Tag: Awards

Park Life with Liam Anderson

Trainee gardener Liam Anderson is one of two Shetland apprentices who were honoured in the Scotland-wide Lantra awards scheme recently. Genevieve White spoke to him at the Jubilee Flower Park in Lerwick where he is developing his horticultural skills.

On the wall of the staff kitchen at Lerwick’s Jubilee Flower Park, the front cover of a 1997 summer edition of Shetland Life shows the park in full bloom. Award winning apprentice gardener Liam Anderson smiles as he points it out. “I would’ve been about two years old then.”
Although Liam adds that he “probably wasn’t doing much gardening at the time,” it seems that his lifelong interest in gardening did not take long to flourish.

It was Liam’s late grandmother who nurtured his love of gardening and the outdoors. “I remember my granny teaching me all the Shetland names for wildflowers and finding it really interesting.”

His childhood home at Gonfirth, near Voe, also provided him with inspiration. “We had a lot of trees in the garden – a mixture of willow, whitebeam and fir. My dad was a fairly keen gardener, but I think that my granny did more gardening than anyone else.”

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Liam started to get serious about gardening as a teenager, when a neglected polytunnel provided him with a blank canvas on which to experiment. “I would’ve been about 14 or 15. The first couple of years my parents did quite a lot with the polytunnel, but by the third year they were too busy.

“I decided to get to work on it myself, and started growing lobelia, tomatoes, peppers and lettuces. It was amazing having that space all to myself.”

As a high school student, a biology lesson got him interested in propagation. Liam laughs as he remembers his teenage antics. “I think I drove my parents mad. I had plants propagating all over the place – in the kitchen, in the bathroom and in the utility room. I don’t think there was a spare bit of windowsill to be seen in the whole house. At that stage I was experimenting with some weird and wonderful plants too: I had a Venus fly trap which I enjoyed feeding – and some cacti.”
This love of gardening has never waned. In addition to his full time apprenticeship at the flower park, Liam tends his own garden in Yell, which he describes as being “quite different” from the relative order of the Jubilee Flower Park.

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“It’s a lot more exposed. There are no trees, and there are a lot of alpine plants. Actually, it’s a bit mad. I love growing things in strange containers – I’ve got plants growing out of a tea pot, a cement mixer drum which I found in a quarry and a rusty bread bin.”

Liam feels “privileged” to work in the Jubilee Park gardens. “I’m allowed to use my own initiative, and the work is both relaxing and fulfilling. I’m really interested in the art and design side of gardening, and every year I’ve been given a bed to do myself.”

Liam has certainly risen to the challenge, with last year’s Celtic knot design (a mixture of bedding plants and topiary) standing out as an example of his artistic talent.

The young gardener’s enthusiasm, talent and knowledge are very much in evidence in the popular blog he co-writes with Diane Inkster.

“Diane and I were encouraged to start a blog by SIC chief executive Mark Boden, who saw it as a way of encouraging more visitors to the garden. I really enjoy writing it. It has photographs of what’s going on in the garden, describes the work we’ve been doing, and it’s a space to answer the questions we’ve been asked by visitors.”

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Unsurprisingly, Liam likes visiting gardens in his spare time. He names Lindaal, near Tingwall, as his favourite Shetland garden. “I like the different levels in this garden – it just flows nicely. It feels hidden too – no one realises it’s there.” Outwith Shetland, he cites Kellie Castle Garden in Fife as a favourite. “I like old fashioned walled castle gardens, and this is a great example. There are fruit trees trained to the wall – it’s beautifully done.”

Asked whether he ever tires of the challenging Shetland climate, Liam admits that he sometimes gets frustrated.

“Yeah, there are times when I’ve spent time growing something, then a gale comes along and finishes it off. I think why am I doing this?”

With characteristic positivity, Liam sees these events as learning experiences and tries to work around them. “I’ve spent time researching which plants do well in windy places. Apparently, Argentina is one of the windiest places in the world, so I’m looking up things which grow well there”.

Our interview over, it’s time for Liam to get back to work. The flower park is bursting with signs of spring and the sky overhead is blue. It’s hard to imagine a more pleasant way to spend the working week; it’s equally hard to envy this hard working young man his richly deserved success.

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Photos: Dave Donaldson

Eamonn Watt: The Virtual Conductor

Sandwick composer Eamonn Watt has already produced a prolific back catalogue in just four years of music releases.

Mostly working from home Eamonn produces his tracks using Cubase music software. He favours this method of composition because it allows him to produce intricate compositions with only a computer keyboard and “mouse clicks.”

Appropriately he releases his music under his nom de plume, The Virtual Conductor. His love of virtually composed music began early in life with a video game called Music 2000: Music Creation.

