High­land Arts sold to store boats

The Oban Times - - Front Page -

IT IS de­scribed by vis­i­tors as ‘unique’, ‘strange’, ‘hi­lar­i­ous’ and ‘an un­likely sur­vivor of artis­tic (sic) hubris’, but it looks like an era is end­ing for the Isle of Seil’s cult High­land Arts cen­tre, which has been bought for boat stor­age.

For decades the ‘ec­cen­tric and eclec­tic’ sou­venir shop in El­len­abe­ich has ex­hib­ited the works of the late poet, artist and com­poser C John Taylor, at­tract­ing coach-loads of vis­i­tors.

How­ever, Tony Hill, who runs ma­rine tour com­pany Sea­fari Ad­ven­tures from a quar­rier’s cot­tage nearby in the his­toric vil­lage, told The Oban Times that Sea­fari had bought the build­ing and planned to cre­ate a win­ter boat stor­age fa­cil­ity and pro­vide lo­cal jobs.

‘We at Sea­fari have out­grown our ticket of­fice,’ he said.

‘We have a win­ter boat fa­cil­ity at Bal­lachul­ish, which is too far away. Our wish is that part of the [El­len­abe­ich] fa­cil­ity will al­low us to store our boats dur­ing the win­ter. Sea­fari bought it with the hope we can cen­tralise what we do. We would hope to move into High­land Arts around 2020.’

Sea­fari em­ploys sev­eral staff to book, drive and guide tourists on its high-speed RIBs, and Mr Hill is hope­ful the new fa­cil­ity can cre­ate more skilled jobs main­tain­ing and in­creas­ing the fleet. Tourism has re­placed slate quar­ry­ing as El­len­abe­ich’s ma­jor em­ployer, he said, and ‘for jobs to be cre­ated there has to be some form of devel­op­ment.

‘What­ever is de­vel­oped it will not be flavour of the month to ev­ery­one. We are work­ing with the Slate Is­land Her­itage Trust and the Oys­ter Bar to main­tain coach traf­fic.’

The trust’s chair­man, Mike Shaw, said it would ‘keep an eye on’ any de­vel­op­ments in a con­ser­va­tion area, which can bring ‘threats’ but also ‘many con­sid­er­able op­por­tu­ni­ties’.

Visit Scot­land re­gional di­rec­tor David Adams McGilp wel­comed this ‘out­stand­ing op­por­tu­nity’ which could ‘trans­form the eco­nomic for­tune’ of the area.

‘Sea­fari’s ac­qui­si­tion of the High­land Arts cen­tre her­alds an ex­cit­ing prospect for de­vel­op­ing the vis­i­tor econ­omy,’ he said.

‘Mov­ing into new premises will al­low the busi­ness to han­dle grow­ing numbers of pas­sen­gers.’

He said Mr Hill also hoped to pro­vide work­shop and gallery space, food and drink pro­duc­tion, and hol­i­day ac­com­mo­da­tion, adding: ‘ Tony and his team will make ev­ery ef­fort to make sure de­vel­op­ments are sen­si­tive.’

C John Taylor’s son John, who runs the cen­tre, de­clined to com­ment.

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