On the 19th & 20th June we were able to offer a free beginner’s black and white photography course, delivered by The Inverness Darkroom, as part of our ongoing heritage programme funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

This in depth two day training course was lead by photographer, artist and educator, Rachel Fermi and covered everything you need to know to get started taking black and photographs – while creatively exploring the past, present and future of the historic Midmills building renovation.

The four participants had access to Phase 2 while it’s undergoing renovations and started off making their own pinhole cameras – the very first type of camera used by artists and early photographers. Using these pinhole cameras, along with 35mm cameras, participants shot black and white photographs of architecture and creative still-lifes on site within the current Midmills building renovation – learning to process the pinhole images as they went, and get creative with lighting and composition. The second day was mostly spent in the darkroom, located within Inverness Creative Academy, were they learned how to develop the 35mm film and make black and white prints.

All materials and cameras were provided and no previous experience was necessary. We are delighted to share some of the work from participants Evija Laivina, Caitlin Prentice, Lisa Ross and Rachel Corr. Photos: all images are courtesy of Rachel Fermi, 2021

Programme supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund

introducing: granton station

Hear from Wasps Studios CEO Audrey Carlin about our new creative industries location, open now for freelancers, designers and social/cultural enterprises.

 

Granton Station is a £4.75m project led by City of Edinburgh Council to restore and adapt the B-listed former Granton Gas Works Railway Station, a landmark building that sits at the gateway to the Granton Waterfront Regeneration area.

Disused as a station since 1942, the new facility will deliver a 600m2 creative hub offering affordable, high quality workspaces, co-working desk spaces, a gallery/workshop space and meeting room provision, set in a newly landscaped public realm and outdoor events space.

As Scotland’s leading provider of creative spaces, Wasps is dedicated to supporting the creative economy. Join a community of a thousand artists and makers, and over eighty creative businesses and cultural charities already benefiting from Wasps’ 46 years of experience in operating creative workspaces. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to be part of a vibrant network of creatives, designers, photographers, social entrepreneurs, and cultural producers.

For more information, please email granton@waspsstudios.org.uk or call Wasps on 0131 202 7889 to speak with the Granton Station team.

On Friday 7th May 2021 pupils from Crown Primary School buried a time capsule at the former site of Inverness Royal Academy. We worked with the P7s over several months to share some of the building’s history and send messages 100 years into the future!

The time capsule contains a selection of objects chosen by the pupils as well as photographs and letters written to the future finders of the capsule with instructions to open it in 2121.  Crown Primary P7’s time capsule contains; a rainbow flag, a beano, a face mask, an old iPhone, a school jumper, Pokémon cards, coins, a £5 note and details of their favourite books, films and computer games.

Dawn Kane from Bancon Construction said: “The time capsule will be safely buried within the structure of the building and while we don’t know when it will be discovered, it’s now a special part of the project and the history of the building and Inverness.  Community engagement plays an important part of our company’s corporate social responsibility and we would like to thank Crown Primary School for their involvement, we hope the project has been a valuable learning experience for them.”

Pupils have learnt about the former Inverness Royal Academy’s past through a series of online meetings with Wasps’ Heritage Activity Officer, and have seen the other finds from the site, including school milk bottles and Latin homework, as well as had the opportunity to speak to a past pupils online who attended the school in the 1950s.

Alannah Dougherty (P7, Crown Primary School) said: ‘I really enjoyed hearing about what life used to be like and how its changed. I really enjoyed meeting the lady on Google Meet who used to go to Crown years ago – she was really surprised about what Crown looks like now on the inside! I think it’s a good idea to put photos in the time capsule because people will be able to compare and see how things have changed in the future. This means they will know the history of Crown which is really important!

‘It’s a good thing for the time capsule to happen – people will want to know and see what’s changed. In 100 years time I would like life to be Covid free, a greater sense of social justice and equality, life to be full of fun, for people to create new things like inventions and for people to have good imaginations to keep improving life in the future!’

Left to right: Erin Mullen, Alex McKean, Tehreen Ali (photos: Paul Campbell, 2021)

Programme supported by  The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Calum Maclean

In this 15 minute extract Calum explores our building’s site, proportions and highlights some of the fantastic exterior stonework.

You can watch the full talk here.

The Academy Street Townscape Heritage project and Inverness Creative Academy presented this illustrated talk from Inverness based conservation architect Calum Maclean on 11th June 2020. The talk focused on the architectural practice of Ross & Macbeth in Inverness and coincided with the launch of Calum’s new publication ‘The Architecture of Inverness’.

Alexander Ross is one of the most celebrated architects in the Highlands. During the Victorian period Inverness expanded dramatically and Ross was responsible for designing many of the most important streets and buildings in the city centre including Inverness Cathedral. In 1887 he entered into a long-running partnership with his then assistant Robert John Macbeth.

