They share a history spanning hundreds of years, and one arts centre is hoping to bring Scotland’s islands together through their mutual love of music.

Although separated by both land and sea, the Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles are closely linked with a rich heritage and culture, which is annually being celebrated in Stornoway.

An Lanntair, a centre in the middle of the Lewis town, plays an integral part in the island’s cultural  scene and project director Alex Macdonald has made it her personal mission to explore the connections between the island groups through the arts.

“We came into this building in 2005,” Alex explained. “It has given us the opportunity to properly showcase Hebridean and Gaelic culture in the best location possible.

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“There are a lot of festivals with Gaelic and folk music, and the reason for that is that people want to hear it.

“It didn’t take long for us here to decide that we needed to contribute in some way, and that is where our projects have come from.”

In the last few years, the centre has based events throughout the island’s HebCelt Festival, which attracts thousands of music lovers every year for a celebration of folk and traditional music.

They annually organise two events to specifically showcase island talent; Hebridean Women and Between Islands.

The former acted as the opening music event when the venue first moved to its new building four years ago, and brings together female folk singers from the Hebrides in a show full of rich Gaelic tradition.

“We bring together older and younger singers; the tradition bearers and the rising stars,” Alex said. “It has become a show where younger people learn from their elders, and the older ones do the same.

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“They share songs, inspiring songs, and just have fun with their music.”

This year, visitors were treated to performances by Cathy Ann Macphee from Barra, Kathleen Macinnes from South Uist, and Ceitlin Lilidh and Josie Duncan from Lewis.

“It is such a satisfying project to work on,” admitted Alex. “I knew a lot of the artists from their school days, and seeing them on stage is just very special to me.”

While Hebridean Women celebrates just that, it is the centre’s Between Islands project that pulls in the talent and shared culture of Scotland’s most beautiful islands.

Annually, three artists are selected from each island group; Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles. After being in each others company for several days, the chosen trio are tasked with writing songs that reflect not just their own individual island culture, but that of which is shared between the three.

“I had this idea that there is an island connection – I don’t know what it is, but there’s an island mentality and intangible thing that would come to the fore when I started putting these shows together,” Alex explained.

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“This year, we brought those who had begun the project all those years ago to hold another performance together. They just fit so well.”

Willie Campbell from Lewis, Kris Drever from Orkney and Arthur Nicholson from Shetland banded together to produce around ten original tracks, and performed them to the centre’s filled auditorium on Saturday night.

It forms part of an extended programme of events which has been supported by Leader, a network aimed at local communities for rural development.

Alex said: “The islands are unique, there is something different about each one. But they have similarities. The people are similar.

“There’s a kind of shared island understanding about some things; ferries not sailing being one of them.

“Individually unique, but collectively when you bring them together, a very powerful thing.

She added: “There is so much talent coming from each island, and when they come together it is just extraordinary.”

From further funding, Alex and her team now have plans to kick off a larger scale project that will include inter-island exhibitions, workshops, lectures films and websites to greater explore the hidden, yet very real, connections between the islands.

To find out more about An Lanntair and see their programme of upcoming events, visit their website.