Film highlights young voices on the future of crofting

Byre to the Barn
Alan Robertson

Community Led Local Development (CLLD) funding from Scottish Government has supported a young film maker to make a compelling and evocative short film about crofting and its future in rural and island Scotland.

‘Byre to the Barn’, is a documentary exploring the enduring tradition of crofting through the eyes of the young people who practice it. Funding was made available through the Outer Hebrides Youth Local Action Group (YLAG), who deliver allocated CLLD funding within their area.

The film was commissioned as a result of Outer Hebrides YLAG participating in YLAG collaboration project last year.

As part of this collaboration, each participating YLAG area was to put at least £1,000 towards creating a local film as well as contributing to a national YLAG film. Outer Hebrides YLAG members were quite keen to offer an artist residency (something that Cairngorms YLAG have been doing) and after quite a bit of discussion the decision was made to combine the two strands (artist residency & film) into what resulted as the “YLAG Film & Professional Development project”.

To drive this forward, three YLAG members formed a sub-committee and with support from Mira Byrne, CLLD Coordinator for the Outer Hebrides, decided on the parameters of the project.

The YLAG as a whole had agreed a budget of £4,000, of which at least £1,000 had to be spent on work connected to the films. the project had three main outcomes:

  1. A young local filmmaker was to be supported to undertake an element of professional development.
  2. The filmmaker was to create a film which supported the YLAG’s priority of “Dùthchas & Dualchas”; and
  3. The filmmaker was to contribute suitable footage to the national YLAG film.

Outcomes 1 and 2 supported the “artist residency” strand and outcomes 2 and 3 the YLAG collaboration project.

Adverts were circulated towards the end of last year and in January the YLAG sub-committee met to score applications and decide on who to invite for interview, and then interviewed and selected their preferred candidate. After consideration Ruaraidh Urpeth was named as the preferred film maker.

Following an inception meeting to ensure that everyone was on the same page, it was very much over to Ruaraidh – the filmmaker – to get on with things.

Ruaraidh had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do for outcomes 1 and 2, so for the next few weeks filming opportunities were identified for suitable material for outcome 3.

Mira said:

“Ruaraidh's film was of such a high standard that there really wasn’t anything for the YLAG to critique. If anything, it was Ruaraidh who kept coming back with updated versions as he kept polishing the film to perfection.

That, I suppose, shows that the professional development project remained at the core of the project throughout, as Ruaraidh was determined to produce the best film he could. He is hoping to now use this film as a springboard into more documentary filmmaking”.

Ruaraidh siad:

"The tender from YLAG presented a unique opportunity to delve into a subject deeply rooted in the culture and history of the Outer Hebrides: crofting. As a local filmmaker, I have a vested interest in exploring and preserving our local traditions, especially those that shape our community's identity. The chance to create a documentary on crofting and its relevance to young people today aligned perfectly with my passion for storytelling and my desire to contribute to the local cultural narrative.

This project has been a deeply rewarding experience, made possible through the generous funding provided by YLAG. The financial support enabled me to fully dedicate myself to the project, ensuring high production quality and allowing for thorough research and community engagement. I highly recommend that other individuals consider applying for opportunities with YLAG in the future. The organisation's support for local filmmakers and commitment to addressing important community issues provides a unique and fulfilling platform for creative expression and meaningful impact". 

He added:

"I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Mira Byrne of the Outer Hebrides YLAG for her invaluable help, support, and patience throughout the project. Her guidance and encouragement were instrumental in bringing this documentary to fruition".

The topic of the film further aligned with the work that the main Outer Hebrides LAG, as part of a collaboration with Orkney and Shetland, had commissioned SRUC to undertake and that resulted in a report into land use in the islands and possible impacts of changes due to the Agricultural and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill.

As a result, SRUC were able to provide Ruaraidh with background information and have included a link to his film in their report (which is currently in final draft stages).

The resulting film is a striking visual piece of storytelling, which puts the aspirations of young people and their love of crofting at its heart. With a sympathetic score and use of drone footage to highlight the challenges and beauty of the landscape, this is a compelling call to action to support young people who are the future of our rural and island communities across Scotland.

You can watch the film at: