I first heard about the Geek in Residence programme at an AmbITion Scotland event in Perth and instantly thought that would be something I’d love to bring to Eigg Box…. one day.
The idea of Eigg Box is that it will be a cultural enterprise hub, bringing together local creative businesses with artists from around the world. Established as a self-sustaining social enterprise, Eigg Box will be a powerhouse of creative activity, entrepreneurship, inspiration and collaboration. However, unlike its urban counterparts, Eigg Box’s eco-built studios and creative workspace are on the Isle of Eigg; a community-owned, renewably-powered island, off the north-west coast of Scotland with a population of less than 100. Eigg Box turns on its head the notion that a centre of entrepreneurship and creativity needs to be at the centre of population.
Eigg Box makes the remote, central, so suddenly the idea of having a ‘geek’ to work on developing that idea at an early stage, rather than further down the line when the building would be built (target 2015), made sense. Eigg Box is about building and supporting a creative community, and while a physical building will be a vital part of that, the networking, collaboration and sharing of ideas and solutions is just as, if not more, essential. So having a Geek in Residence before so much as a low impact eco-brick had been laid was too tempting an opportunity to pass by.
One simple and straightforward application process later, and lo, Eigg Box is a host organisation….along with some very impressive, not to say well-established and respected other organisations.
Perhaps what appealed to both Sync and indeed to the Geeks who applied was exploring the idea that you could build in geekery at first stages; especially in a project which really tested the ideas of boundaries, of the relationship between urban and remote, of community and also what it means to work as a creative in a world where choices of working digitally (or not) are so wide and varied.
Eigg Box has been matched with Stef Lewandowski, who I’d hadn’t come across before but, as it turns out, with whom I have a lot of colleagues in common and all of whom said the same thing. He’s got a million ideas, works very fast and flexibly and likes making things fun and useful. Sounded perfect. Our first phone call confirmed it; an hour packed full of ideas, areas of common interest and a shared ambition to explore a variety of projects that build Eigg Box’s community both on and off-island. “What did I know about 3D printing? Did I know he used to run a record label, and was/is a photographer? Had I come across this, that and another and another of his projects”
Then my turn. A bit about Eigg’s recent history – buyout, renewable electricity scheme and how Eigg Box came about. A quick canter through the island’s creative businesses; 18% of folk on Eigg make their living all or in part by being creative (the Scottish average is 8%) and many of our visitors come to play music, write, paint, take pictures etc. Eigg’s creatives include artists, knitters & textile makers, web & graphic designers, wood wizards and musicians from traditional to heavy metal and acoustic neo-folk indy singer-songwriters! Eigg Box will also be the home to Eiggy Bread, the island’s very own bakery and outside caterers using the best of local ingredients to make extraordinarily tasty food. All of this seemed to be like sweets to a small child. Even the prospect of the journey to our fair isle with its timetabling and weather challenges seemed to excite him.
So, what next? A recce visit as part of the Fence Collective’s Away Game mid July to see Eigg at its musical busiest and meet as many people as possible. Then, if Stef and I can keep our post-festival excitement under control, a get together with Suzy from Sync to plan what we’re going to do for real and when. Looks like himself will be ‘in residence’ during September, but to do what specifically? ….. you’ll have to wait ‘til the next eigg-citing instalment. (… thinks, maybe we should include an App on creating puns involving the word Eigg??)