Overall this was an extremely useful course. The Estonian approach to interpretation is generally elegant and the use of sustainable materials taught me that I can seize the opportunity to consider similar pared down approaches in my own practice. Highlights of the trip for me (apart from all the wonderful food) were visiting the convent and the Russian Old Believers Praying House.
One major similarity between Lefkara and Ayrshire is that both places have a tradition of lace-making. Seeing how the Green Village project utilised the skills of older generations by incorporating traditional textiles and patterns into contemporary fashion was inspirational and could easily be transferred to Ayrshire, or indeed anywhere in Scotland. Ayrshire lace, houndstooth, tweed, tartan – any of these traditional patterns could be used to create contemporary fashion that will engage a younger generation. This model could also be reproduced in other areas, such as traditional crafts like willow-weaving.
Ultimately I think one of the biggest things I have taken from this trip is the chance to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the heritage sector with like minded individuals. It amazed me how many similarities there were between Scotland and Iceland. Since learning more about traditional building methods I am keen to look into ways to incorporate these crafts into the education programme and our new outdoor learning workshops. I think there is an opportunity to engage all age groups with traditional skills. It may not be quite as elaborate of a turf house in a beautiful farm in northern Iceland but I think it is worth a try!
Our guide was Velislava Chilingirova, who turned out not only to be eminently knowledgeable and unfailingly skilled at group management, but also patient, generous, warm, funny and full of life; in short, a terrific ambassador not only for Bulgaria but also for the programme. Through Velis’s vast network of contacts, we as a group were privileged to be treated to site and museum visits that covered the full spectrum of Bulgaria’s heritage, all the while learning from practitioners who enthusiastically shared their expertise and experience. In addition, Velis made special arrangements to visit places and people not on the original programme;