Deep mapping in Cromarty… Developing the creative power of people to improve health and well-being.

  • What words best describe life in Cromarty?

  • If you had to choose a picture; a tune; a photo; a poem; a song and a story that says ‘Cromarty’ for you – what would they be?

  • Hard times; sad times; mad times; good times; bad times; party times; times of loss and times of joy; times of health and times of illness…. every life is a strange patchwork of these things…

  • How has life in Cromarty helped and hindered you in achieving good times and good health or in coping with the very opposite?

If you’d like to talk about any of these things we’d like to listen and learn. This project seeks to use artistic and personal descriptions of local life as a means to inform better health policy and service development. Do let us know what you think.

What we’re doing

  • Engaging with all manner of local residents, local businesses and community groups
  • Exploring links between community representations of health, the dynamics of aging and rural health services provision
  • Developing creative kinds of maps, events and displays through use of our ‘deep mapping’ process

What is ‘deep mapping’?
We are not using traditional research methods like questionnaires. Instead we are using a participatory, creative method called Deep Mapping. Neil Campbell has described this approach, in which actual maps may or may not make an appearance, as a means whereby “many voices speak, many, often contradictory, histories are told, and many ideologies cross, coexist, and collide” (Campbell 2000). This means that we want your priorities to drive the project; for you to be an active participant in the research and for our project outputs to be created collaboratively using things like storytelling, drawing, photographs, walking about the place, tea and chats about local life, mapping and interpretation. We might end up with a book, a series of posters or a film. We won’t know until we do it and we are interested in hearing your ideas about how you would like to describe and explain life locally to us, as outsiders.

Deep Rurality
This case study is taking place in The Black Isle and is focused on the town of Cromarty. This town, of approximately 800 people, sits at the eastern tip of The Black Isle peninsula, where the Great Glen geological ‘fault’ meets the sea. Cromarty lies within the ‘remote and rural’ classification made by the Scottish Government and in the centre of the Moray Firth, which stretches from Duncansby Head on the Caithness coast to Fraserburgh and Kinnaird Head on the Buchan coast. Until the recent meteoric rise of the internal combustion engine to a dominant place in economy and society the sea was ‘the motorway’ and Cromarty was on ‘the M25’. The Beatrice oil field lies within the Moray Firth.

We are working with both ‘old’ and ‘new’ residents to develop creative kinds of maps and related artistic means of communicating ideas about local life. Our approach embraces and explores diverse histories and contemporary lives, taking into account different kinds of personal insights, the physicality of coastal living, changes in economy and society. An important historic aspect is the imaginative work done by successive generations in Cromarty to forge a future for the town in the wake of economic collapse in the late 19th and mid 20th centuries. Like many rural areas, Cromarty has an increasingly ageing population, allowing us to examine the links between community representations of health, the dynamics of aging and the need for co-produced services for older people.

The town also reflects the experience of many remote and rural areas where there is a recent influx of people from ‘accessible rural’ and urban areas. Migrations, historic and recent, generate a very distinctive dynamic which shapes the creation of representations of ‘belonging’. Although Cromarty appears relatively affluent in some official statistics, these hide much local variation.

The town grew up around its harbour which was used for very significant trade and fishing during the 19th century. During the first half of the 20th century military activities, especially naval ones linked to the two World Wars, were a huge influence on Cromarty life and trade. The later decades of the 20th century saw Cromarty’s land-based connectivity transformed when the Kessock Bridge and the Cromarty Bridge created road access across the eastern end of The Black Isle. Oil industry developments at Nigg created new economic activity in the form of oil rig fabrication and more recently, wind turbine fabrication. The Nigg Yard is right opposite Cromarty and just a 15 minute boat trip away. New forms of tourism have also become increasingly important for Cromarty and The Black Isle in recent decades, not least wild life watching. The Black Isle is famed nowadays for its dolphins and red kites. Over the past 30 years, Cromarty has become a focal point for creative activity with which this project is engaging. The town has a lot of very active community groups involved in diverse aspects of history, art and local development.

Latest blogs & resources

27 Jun

An Invite from Cromart...

Sarah-Anne and Issie were delighted by the invitation by Cromarty & District Community Council to...

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23 Apr

Learning about the Cro...


We are very pleased that The Highland Archive Centre has agreed to be involved in...

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10 Nov

Appointed to work on R...

        Issie MacPhail from Assynt in north west Sutherland was appointed by...

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RepresentingCromarty @repcromarty
Crom Dreaming - 'celebrating our migration stories' @festival_utopia #utopia2016 #lovecromarty
27 Jun
RepresentingCromarty @repcromarty
Cromarty Dreaming last week. W Church Hall this week too #lovecromarty #utopia2016 @ThinkUHI
27 Jun
George McKay
George McKay @george_mckay
@repcromarty @ahrcconnect project advisory group meets in Cromarty. Arts, community, 'enabling change'...…
20 JunRetweeted by RepresentingCromarty