walters, PhD researcher, health literacy and behaviour change in cardiovascular patients

Trish Gorely, Professor, physical activity for health (pictured)

Department of Nursing and Midwifery

University of the Highlands and Islands


Images from




A 20 20 music vision | A look head to the exciting music coming from the Highlands and Islands

Fresh from the sounds and cheers for all the winners at this year’s Trad Music Awards, we begin to turn our attention to who is next, and what to watch out for in 2020.

So, who are the acts and artists to check out?    

Recognising musical taste is so varied and individual and rather than limiting our predictions to one single musician, we have enlisted the help of music influencers, experts and artists to reveal their new artists we should discover and to chat about future trends.

BBC Introducing

Calum Jones

Whilst studying on the BA (Hons) applied music, Calum Jones has been working hard developing a professional performing and recording career.  He was featured on BBC Introducing November 2019 and has this year achieved 300 global radio plays and 40K streams on Spotify played on 73 different countries.  He has been working with Alex Davies who has produced for bands including Scouting for Girls, Sigrid etc.  Calum was a finalist at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Award Up and Coming artist category with Calum Jones and the Trad ProjectHis festival performances this year included Eden Festival, Belladrum and the Gathering.

Calum is set to have a new single out every month next year (2020) from 10 January until September, when he will release his album.  Mike Curtis (producer for Suzi Quatro’s latest album) will be co-producing along with Calum.

First solo album

At the moment Liam Ross is an unsigned solo artist.  His first album is eagerly anticipated next year.  Having had an early listen, it is packed full of original material.

Liam Ross
Liam Ross Credit: Liam Ross facebook


He recently graduated from the University of the Highlands and Islands BA (hons) applied music degree and the MA in music and the environment. His reputation as a dynamic and versatile performer continues to grow. This first release has a wonderful specific connection to place and a unique sound created through Liam’s hard work in developing his fingerpicking style.


Crowd pleasing

Lewis McLaughlin and Friends enthralled the audience at Celtic Connections on Campus in 2019 with their assured performance of songs and tunes, clearly working from the tradition but adding their own contemporary edge.

Lewis McLaughlin and FriendsCredit:

I also had the pleasure of playing with Lewis again with his friends at a session at Perthshire Amber and was encouraged by their enthusiasm to embrace session culture. Lewis is a talented multi-instrumentalist and very amiable guy who is no doubt someone to watch out for. Lewis McLaughlin is a former student at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

International touch 

Battle of the Folk Bands 2018 winners Eabhal have quickly gathered the reputation as a high energy act equally at both festivals and theatres.

Eabhal Credit:

This emerging Scottish band has released their debut album and has been touring in the UK, USA and China. Selected to represent the British Council and PRS Music Foundation in China they have quickly developed their distinctive sound since their graduation from their applied music degree


Radio 1 play

Keir Gibson from Fort William is a young artist that’s really starting to attract interest from the industry.

His artistic growth has been great to watch and he’s really developing his craft, emerging as a strong, coherent and genuinely individualistic voice.

Keir Gibson credit FB page
Keir Gibson Credit: Keir Gibson facebook


He has a great team working with him to create the right infrastructure to progress to the next level and I’m excited to see what milestones he goes on to achieve in 2020. Above his musical talent, his work ethic is excellent.  For me he looks set to make a real impact next year.


  • Alex Smith, project manager for XpoNorth which returns on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 June 2020

Grand grads

We have had so many fantastic bands and songwriters come through our courses over the years, the breadth of musical talent we see on our campuses is exceptional.

Fourth Daughter is the name given to the creative output of BA (Hons) popular music graduate, Emily Atkinson, whose single ‘Time to Spare’ came out earlier this year and has been all over BBC Music Introducing since.

Emily’s work combines brilliant songwriting, exceptional vocal delivery and highly polished synth-driven pop production. Her music is getting attention as far afield as Japan, where her tracks are being used on hit TV shows. Nearer to home, Scotland on Sunday hailed Fourth Daughter as “an accomplished slice of electropop”.