In this talk Calum explores two iconic Ross & Macbeth buildings; the Inverness Creative Academy at the Midmills campus (formally the home of Inverness Royal Academy) and the Rose Street Foundry/AI Welders building at 96 Academy Street.

Audrey Carlin, Chief Executive Officer at Wasps Studios, said: “This talk is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the long and colourful history of two of Inverness’ most iconic buildings. Wasps is thrilled to be bringing the ‘Midmills’ buildings back to life as Inverness Creative Academy, looking forward to a vibrant future as the Highlands’ first major creative hub.”

Cllr Jimmy Gray, Chairman of the Inverness Townscape Heritage Project, added: “Recently I have been doing a great deal of walking around Inverness Old Town centre and looking up at some of the beautiful buildings we have. I’d encourage others to do the same and this talk is a great opportunity to learn about the Rose Street Foundry and Midmills campus.”

Calum Maclean created the architectural practice MAAC Studio to encourage a wider appreciation of the beautiful historic architecture that is spread throughout the Highlands and his forthcoming book ‘The Architecture of Inverness‘ explores the extraordinary story of Inverness told through its architecture.”

Stuart MacKellar

On the 23rd July 2020, Wasps’ were delighted to present an illustrated online talk from Stuart MacKellar of LDN Architects. Stuart has overseen LDN’s role in delivering masterplan proposals for the former Midmills Campus as well as being lead architect for the Wasps development. As our building celebrates its 125th anniversary, since opening as Inverness Royal Academy in 1895, this talk takes you on a tour through the principal interior spaces and illustrate how they have changed over the years. Stuart also shares LDN’s approach to the development, the works that have taken place to date as well as the vision for the completed Inverness Creative Academy.

You can watch the full talk here.

“LDN Architects has been involved in the redevelopment of Midmills Campus since 2014. It is then with great privilege that we are now helping to deliver the final piece of the jigsaw by transforming the jewel in the crown that is the former Inverness Royal Academy, for Wasps Artists Studios. Having witnessed first-hand the effects that the initial phase of development has had on the Highlands’ creative community, we are set on ensuring that the second and final phase adds to what has already been achieved, whilst conserving one of Inverness’s finest architectural pieces. We look forward to sharing what we have learnt about the building’s past, it’s present state and our future vision in the upcoming talk hosted by Wasps.”  – Stuart MacKellar

Stuart MacKellar joined LDN Architects in 2015 and became a Partner at the start of 2018. Having grown up in the Highlands, Stuart then studied in Edinburgh and went on to spend time working for international architectural practices such as Foster + Partners before returning to Inverness. Now based in LDN’s Forres office, some of Stuart’s other ongoing projects include restoration works to Inverness Town House, a new community hub in Huntly and the Inverness Castle project.”

Get involved

On your daily walk take a look at the old buildings in your area. Try to spot any interesting or unusual architectural details, for example the size and shape of the windows, ornate railings or stone carvings. We’d love to see what you discover! You could sketch or take a photo of the building features you find.

Aimed at children between 7 – 12 years of age, it contains information and ideas for exploring the architectural heritage of Inverness. Try to spot any interesting or unusual architectural details, for example the size and shape of the windows, ornate railings or stone carvings. You could sketch or take a photo of the building features you find.

Online Resources

Use some of these websites to find out more information, there are interesting online maps & archive photographs.

Explore Academy Street – has a great interactive map that shows you some of the history behind the buildings on Academy Street in Inverness, including the Rose Street Foundry/AI Welders Building by Ross & Macbeth.

Inverness Creative Academy – this page on our website has more history about our building and Inverness Royal Academy including old school photographs.

National Library of Scotland – maps are great to see how an area has changed this website has old maps that you can explore and compare to present day maps.

Am Baile – has old photographs and sound recordings from right across the Highlands & Islands.

Our heritage programme is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund

 

Wasps was delighted to present a special exhibition of work in July 2021 from young people who had taken part in our Pathways project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. All participants have completed an Arts Award course accredited by Trinity College, London.

Over the 3 months prior, 44 P5 pupils from Crown Primary School, Inverness worked with artists Jen Smith and Sadie Stoddart to achieve their Discover Arts Award, while a group of young people aged 12–18 worked towards their Bronze Arts Award in our Saturday classes lead by artists Cat Meighan and Rachel Forbes.

The final Pathways exhibition ran from 27 – 30 July 2021 in the Gym Hall space and you can see some the young people with their work below. Congratulations to everyone who has taken part in Pathways, we were so proud to share your beautiful work.

