The countdown is officially on to the start of Scotland’s Salmon Festival, with sparkling salmon designed by local children now greeting visitors arriving at Inverness Airport.
Children from primary schools throughout the Inverness area were tasked with writing a poem about Scotland’s native species and creating colourful pictures of the iconic fish as part of the festival, a bi-annual event led in partnership by Inverness College UHI, which takes place in the Highland Capital between Tuesday, August 29th and Saturday, 2nd September.
Around 200 pupils created decorated fish for Inverness College UHI’s Salmon Run competition, which now hang from the ceiling in the arrival hall at Inverness Airport. Poems written by the pupils are also on display, as well as a wall hanging created by students from the college’s Community Link expressive art and design course.
Poetry entries were judged by a panel which included Alan Scott, of Inverness Angling Club, Ian Blyth, a literature lecturer at Inverness College UHI and former organiser of the StAnza Poetry Festival in St Andrews, and Aoife Lyall, a poet and teacher at Culloden Academy.
Charlie Cartlidge, a P6 pupil from Balloch Primary School, was named winner of the P4-7 competition with his poem about the salmon’s journey from freshwater to sea. Connor Hunter (P7) from Dalneigh Primary School was runner-up. Freya Swanson (P3) from Central Primary School took top prize in the P1-3 competition with her catchy poem, while classmate Lewis Dickinson was named runner-up.
The pupils received book tokens and all three schools have been invited to visit the Inverness College UHI Rivers and Lochs Institute’s state-of-the-art laboratory at Inverness Campus.
Scotland’s Salmon Festival took place in Inverness for the first time in 2015 and attracted around 3500 people, generating a significant boost for the local economy. It is the first event of its kind which celebrates the Atlantic salmon and its importance to Scotland, economically, culturally and historically.
The festival’s extensive programme will kick off with a film night at Eden Court Theatre on Tuesday 29th August. There will be salmon canapés and a series of short films about the fish’s influence on Scotland.
Wednesday, August 30th, sees the official start of the festival with a two-day international conference at Inverness College UHI. The conference is aimed at students, scholars and policy makers and is expected to attract more than 100 delegates, who will hear from industry speakers providing an academic insight into this iconic species. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Atlantic Salmon Marine Ecology – Knowns and Unknowns’ and it will be opened by Peter Hutchinson, of The North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation. Dr Hutchinson is an internationally recognised expert on Atlantic Salmon conservation and management.
The conference will be followed by an evening of public lectures at Inverness College UHI on Thursday, August 21st. The lectures will be themed around the natural history of the Atlantic salmon and the history of salmon fisheries in Scotland. Speakers include Professor Eric Verspoor, director of the Inverness College UHI Rivers and Lochs Institute, who will talk about glaciers and the historic origins of today’s Atlantic salmon; Professor Ken Wheelan, research director of the Atlantic Salmon Trust, who will talk about Atlantic salmon at sea; and Dr Ronald Campbell, senior biologist with The Tweed Foundation, who will reflect on the historical patterns of salmon and grilse abundance in Scotland’s rivers. On the same day, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery will run tours for visitors on Alexander Grant, Inverness’ famous, record breaking speycaster.
Grant is also the inspiration for Inverness Angling Club’s Centenary Speycasting Tournament, which takes place on the banks of the River Ness on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd September and will celebrate the club’s 100th anniversary. Anglers from across the globe will come to Inverness to compete in the competition, which is being organised with the help of three times world speycasting champion Scott Mackenzie. Thirty-two competitors are already confirmed including Norwegian speycasters Vidar Ness, Geir Hansen and Jarle Strandberg. Junior and female anglers will also compete.
To coincide with the speycasting tournament, the pinnacle of the week for families will be the free Bught Park fair on the Friday and Saturday. Visitors can enjoy the Marine Harvest Theatre Kitchen, featuring cookery demonstrations by top chefs, including how to use Tomatin whisky in salmon cookery, and a salmon barbecue. There will also be a food and craft marquee featuring Scottish exhibitors and children’s activities for local schools such as storytelling with The Creeping Toad, invertebrate trays, electrofishing and casting lessons with coaches from the Scottish Anglers National Association.
Dr Melanie Smith, chair of Scotland’s Salmon Festival steering group and Head of Research Development at Inverness College UHI, said: “We have absolutely loved reading all the poems from local school children, who really used their imagination to come up with some fantastic tales of determination and danger. We’re so thankful to Inverness Airport for allowing us to display our wonderfully colourful Salmon Run and hope it proves a welcome sight for weary travellers.”
She continued: “The aim of the festival is to celebrate, educate and build greater awareness of this iconic species. Not only does it play a vital role in our rivers - its presence in the watercourse is recognised as an indicator of a healthy environment – it’s also a huge contributor to the economy as a food product, international export and visitor attraction. It’s also an opportunity for the Inverness College UHI Rivers and Lochs Institute to share some of its fascinating research into Atlantic salmon with the wider public. We’ve worked hard to ensure this year’s programme is for all the family, not just academics, and we’re planning this year’s event to be even bigger and better than the last. So whether you’re an experienced fly-caster, are interested in learning more about this amazing fish, or want to wonder around the food and craft marquee and see top chefs cook, there’s something for everyone.”
Stuart Turner, Head of EventScotland, said: “We are delighted to be supporting Scotland’s Salmon Festival, through our National Programme. The festival’s programme offers something for everyone and it is great to see a strong family element once again.
“Scotland is the perfect stage for events and Scotland’s Salmon Festival is a great boost for Inverness, giving visitors the chance to learn more about Scotland’s native fish while also exploring the spectacular natural landscape of the highlands.”
Tickets for the conference, public lectures and film night are now on sale via the salmon festival website at www.scotlandsalmonfestival.org. All other parts of the festival are free.
Scotland’s Salmon Festival has been organised by Inverness College UHI in partnership with the Ness District Salmon Fishery Board, Inverness Angling Club, Marine Harvest, cbec eco-engineering, and supported by EventScotland - part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate, Highland Council, Inverness Common Good Fund, Culligran Estate, the Drumossie Hotel, Ness Castle Lodges, SSE, Tomatin Distillery and Graham’s of Inverness.