Domiciles are a very different affair, showcasing some fantastic anti-pop that has echoes of Scottish post-rock legends, Mogwai. Their record, ‘This is Not a Zen Garden’, came out in August and was produced by the university’s sound engineering lecturer, Magnus Collie. The band, which features former popular music and sound engineering students, Jamie Wilde, Nick Young, Rory Cowieson and Sean Harkins, recently signed a deal with LNFG Records and have been championed by the likes of BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq and The Skinny. Louder than War also named their first LP one of the top 50 albums of 2019.

Sounds from the University of the Highlands and Islands

The university’s music scene is varied and is thriving across the Highland and Islands and beyond, with the artists highlighted here only the tip of the iceberg.

Thinking about a future in the music industry?

The University of the Highlands and Islands can help you find a path that’s perfect for you. Visit us at to apply for courses starting in January or September 2020.

#thinkuhi #studymusic



International Mountain Day – World records and biosphere reserves

Professor Martin Price

Today is International Mountain Day. It’s a day to celebrate what is special about mountain people and the places they live in – and which millions of us visit.

It is a special day for me, as my professional life has focused particularly on mountain areas and, in 2002, the International Year of Mountains, I was involved in drafting the resolution in the UN General Assembly which led to the declaration of International Mountain Day every 11th of December since then.

This year, I had the honour of being asked to advise Guinness World Records about some of the superlatives of mountain areas – such as the highest mountain (which depends on where you measure from), the longest mountain range (which depends on whether you only look on land or under the sea) and the fastest rising mountain (Nanga Parbat in Pakistan). You can find the answers in the new book, ready in time for Christmas, or look online. The Centre for Mountain Studies is now recognised as a partner of Guinness World Records!

Beinn Eighe – Iain Turnbull Photography

Closer to home, there is a meeting at Inverness College UHI today to explore the partnership between the University of the Highlands and Islands and the Wester Ross Biosphere. This is one of 701 biosphere reserves in 124 countries designated by UNESCO – over half are in mountain areas.  Biosphere reserves are designated because the people who live in them want to have international recognition for their special places, with a strong identity, and to work together to find ways to move towards sustainable development at the regional scale.



Ann Hoffman

Each biosphere reserve should have a partnership with its local university, providing opportunities for university staff and students to undertake research which is relevant for the people living in the reserve and the environment they live in. The University of the Highlands and Islands is already doing a range of research and is involved in various projects in Wester Ross Biosphere:

Today, we hope to identify more opportunities that will contribute to the implementation of the Wester Ross Biosphere’s five-year strategic plan and its aim of bringing people together to work towards the sustainable development of this special area – for today’s and future generations.

Professor Martin Price, Director of the Centre for Mountain Studies at Perth College UHI and Chairholder, UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Mountain Development

Ben More Coigach – Ann Hoffman

Andrew the Apostle

Andrew the Apostle, the Patron Saint of Scotland

Ahead of St. Andrews Day on 30 November, Professor Donna Heddle, Director of the University of the Highlands and Islands Institute for Northern Studies gives us the lowdown on Scotland’s patron saint.

Who was he?

The name Andrew is Greek meaning “manly” and was popular across the Near East. The New Testament (Luke 6: 14) tells us that Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter.  He was born in the village of Bethsaida and, along with his brother, was a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, giving rise to the tradition that Jesus called them as disciples by saying that he would make them “fishers of men” (Matt 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20).

Andrew, the first called, was clearly an elder stateman among the apostles – he appears on many important occasions such as the Last Supper. For example and very fittingly, it is Andrew who tells Jesus about the boy with the loaves and fishes (John 6:8), and when Philip wanted to tell Jesus about certain Greeks searching for Him (John 12:20-22)., he consulted Andrew first.

St. Andrew’s cross

Andrew is believed to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras in Achaea, on the northern coast of the Peloponnese. Andrew is depicted as bound, not nailed, to the same kind of cross on which Jesus was crucified in early texts, such as the Acts of Andrew known to Gregory of Tours. The prevailing tradition today is that he was crucified, by his own request as not worthy of the same fate as Jesus, on an X-shaped cross, or “saltire” (crux decussata).