Images: individual Arts Award Bronze level work display on the freestanding walls. Programme supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Children’s Art Classes

As part of Highland Council’s Summer of Hope programme, Inverness Creative Academy hosted a series of 12 free children’s workshops throughout July 2021 themed around nature and recycling. In response to the Covid-19 lockdowns, the emphasis was on collaborating, socialising and having fun. The workshops were led by local artist Sadie Stoddart and allowed the young people aged 6-8 and 9-12 to explore different art techniques such as printmaking with plants, mark-making with natural paintbrushes, junk bugs and much more. Sadie is one of our accredited Arts Award tutors and is passionate about finding inclusive ways of encouraging children and young people to engage with art.

Thanks to funding from Highland Council, we were able provide all the materials, a healthy fruit snack and juice during the sessions.

Donnie Macleod

Past pupil Donnie Macleod remembers his commute to school at Inverness Royal Academy. This footag was recorded during the 50th school reunion for the class of 1967 at Kingsmills, Inverness in 2017.

Peggy Mackintosh

The far reaching impact of Inverness Royal Academy which until the introduction of a comprehensive education system and local authority catchment areas in the 1960’s and 70’s, welcomed pupils from as far away as the islands of Barra, Uist and Harris. Many pupils boarded in Inverness and accommodation was provided in two hostels within the city (one for boys and one for girls) at Hedgefield House, Culduthel Road (named the Inverness Academy War Memorial Hostel), and also within Drummond Park House.

This meant the school had strong links with the Gaelic culture of the Highlands & Islands both through it’s students and staff. The short audio clip is from Peggy Mackintosh (known as Peggy MacLeod in school) from the isle of Raasay near Skye. Her father was the bootmaker on Raasay, and you’ll hear Peggy refer to herself as ‘Peggy Shoemaker’ in this clip.

Peggy came to the Academy in 1944 aged 12 and a half. She had only left Raasay once before to have her appendix removed in Broadford Hospital a few months prior to her departure. She describes her journey to Inverness as ‘difficult’. Her father was by her side and they travelled by boat then train. It was her first ever train journey.

Some of Peggy’s brothers had attended Portree Academy, but the MOD had removed the steam boat service that took them there. Her father knew the Rector, DJ MacDonald and asked if she and her older brother may attend there. Angus went in 1939 and Peggy followed, then her youngest sister joined a year later.

A resident of Hedgefield Hostel, Peggy only got home a few times per year. She met her husband Andrew at the school, and his mother took her under her wing. Peggy would go to his for tea sometimes after school, but to do so, she would have to ask the hostel Matron at lunch time.

Peggy recalled the hostel dances where the 4th-6th year girls would select some 4th-6th year boys that could attend the dance; the list would then be taken to the Rector who would sign it off. Lucky for her, Andrew got to come along when she was in 2nd year. They won a dance competition; the prize was tickets to the Palace theatre where they had double seats to cosy up in.

A lot of the girls wouldn’t have their own dresses. Peggy recalls Ms Yule’s kindness in finding dresses for them all; “she was fantastic… she used to take dresses up from Edinburgh and share them out amongst the girls who had nothing… she was good to us… they were good to us really.”

This interview and research was untaken by Kerry Duncan in 2018.

Dave Conner & Robert Preece

Dave Conner (past Inverness Royal Academy pupil) and Robert Preece (past Inverness Royal Academy geography teacher and school archivist) discuss their memories of Ellis ‘Curly’ Stuart, the principal French teacher during the 1960s. Charles Bannerman described Ellis Stuart in his publication ‘Up Stephen’s Brae’: “Curly was never a teacher to whom one ever got particularly close, and there was something of an air of mystery about him too. There had always been the perception that he had done something terribly dangerous in the War, and on odd occasions he would slip off his guard and begin to allude to this, only to check himself abruptly. It was almost quarter of a century later that he told me that he in fact spent time behind enemy lines both in France and Poland, working for a branch of MI5, so courage was not in short supply by any stretch of the imagination! There was no doubt that Ellis Stuart was an excellent teacher who set high standards … He was a great devotee of the sport of Shinty, having co-founded the School Camanachd Association in the 1930s.”

Dave and Robert discussing their memories of the Library (and former Assembly Hall) at Inverness Royal Academy during the 1960s and 70s.

… and finally they share memories of the Head of English teacher Eddie Hutcheon at Inverness Royal Academy during the 1960s and 70s.

Interview/sound recorded by Kerry Duncan, 2018

Will Maclean

Artist & lecturer Will Maclean MBE attended the Junior School and then Inverness Royal Academy between the years of 1945-56 before leaving to join the Merchant Navy. Upon failing an eye test, he changed course and returned to what he was good at in school: art & gymnastics. He applied to be either a PE teacher or art teacher before his application to art school was successful. In 1981 he was appointed lecturer at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design at the University of Dundee, where he remained for fifteen fruitful years, becoming Professor of Fine Art in 1994. He is now internationally renowned for his artwork and installations. Will was elected Royal Scottish Academician in 1991 and awarded an MBE in 2005 for services to education and the arts.

