They are the heroes who have ensured the access to good sustainable food was available through the Covid-19 lockdown. While the pandemic put strains on the food system, Scots have responded to ensure there was nutritional produce on our plates.

From bakers and butchers to strawberry drive-throughs and mobile coffee shops, communities have ensured that the nation remained resilient in the face of the biggest challenge for the world since World War Two.

One photographer set about to highlight the work that is being done in one part of Scotland - Stirlingshire - during lockdown.

And Julie Howden's gallery of photographs 'In Praise of Stirlingshire's Food Heroes' will be featured at The Tolbooth in Stirling, as the venue opens its doors to the public once again.

Ms Howden said she hoped the exhibition would act as a tribute to those food producers who went above and beyond during lockdown.

Organisers will be proceeding with caution over the 14-day exhibition, which will run on certain days between April 28 and May 15.


Funded by Creative Scotland and Stirling Council, private viewing slots are being offered.

While the exhibition is free to attend, there is an online booking fee of £1 per slot.

Each 30 minute slot booked is suitable for a maximum of six people from one household or bubble, or a maximum of four people from two households.

All visitors will be required to wear a face covering to stay safe and protect others.

And all guests will be asked to maintain social distancing while in Tolbooth.

Ms Howden said: Back in March 2020 when life as we knew it turned upside down, when touching surfaces and breathing air inside busy public places became a dangerous activity, we still needed to eat.

"We couldn’t track down an elusive supermarket delivery slot and the tomato and potato seeds I had planted were going to take some time.

"It was relief when we came across the Stirling Neighbourfood online food market which was founded in 2016 out of a belief in local and sustainable food shopping.

"Delivered by ‘saviours’ every Thursday the boxes were organic and seasonal fruit and vegetables, artisan sourdough bread, delicious croissants, pinhead porridge oats, honey, fresh butter, incredible eggs and meats from Stirlingshire farms.


"The quality of all this was brilliant and helped fill the the dark days of lockdown with light.

"I began asking to photograph the people behind the food out of curiosity and an instinct for focusing on something positive. I am hugely grateful to the industrious people in Stirlingshire who worked hard and continue to work hard to keep supply chains moving and the community fed."

The former Herald and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland photographer added: "Living through this pandemic has brought the issue of food security and the importance of community into sharper relief and there has never been a more urgent time to reflect on the impact of our food choices on our health, economy and future on this planet.

"By sharing these photographs I hope to celebrate our local food producers, who had our back in hard times, and the energy and creativity they pour into their produce and community. We have a wonderful larder here in Stirlingshire. I take comfort and joy in this."

The award-winning Tolbooth, Stirling's venue for music, performance and classes has been hit hard by the Covid-19 lockdown but still has a series of events planned over the rest of the year.


Re-opened in 2002, after a restoration and redesign by award winning architect Richard Murphy, the Tolbooth has quickly established a reputation as one of the best live music venues in the country.

It has always been a feature of Stirling's cultural life, having been a court and jail - complete with death cells - and hosted a parliament in the reign of James VI.

The extended Grade A-listed building has retained many original features such as the dome ceiling in the main auditorium as well as incorporating state of the art technology throughout its eight floors.

Nowadays the Tolbooth is the base for Stirling Council's Arts and Event Team and the home to some of the best musicians and performers working in Scotland.

Forthcoming events Covid-19 allowing include shows by rock band The Wildhearts on September 21 and the return of the reformed Goodbye Mr Mackenzie in December, as well as performances by James Grant and Admiral Fallow in November.

Kevin Harrison, manager of the Scene Stirling partnership which is funding the exhibition said: “Julie’s exhibition will help spread the message of what great food producers we have on our doorstep and make more people think about where their food comes from and the impact of their shopping choices. We hope it will spark wider discussion and raise awareness of local food production, food security and the impact our food choices have on our health and environment; as well as the local economy.”


Following on from the project, Ms Howden is continuing to support local food and drink by working closely with Forth Valley Food and Drink, a network set up to encourage people to buy local.

Carolyn McGill, coordinator of the network said: “During the pandemic, food has been a catalyst to bring us together. Whether volunteering at your local food larder, staying home and baking banana bread with the kids, experimenting with sourdough or switching to shop local at your neighbourhood farm shop, market or deli.

“Coronavirus, whether through choice or necessity, is changing the way we shop for food; and that’s great news for the local economy if we can make those new shopping habits last.

“We’re delighted to be working with Julie to help bring the story of Stirling’s rich local larder to life.”