Where is he buried?

Andrew’s remains were kept in the first instance at the Basilica of St Andrew in Patras, Greece. Most of his remains were removed from Patras to Constantinople in circa 357 at the instigation of the Roman emperor Constantius II and placed in the Church of the Holy Apostles. From there, relics of Andrew travelled the world and you can find them now in the Duomo di Sant’Andrea, Amalfi, Italy; St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland; and the Church of St Andrew and St Albert, Warsaw, Poland. There are also numerous smaller reliquaries throughout the world.

Andrew in Scotland

Traditional sources tell us that a monk in Patras, St Regulus or Rule, had a dream in which he was told to take the relics of Andrew to the ends of the earth. St. Regulus set sail, taking with him a kneecap, an upper arm bone, three fingers and a tooth. He sailed west as far as he could and was shipwrecked on the coast of Fife where St Andrews was founded. In reality, it is likely that they came to Britain in 597 as part of the Augustine Mission, and then in 732 to Fife, by Bishop Acca of Hexham. The great church of St Andrews was erected on a site previously dedicated to St Regulus so that may be where the connection comes from.

Andrew becomes our patron saint

Andrew became our patron saint, sources such as Bower’s Scotichronicon tell us, in 832 AD when Óengus II (Angus mac Fergus) led an army of Picts and Scots into battle against the Angles led by Æthelstan near modern-day Athelstaneford in East Lothian. Óengus was very much outnumbered and on the back foot so the night before the battle he prayed to St Andrew, who was a very senior figure in Christian belief. and swore that he would make Andrew the patron saint of Scotland if he won the battle next day. It was said that, on the morning of the battle, white clouds formed a St Andrew’s cross or Saltire in the sky and this sign emboldened the Scottish forces to victory and Óengus duly credited the victory and gave the role of patron saint to Andrew. Our flag, which may well be the oldest national flag in the world, represents the white saltire against the blue sky – and so should never be navy blue! Many flags throughout history contain the St Andrew’s cross  – the Confederate flag and that of Jamaica, for example.

Anything else to know?

Andrew is clearly a top class patron saint and in demand. He is the patron saint of several countries –  Barbados, Romania, Russia, Scotland and Ukraine –  and of several cities including many in Spain, Amalfi in Italy, Esgueira in Portugal, Luqa in Malta, Parañaque in the Philippines and of course Patras in Greece.

His brother Peter is considered the founder of the Church of Rome but Andrew is considered the founder of Church of Byzantium and is therefore the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

And finally

If you would like to find out more about Scotland, why not join us on the brand new MLitt Scottish Heritage at the University of the Highlands and Islands, led by Donna, which you can study from anywhere in the world!

Donna’s research interests are Scottish and Northern Isles cultural history, renaissance language and literature, and cultural tourism.


Where is the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest reverb held? Izumo, Ipswich, Istanbul or Invergordon?

Concealed in a disused oil depot at Invergordon, a town and port in Easter Ross, is the Inchindown oil tanks. Between 1938 and 1941 provision for the bomb proof storage of furnace fuel oil for British warships was made with the excavation from the solid rock of the nearby Kinrive hill to create the Inchindown admiralty underground oil storage depot – a series of six underground tanks and access tunnels. The site was closed in 2002, decommissioned thereafter, and is now in private ownership.

In 2014 the remarkable sonic properties of the tanks attracted interest from acoustic engineering professor Trevor Cox, who fired a blank pistol and measured the reverberation as 1 minute and 52 seconds (112 seconds).  Bettering the existing Guinness World Record previously held by the Hamilton Mausoleum by a gigantic 97 seconds for the longest reverberation in any man-made structure.

A reverberation is a familiar concept to those working with sound, not to be confused with the more commonly known concept of an echo.  A reverb is in fact the result of overlapping multiple echoes as sound waves bounce back off the surfaces met.

Programme leader, Simon Bradley describes his motivation to include a visit to this site in a recent student residency.