 

Will’s memories of Junior School: “I think it was a good start, particularly the Junior School…they gave us a very rounded education, it was very structured in terms of arts, grammar…when I got to Miss Grant’s class in Primary 7; I still remember reciting bits of poems that she read to us on Friday afternoons, they were all very jingoistic, Empire based, Rudyard Kipling and all that…but it was great, it was part of life at that time, in the post-war years.”

Will has kindly shared some drawings from his time at IRA (below), the post-war theme as well as his love of boats are very evident.

Christine Gilsenan

Past pupil Christine Gilsenan remembers the school dances at Inverness Royal Academy. Footage recorded during the 50th school reunion for the class of 1967 at Kingsmills, Inverness in 2017.

Alastair McArthur

Past pupil Alastair McArthur remembers his math class at Inverness Royal Academy. Footage recorded during the 50th school reunion for the class of 1967 at Kingsmills, Inverness in 2017.

Anne Barclay

Past geography and English teacher Anne Barclay (née Skinner as she was then) remembers the outdoor club and meeting her husband at Inverness Royal Academy. Footage recorded during the 50th school reunion for the class of 1967 at Kingsmills, Inverness in 2017.

Barbara Bruce

Past pupil Barbara Bruce remembers gym classes and after school hockey at Inverness Royal Academy. Footage recorded during the 50th school reunion for the class of 1967 at Kingsmills, Inverness in 2017.

Found Objects

Saving to help the war effort

 

Our renovation of the former Inverness Royal Academy building at Midmills continues to reveal interesting glimpses into its past. This week we want to share a National War Savings Association card with stamps which was recently found behind a skirting board.

In Britain, the National Savings Movement operated between 1916 and 1978 and was used to finance the deficit of government spending over tax revenues. The movement was instrumental in raising funds to support the war effort, and in peacetime it provided an easy and safe way for ordinary people to save small sums of money.

The British National War Savings Committee issued war bonds at 15 shillings & six pence (15/6) for each bond. Advertising slogans stated that for 15/6 124 cartridges could be bought for a soldier at the front.

The value of the bond would increase annually so that after 5 years it would be worth a sovereign (£1). 15 shillings & six pence was a large sum of money for many families so six pence savings stamps were issued which could be purchased weekly or whenever they could be afforded. After 31 stamps had been bought, the bond or certificate was issued.

You will see from the six pence savings stamps that during the First World War one of the early symbols of the movement was the Swastika – at this time it was a symbol of auspiciousness and good luck. The Swastika was abandoned before the start of the Second World War once it was adopted by Nazi Germany.

This card is stamped as belonging to Inverness Royal Academy, it has the membership number 207 and the six pence stamps date it to the 1916 -1918 period. Just legible on the front cover it states “If this Card is lost any person finding it will please drop it into a Post Office Letter Box. The Coupons are of value to the Member, but to no one else.”

However, we did not pop it in a post box instead we have passed it onto Jeanette Pearson, the Conservation Officer at Inverness Museum & Art Gallery. After 100 years languishing under the floorboards, the savings card is in bad condition with a lot of mould damage. Jeanette is going to stabilise its condition and help conserve it for the future. These early savings cards are very rare because they would have been cashed in and destroyed, so we are delighted to have found this important piece of the building’s history. Although imagine being the person who lost it all those years ago!

Leaving their mark

The scaffold assembled to help our contractor access the old bell tower – situated at the highest point of the building – enabled us to get brilliant pictures of the view and the ‘dragon’ weathervane. There is also evidence of a tradition dating back to the war, where every workman visiting the bell-tower has engraved their name on the lead flashing.

As the interior is stripped out we are discovering original paintwork, wallpaper, building features and old paste-up photographs as well as more evidence of past pupils with graffiti in the basement.

 

Under the floorboards

Phase 1

 

We recorded a series of interviews with Charles Bannerman at Inverness Creative Academy, in November 2020, in which he takes us on a tour round some of the key rooms in Phase 1 – the 1913 building which now houses artists’ studios. Charles explores the former Inverness Royal Academy sharing some of his experiences as a past pupil (1965-71) and later as a Chemistry teacher (1977-2013).

Starting at the main studio entrance, Charles takes us down the corridor…

Continuing on to explore his old teaching Chemistry classroom…

Into the Gym Hall for the boys …

… and finally we head upstairs to the Music classroom.

Phase 2

As Phase 2, the oldest part of the building, was completed in early 2022 we invited Charles back to continue his tour of the school.

(video link pending)

 

All these films were produced by local filmmaker Mike Webster.