Music 2000 was a Playstation One game which was designed to simulate a music studio. Players were given the opportunity to produce tracks using samples pre-programmed into the game.

Eamonn was re-introduced to the concept of virtually composed music later in life when he started to study music. He was introduced to Cubase at Secondary School during his Higher and Advanced Higher music courses.

After Secondary School Eamonn continued to study music further, graduating from music courses offered by Mareel. From there Eamonn enrolled in an applied music course with the University of the Highlands and Islands.

He favours Cubase because it allows him to “experiment and play about with sounds.”
“It is a great way to compose an entirely new piece of music and it’s a lot of fun.” He added.
The Cubase database gives Eamonn access to a “lot of virtual instruments which have a very realistic sound.”

The 23 year old musician does not just sit behind a computer when pursuing his love of music. He is also the drummer for star of The Voice Lisa Ward, with her band The XYY.

With three solo albums and an EP to his name Eamonn has already compiled an extensive archive of music. He will also be providing drums and electronica samples for Lisa Ward and the XYY’s upcoming album.

Recently Eamonn has been experiencing success on a wider level as a finalist in this year’s online International Songwriting Competition (ISC).

For this competition Eamonn put forward his western-inspired composition The Tale of Buckaroo Bill. This track, from his second album Haar, was competing in the instrumental category of the competition and is in with a chance of winning the People’s Choice Award.

In order to win this award Eamonn had to count on votes from the public, who could give their favourite composition a ‘thumbs up’ via the ISC’s website. In this category Eamonn was competing against musicians from around the world, and during one update from the ISC he was sitting in the top 5.

Voting closed on the 15th April with the winner due to be announced in late April or early May. If successful Eamonn could take home a grand prize of $25,000 (approximately £17,500) plus a package of musical equipment and services.

The song which Eamonn put forward is an orchestral piece which blends the music of old Westerns films with Shetland reel style music.

Eamonn chose this song because he said it was the composition he had the most faith in. He describes it as “high speed and very progressive” adding that composing the track was the “most fun [he] ever had making music.”

On the success of his track Eamonn says he is “absolutely surprised to have made it this far in such a prestigious competition.”

Despite his surprise, this is not the first time Eamonn has had success in a songwriting competition. In 2012 he entered his track Raconteur into the UK Songwriting Contest and ended up as a finalist.

As evidenced in the musical blend that made up The Tale of Buckaroo Bill, Eamonn’s influences are wide and varied while his albums are often developed down thematic lines. The La Mariposa EP, for example, is a release made up of flamenco guitar style compositions, inspired by the musical style of Spain.

Eamonn’s most recent release Pianissimo takes its name from the Italian word for music which is very quiet. It is composed of 22 peaceful and hushed virtual piano compositions.

A key musical influence for the album was the Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi. Eamonn also lists Claude Debussy and the minimalist piano compositions of Max Richter as sources of inspiration

It is not just classical pianists who inspire Eamonn but also pianists who lean towards the jazzy end of the spectrum. George Gershwin is one such influence on his work. Eamonn’s track Broadway in Blue was a tribute to Gershwin, and takes its name from his piece Rhapsody in Blue.

Haar, Eamonn’s second album, is named for the title track which was originally composed by his sister Jenny. Eamonn enjoyed the piece and asked if he could adapt it for his own musical project.

Eamonn has grown up in a musical house, with all three of his siblings playing a different instrument. Eamonn says, however, that there is little chance of a family album in the near future, joking that his Mum always says “you all play music but you never play together.”

His releases are not always inspired by other musicians but sometimes also by imagery. His track What If? was inspired by Film Noir cinema in the same way that The Tale of Buckaroo Bill was influenced by Westerns.

Eamonn also lists animated films as a major influence and says that sometimes he composes music to accompany “animated pictures running through [his] head.” Some of his quirkier compositions have their roots in old Looney Tunes cartoons, which he says inspire him to write “weird and wacky” music.

Primarily Eamonn says that it is his orchestral compositions that are inspired by imagery, with his piano tracks tending to evolve from music popping into his head.

After completing his music course with the University of the Highlands and Islands Eamonn hopes to move into music composition full time. He also hopes to learn the piano which will allow him to perform some of his Pianissimo tracks live.

Another album idea is currently gestating in his head which he says could be a successor to Pianissimo it is called Pianissimo Grande.

Where the former used the sounds of an upright piano, the latter would be composed using the larger and richer tones of a grand piano.

It seems certain, then, that Eamonn will remain a staple fixture in the Shetland music scene for some time.

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Photos: Dave Donaldson