Woodend Barn’s latest artistic venture had it’s official launch last weekend, seeking to combine community with culture and conservation.
The Lavender Project is the focus of a long-term conversation initiative between Woodend Barn and The Arts Practice Research Community at Robert Gordon University.
Artist Helen Smith, as part of her doctoral research, Understanding Change: Connecting Communities Through the Arts leads this project in relation to the concerns of Woodend Barn into the sustainability of their community of interest and its organization.
Helen, who is leading the project, said: “The motivation for doing this is to explore issues of sustainability. Banchory’s connection to lavender was truly fascinating to explore...”
The Project seeks to understand more fully the complete history of the cultivation, manufacture and distribution of Dee lavender by company Ingasetter Limited, and seeks to demonstrate how the once large industry is a poignant metaphor for understanding and testing organizational sustainability.
Tony Brown, treasurer of Woodend Barn and a member of the lavender project team, said: “Woodend Barn was formed in 1994 and we hope to still be going in another 40, 50, 100 years from now.
“We wanted to develop a focus for an arts project that would help us explore our collective sustainability.
‘‘The fact that Banchory once had a flourishing business based on lavender and lavender cultivation emerged as a perfect basis for such a project.”
Tony also pointed out how the project showed Banchory to be a community that takes pride in its past for use in the present and for the benefit of the future.
He added: “This has been a collaborative project between the Barn and RGU.
‘‘We’re also involving Banchory Museum in capturing this important history for the future of the town.”
The exhibit was a sensory one, which gave guests the chance to see, smell, touch and feel the lavender with examples of the rare Deeside plant subspecies, the most northerly growing lavender, at 57°04N, both in it’s natural state and as some of the products Ingasetter crafted.
Enid Black worked at the Ingasetter factory from 1948-1949, first as a general office worker, then as secretary until closure.
She said: “Until the project came along people in the town didn’t seem to know the industry had ever existed.
‘‘We used to have up to 25,000 visitors a year who wanted to see the fields and factory and buy the products.”
Enid believes that the opening up of Europe as a cheap holiday destination and the post war affordability of air travel sounded the death knell of the factory.
She added: “At the factory’s busiest time, we had four or five buses arriving at a time, all with over 30-40 people on them. We had a lot of passing trade then.”
John Michie, who took over Ingasetter, said in his speech: “I think what’s really been exciting about this project for me is that it has filled a gap in our history.
‘‘It was really exciting to bring back some of the memories.
‘‘On my desk I have one of the lavender sprays and if I’m under a bit of stress I give the room a bit of a spray! This has stimulated a whole load of memories which might otherwise have been forgotten.”
Nostalgia through lavender tinted glasses was the order of the night and, before the black and white films made about the factory at the time were shown, the sprightly Graeme Wilson (known as ‘Bosun’) was persuaded to perform a song from his days in the Scouts called ‘Banchory notes’
Staff at the Barn, and their guests, gathered round to hastily learn the chorus and soon the gallery echoed with the heartwarming lyrics and proved a metaphor in itself for co-operation and harmony between industrialists, artists and local people in conserving the traditions and pride in their community.