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This March I was delighted to join Team Hinterland for NVA's latest project which transformed Scotland's great modernist ruin, St Peter's Seminary, through new sound and light over a period of 10 nights (18-27th March 2016). 

Hinterland and NVA's larger legacy/heritage project launched Scotland's Festival of Architecture 2016 and has been dubbed a triumph amongst Scotland's Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design calendar. Known for their light and sounds installations, NVA combine technology, public site, performance and participation to produce increasingly innovative artworks in amongst both urban and rural landscapes. Touring works Speed of Light and Ghost Peloton exemplify this approach, their portfolio of premiered works contributing to major cultural and sporting events in the UK such as the Edinburgh International Festival, London Cultural Olympiad and the Tour de France departure events. 

Such a portfolio has lead to Hinterland and a vision for the part restoration of St Peter's Seminary. A manifesto for 'A Future Reclaimed' seeks to oversee the emergence of a new venue for public art, performance, learning and debate. Here is a bit from NVA about St Peter's and their plans: 

"Abandoned since the late 1980s, every structure within the site, from medieval to modern, has been reduced to ruins. Brutal, beautiful, romantic, ravaged, spiritual, shocking – the site provokes many reactions. Designed by Glasgow architects Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein of the renowned Gillespie, Kidd and Coia architectural practice for the Catholic Archdiocese of Glasgow, St Peter’s Seminary was completed and consecrated in 1966. Almost 50 years on from the day it opened we are witnessing the first positive steps towards a new purpose with hazardous materials and vault stabilisation now completed and Hinterland, the first event on site, attracting a phenomenal level of profile and support for the plans" - NVA

Sitting amongst other volunteers in the Cardross Gold Club, pre Hinterland, I was really moved to hear NVA's Creative Director Angus Farquhar talk about the journey they had gone through and the future they were seeking to build. Angus declared that after his initial visits, the site and history called the team towards a lifetime commitment. After visiting the site pre show it was easy to see what captivated him. St Peter's looms from the forest bare of bone and brutal of form. Its skeletal vaults and floating stare cases, sweeping corridors, towers, outcrops, and halls resonate with the sounds of the forest that overtakes by day and the ghosts of ritual scripts and whispered prayers by night. 

Hinterland saw light stick wielding visitors head out into the dark forest. A tunnel of woven branches and sculpted trees was activated by the sounds of the late night wood and figures passing through the underbrush. St Peter's massive form is late to emerge. A steady trek reveals its stark forms in little more than a blink. Outer worldly in the dark, yet resolutely landed amongst the rugged terrain, it invites further exploration despite the edge of danger and ruin. It is a towering maze of sculptured concrete, the vestiges of decades worth of elicit visits recorded through time by thousands of graffitied marks in ever room, nook and cranny. 

The tour path of the site is transformed though a series of light installations/projections, performances and soundscapes. Highlights included choral work by composer Rory Boyle, recorded and performed by the St Salvator's Chapel Choir of the University of St Andrews. Amongst the main chapel space, the high vaults sit over head and reflect in a converged pool of stagnant water below. Above its surface, a industrial size thurible swings. The synchronised guidance of objects and music are overseen by a pair of dark figures dressed in welders garb. Sparks fly in the final performance as they weld out forms amongst the projections. To have a look at photos and vids of Hinterland and to view updates about the launch of their documentary film visit the Hinterland website.

Photography by Alasdair Smith


As a volunteer it was eye opening and inspiring to see what such a small yet talented team, completely dedicated to public art, are able to achieve. It was an amazing experience to be apart of and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Since the Hinterland Launch, NVA have secured their £4.2 Million funding for the restoration of St Peter's and has won numerous accolades amongst the press and Scotland's cultural bodies including The Judges Choice Award at this years Cultural Awards.  

To find out more about NVA and to keep up to date with news about how you can visit and get involved with the Hinterland Project in 2017 have a look at their website. 

Amy Wilson