Inspiring sound exploration 

What really excites me about leading the MA Music and the Environment course is providing students with stimulating and thought-provoking environments as a central element of learning. The Highlands and Islands is rich in sources of inspiration that can be drawn upon from study of its environment, culture and historical context.

I was introduced to this unique local record holding site, Inchindown oil tanks, by a recent graduate of mine Liam Ross and was immediately intrigued. Liam is a local musician from Invergordon and had incorporated the sonic properties of the site in his final master project.

Our visit to the site had an immediately powerful impact on everyone involved; staff, students and our film-making tour guide. It was a perfect location to start this year’s academic journey and has furnished us with material for future projects, musical compositions and collaborations.

What follows is a collection of accounts from those that took part in the sonic material experiments and recordings.

Picture 1 (L-R) Stephen Bull, Liam Ross, Martin Gilligan, Peter Noble, Anthony Cowie, Simon Bradley

Sound mining at the world’s longest reverb

Anthony Cowie, MA Music and the Environment student
Accessing the tanks is not for the claustrophobic or faint-of-hearted!  Entrance is only by arrangement as health and safety briefing is essential. Given the prior contents of the tanks, it is necessary to come prepared and we were each wearing protective disposable overalls and sturdy boots to deal with the residue from the remnants of oil.

To gain entry to the interior of one of the tanks we had quite a journey. We walked the 365m length of the access tunnel before being presented with the next stage. Even before being fully inside the tank, the tunnels that lead from outside down to the entrance pipe already make for a ‘sonic miasma’ seldom experienced in everyday life – the slightest noise or disturbance echoing incessantly as one moves through the dark.

The only way into the tanks is via a trolley, on which prospective visitors lie flat, with their arms extended above the head in order to minimise the body width as the trolley (with are you are lying flat on) is pushed  through an eighteen inch pipe which takes you through the wall of the tank.

It felt like we were being loaded and fired like human torpedoes through the wall. Once in the tank we were able to stand, and after my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, I could begin to get a sense of the vastness of the chamber of the tank.

Our filmmaking tour guide Simon, had brought along some blank rounds to fire in the tank, allowing us to experience the sound of the world record. It was still 112 seconds. The duration is unbelievable. We turned off our headtorches and extinguished the working lights and waited for the sound.

When the shot rang out, there was the initial fast attack of the noise, and roughly a third of a second later it could be heard rebounding off the far wall. There then followed a rolling wash of frequencies that seemed to fall overhead in wave after wave. Personally, I found the extent of what I was experiencing so intense that it elicited an equally physical experience. I could sense my balance shifting as I waited for the sound to die down and became unsteady on my feet. This was sound in its’ most transcendent form, and as we took a moment to gather our thoughts in the final silence the childlike glee in me shouted, ‘Again!’ I can’t wait to go back.”

Peter Noble, MA Music and the Environment lecturer
I am based at the Alness campus which is four miles from the Inchindown tunnel.  I am continually fascinated by the local landscape of where I live and work in the Highlands and Islands.  To experience the entombment within this environment even for a short time was a very inspiring experience.

Picture 2 – collecting sonic samples

We recorded the sound experience.  I later simulated the reverb of the tunnel space and used this to develop a song with two musicians based in other areas. I am looking forward to cultivating a unique collaborative networked performance using the results.

Amazing grace

The group was accompanied by filmmaker Simon Riddell, who was moved to include a recording of the team singing in his new feature length documentary about this fascinating place.

Simon was taught to shoot film and embrace adventure by his father. He explains why he chose to include the Amazing Grace clip.

 As soon as I heard the guys perform in the tank, I thought that the audio would be a very fitting way to close the documentary. The atmospherics of the tanks sound great! This song was close to dad’s heart and mine also. He was a preacher and I have dedicated the film to him.

See for yourself

Hosted by FLOW Photofest and the University of the Highland and Islands, Simon’s film debuts at an event hosted by Inverness College UHI on Wednesday 6 November 2019, 7pm. This will be an excellent opportunity to talk to the authors in a special questions and answers session.

