Creators Exchange on the Land

The Creators Exchange On The Land bought together Indigenous creators from Kanata with their Scottish and Gaelic counterparts, for five days of creative dialogue on the Isle of Arran this July

Article by Eliza Gearty | 01 Aug 2019
  • Isle of Arran

“This is a first time for me, curating something of this nature,” says Patti Shaughnessy, the Canadian actor, director and producer, of her experience working on The Creators Exchange On The Land. “I actually don’t even know what that means really: 'curating.' Ha!”. 

This wry, humorous scrutiny of the mainstream discourse used to describe creating art is, although light-hearted, somewhat emblematic of the Indigenous Contemporary Scene’s ethos. The Exchange, kickstarting the ICS Festival programme, is designed to gather ‘participants who are curious and open, who are brave to offer new approaches to systems whether it be through the arts, land use or practicing an alternative culture in the face of economic and cultural domination.’ Shaughnessy asserts that invited participants are “people who have the guts to address and identify harmful colonial systems that continue to fail us as humans and communities and make our land sick.”

Speaking to The Skinny a week ahead of the Exchange’s starting date, Shaughnessy is excited to be meeting up again with Shetland Island writer Donald S Murray (As The Women Lay Dreaming) and Bryony McIntyre and Barry Esson of Edinburgh’s political arts org Arika. Joining Scottish based participants are Toronto-based Indigenous artists, researchers and activists; Elwood Jimmy, Sara Roque and Leslie McCue. Shaughnessy feels there are already strong points of connection in the group, “that we are all interested in weaving communities together and creating unique generative spaces”.

The Exchange will be taking place on the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine at Drimlabarra Herb Farm on the Isle of Arran, owned and operated by traditional herbalist Keith Robertson. “We are so grateful to spend time together on the Isle to acknowledge and connect with the land we are visiting,” says Shaughnessy. “It’s a dedicated time to rejuvenate before the hype and pressures of the Edinburgh Festivals... [and] to become inspired by the land and each other.”

Scottish Participants 

Keith Robertson 
Host Keith Robertson MSc (Herbal Medicine), F.NIMH (Fellow of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists) is a much respected visionary and pioneer of traditional energetic and contemplative approaches in professional herbal training in the UK. He is also a traditional musician and singer. After serving on the NIMH Council he then established the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine in Glasgow in 1992. He ran the School for the next 18 years training to BSc (Hons) and MSc level. In recognition of his vision with SSHM, as well as his work with the NIMH and European Accreditation Boards, he was awarded a Fellowship in 2004 in acknowledgement of his services to herbal education. A correspondence pre-course and apprenticeship programme is now run from his herb farm on the Isle of Arran, which researches herbal medicines and vegan organic growing techniques. Find out more at

Donald S Murray 
Donald S Murray was brought up in Ness at the northern tip of the Isle of Lewis from an early age. He is a writer living in Shetland, writing poetry, prose, non-fiction, drama and fiction. His latest books are The Dark Stuff – Stories from The Peatlands (Bloomsbury) and As The Women Lay Dreaming (Saraband), a novel inspired by the effects of the Iolaire disaster that took place outside his hometown of Stornoway in 1919. He has been shortlisted for both the Saltire and Callum MacDonald Memorial award. His most recent novel is currently shortlisted for the Authors Club First Books Award in London and was highly commended in the prestigious Sir Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. His Gaelic play, Sequamur has been performed in Scotland, Belfast, London and Ypres in Belgium.

Bryony McIntyre and Barry Esson
Mcintyre and Esson are behind Arika, a political arts organisation based in Scotland. Arika is concerned with celebrating and supporting connections between artistic production and social change. Arika runs a programme of public events called Episodes comprised of performances, discussions, screenings and collective learning. They also work on a smaller scale to produce events that support specific struggles in allyship with UK based activists and political groups. Alongside their Episode series, events programmed by Arika include the festivals INSTAL, Kill Your Timid Notion and Music Lover’s Field Companion, and the Shadowed Spaces and Resonant Spaces tours. They have worked on long term community projects with Ultra-red, SWARM (Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement), Arbert Santana Ballroom Freedom and Free School, and presented a week long programme of events as part of the 2012 Whitney Biennial entitled A Survey is a Process of Listening.

Kanata (Indigenous Canadian Participants)

Emilie Monnet
At the intersection of theatre, performance and media arts, the practice of Indigenous Contemporary Scene producer Émilie Monnet centres on questions of identity, memory, history and transformation. Her works privilege collaborative processes of creation, and are typically presented as interdisciplinary theatre or immersive performance experiences. As a playwright and director, she is the artist in residence at Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui in Montreal until 2021. This Time Will Be Different, her most recent installation performance co-created together with choreographer Lara Kramer, premiered at Festival TransAmériques this past June. Since 2016, she produces Indigenous Contemporary Scene (ICS), through her company Onishka which is a nomadic platform for the presentation of live arts and creative exchanges between Indigenous artists and communities.

Patti Shaughnessy
Patti walks as Anishnaabe Kwe and Irish. She is a co-founder of the O’Kaadenigan Wiingashk Arts Collective (OKW) whose collective spirit works to weave communities together through festivals, discussions, productions and land based knowledge. OKW’s most notable activity was the production of the Ode’min Giizis (Strawberry Moon) Festival (2009-2012) in Nogojiwaning. Ode’min Giizis was a gathering of several artists and tribes co-presented with sister organisation Public Energy. OKW is grateful for the invitation to co-produce Indigenous Contemporary Scene with Onishka, with the intention to activate our collective spirit on Scottish lands. Shaughnessy works as an actor and director, often in Greenland and upcoming, as a coordinator for a circumpolar storytelling festival that will co-exist with Nuuk Nordisk. Patti is a mother and grandmother who resides in the drumlins of Douro where she grows plants.   

Sara Roque
Filmmaker, writer, activist and cultural leader Sara Roque is the former Indigenous Arts Officer at the Ontario Arts Council where she worked for ten years, mentoring artists and building innovative programs, policies and resources with Indigenous artists and communities. She is an award winning documentary filmmaker (National Film Board) and co-founder of the O’Kaadenigan Wiingashk Arts Collective (Peterborough, Canada) as well as The Good Medicine Collective (Toronto, Canada) working at the intersection of arts and health. Sara is a mixed blood Anishinaabekwe from Shebahonaning-Killarney Ontario and resides in Toronto.

Elwood Jimmy
Elwood Jimmy is a learner, collaborator, writer, artist, facilitator, cultural manager and gardener. Currently based in Toronto, he is originally from the Thunderchild First Nation, a Nêhiyaw community in the global far north. For 20 years, he has played a leadership role in several art projects, collectives, and organisations locally and abroad. He is currently the Coordinator of Indigenous Programs/Cultural and Organizational Change Catalyst with the Musagetes Foundation.  

ICS' Creators Exchange On the Land took place on The Isle of Arran, 23-28 Jul