Picture 3 – filmmaker Simon Riddell

Tickets are free.  Book here

There will be a second showing in Sligachan Hotel on the Isle of Skye on Thursday 7 November 2019, 6pm. Book here




Simon Bradley (@Uistsimon) is the programme leader of the MA Music and the Environment at the University of the Highlands and Islands. He is also a lecturer on the BA Applied Music course and is based at Lews Castle College UHI, Benbecula

To find out more about studying music at the University of the Highland and Islands visit the website. #thinkuhi



The elms are dead. Long live the elms!

Dr Euan Bowditch, a researcher at the Scottish School of Forestry at Inverness College UHI, considers the plight of the elm and highlights efforts to conserve, manage and restore populations of this iconic tree.

The elm. A tree synonymous with the Dutch elm disease and spoken about as if it has already faded into memory. Poor Dutch, forever tethered to one of the worse tree disease outbreaks in modern history and to this day remains a cautionary and sad tale for all that work with or appreciate trees.

Elm branch streaked with fungus

As it happens, the Dutch are not the cause of elm disease – or even the origin – but were the first to identify the causal agent of Dutch elm disease in the 1920s, as several phytopathologists (those who study plant disease) pinpointed the fungus Graphium ulmi (Ophiostoma ulmi). A few miles further east of the Netherlands in the Himalayas, we find the origin of the disease, which travelled across the vast continental distances to Europe, all the while hybridising and adapting to new conditions and species.


A mature skeletal elm which has succumbed to Dutch elm disease

Today, Dutch elm disease continues to travel, spreading into the heart of the Scottish Highlands and reaching more isolated populations nearly seventy years after the break out in the 1960s. In my experience, Dutch elm disease is often perceived as an absolute; an unrelenting disease that has vanquished the species and now remains dormant or waiting. The elm bark beetle (Scolytus scolytus), which carries the fungus, is dynamic and continues to hop across the landscape, driving deeper into remote areas of the Highlands. Equally, the elm tree is not a dormant or dead species, but alive; regenerating and even adapting in ways which are as of yet unknown.

Wych elm leaf

Although wych elm (Ulmus glabra) is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List (the only tree species in Europe to be on the list), the species is widely spread, but in smaller numbers and fragmented. Healthy trees and populations persist and survive, maybe the focus on elm and Dutch elm disease has been overshadowed by the advent of such diseases as ash dieback, needle blight and sudden oak death (Phytopthora ramorum), which has devastated plantations of larch all over Scotland. Trees are under constant threat; not just to disease, but events of extreme weather such as storms and drought that will weaken the tree and, in conjunction with disease, are capable of knocking swathes of forests down like dominoes across landscapes on a continental scale.


Almost a century on from the identification of the disease, we are still learning, experimenting and looking for better ways forward to conserve, manage and restore elm populations. Yesterday, ‘The Last Ent of Affric’, a mature surviving elm tree in the famous Glen has been named Scotland’s Tree of the Year. Hidden away in a remote spot, it has avoided Dutch elm disease and is a sole survivor of the ancient woodland in which elm would have been a key species.

Decorative milled elm with burr wood

So, revival is happening culturally perhaps; but what about ecologically, genetically and even economically? Elm is a beautiful decorative wood, with diverse uses; valued for its strength and water resistance, and once used for ship-building. Now, most elm is used for furniture, with burr wood especially prized.


Currently, the Wooded Landscapes Research Group at Inverness College UHI is undertaking work in partnership with the Woodland Trust to set-up pilot refuges for healthy elm populations and running a scoping study on DNA extraction techniques on healthy and Dutch elm disease infected elms, with the aim to identify resistant traits by comparing differentiation of DNA markers. Our hope is to gain some insights into potential resistance of elm and propose ways of restoring the lost populations, which would in turn restore rare native woodland habitats and the associated species.

Trees are so deeply embedded with our culture and folklore that we can take them for granted. According to Norse mythology, for example, Elba was the first woman created – from the wood of an elm tree – by the gods. Next time you are wondering around a wooded area, road verge, fields or any green area, try and spot an elm; the ancestors of the Ents will be watching.


Dr Euan Bowditch

Forestry and social-ecology researcher

The Scottish School of Forestry

Inverness College UHI