The Skye Magazine is an exciting insight into Skye and Raasay, as well as providing information on new up-and-coming businesses, and new ventures on the island. The Skye Magazine in its printed form, appears once a year from May, and thousands are distributed throughout the islands.

And the on-line edition - below - is updated throughout the year with new reports, photographs and information from all across the Islands.

So, just click download, enjoy learning about the beautiful isles of Skye and Raasay, and, if you aren’t here already, make sure to plan a visit sometime soon!

Scorpions and snakes…end of an era for Serpentarium

What creature would you be least likely to see on the Isle of Skye?  Perhaps your mind goes straight to exotic creatures, like tigers or elephants.  But how about a venomous scorpion?  Surely that would be the last animal you would find on the island?
Surprisingly enough, Skye Serpentarium was home to such a scorpion, after he stowed away in a crate of bananas and was discovered in Portree! 
Catherine and Alex Shearer, pictured above, who have run Skye Serpentarium for 25 years, explained: "A number of supermarkets called us up in the past to ask if we will take stowaway tarantulas, or even frogs.  The scorpion from Portree was a bit of a surprise, and it created a lot of interest.  We were told he wouldn't live long, but he lived with us for two years and we became quite attached to him!"
The Serpentarium has enchanted locals and tourists alike for over two decades, but Catherine and Alex made the decision that their doors would close for the last time on October 24, 2015. 
"It's getting harder for us," admitted Catherine.  "We have to support ourselves as well as the reptiles, so we haven't had a holiday for 26 years!  Our aim when we opened was to soften the public attitude to reptiles." 
For this reason, allowing visitors to handle the snakes has been very important to the couple. 
It was Catherine's experience handling a snake at Edinburgh Zoo that sparked off her initial interest in reptiles.  "If I hadn't handled that snake, I would never have known what it was like," she said. 
Shortly after visiting the zoo, Catherine bought her very first snake from a Glasgow pet shop.  "Around this time, our jobs were getting more and more stressful," Catherine revealed.  "One day, when Alex came in for lunch, I said: 'I've something to say to you.  I'm moving up to Skye.'  Alex said: 'That's the best thing you've said in years!'" 
After obtaining the disused watermill in Broadford, Catherine and Alex set up their sanctuary.  "People weren't sure - not everybody likes snakes and virtually nobody north of the central belt had ever seen one," Catherine said. 
"Then, I discovered I had to have a zoo licence, so I became the only female in Scotland to have a zoo licence and this became the only reptile centre in Scotland!"  They then opened the adjoining Watermill Coffee Shop to help fund their work. 
At the end of their first year, people began to approach them to take in animals.  In their 25 years, the couple have rescued 600-700 animals, including tortoises, lizards, frogs, spiders and, of course, snakes! 
Three Royal Pythons have been with Catherine and Alex almost as long as the serpentarium has been open - the 22 year-old sisters, Goldie, Gypsy and Rhiannon.  "We took in 15 baby Royal Pythons from Customs," explained Catherine.  "They were very stressed and hanging limp, like bits of string.  They were full of mites and ticks.  We managed to save nine and we use Goldie, Gypsy and Rhiannon for handling."
The trio will be part of the group of animals that Catherine and Alex will keep.  "We have a unit of tanks where we can house the animals that are vulnerable or can't be sold," revealed Alex.  "That won't be open to the public and we won't be taking any more in, but we can still care for the ones we have." 
Catherine concluded: "In the 25 years we have been open, we have met loads of different people and made lots of friends.  Skye is a very touristy island, so we had people coming from all over the world.  Our job of encouraging responsible ownership had far-reaching effects.  I feel we have made a difference."
Skye Serpentarium has won over the hearts of the people of Skye, who are saying goodbye to an exotic attraction and, for some, part of their favourite childhood memories.  This truly is the end of an era.

Knox: the story behind the film

"500 years ago, a man was born who would change the face of Scotland forever."  That is the dramatic introduction to the 2015 film "Knox", which is coming to Stornoway, Isle of Lewis on October 19 and Portree, Isle of Skye on October 20.
Presented by Scottish actor, Philip Todd, the film explores and celebrates the life of John Knox, the 16th century Protestant reformer.  Dramatic animations and interviews make for an engaging and interesting viewing experience, chronicling John Knox's transformation from Catholic priest to Protestant revolutionary.
Producer and director, Murdo Macleod, grew up with a fascination for John Knox.  "My dad had a portrait of him on the wall - it was part of my early childhood, so it made a big impression," he revealed.  "I didn't know much about him, though."  However, a recent Facebook post by one of Murdo's friends drew his attention to the fact that Knox's 500th anniversary was approaching.  "I thought this was something that should be celebrated," Murdo said.  "I checked to see if the BBC was commemorating it, and they weren't, so I wrote the script!  A team was put together, partly through my personal contacts, as I attended the film school, RSAMD, but I got to work with a few people I had never met before."
Do you have to be a John Knox aficionado to view the film?  Not necessarily!  Murdo meets many people who have never heard of John Knox.  "I say to them: 'What Luther was for Germany or Calvin was for Switzerland, John Knox was for Scotland.  The effects of his reformation and revolution are felt today.  Our film doesn't paint him as a saint - we show him as he was.  That can be an uplifting thought and everyone can draw inspiration from the boldness Knox had in standing up against a prevailing medieval world view."
Knox is the first feature filmed by Trinity Digital, founded by Murdo.  He explained: "Trinity Digital is a concept that allows churches to engage with film.  Film is the main medium of communication for the 21st century.  It shapes culture and world views.  I feel passionate that the church, as a complete body of Christians across the world, should be using film to tell others about the Gospel."
Like his interest in Knox, Murdo's love of film-making originated in his childhood.  At age eight, Murdo moved to the Isle of Skye.  "I was part of the Drama Group and we did shows in the Aros Centre," Murdo said, referencing Skye's cinema, theatre and art centre.  "That's where I caught the buzz.  I remember in my final year at Portree High School, I put together my first film.  Teachers lent me cameras for filming and I was allowed to stay long after everybody went home to work in the computer room.  The film I made was an absolute disaster, but the process was a huge learning curve.  If I hadn't done that, I probably wouldn't be in this situation now with my first feature released."
The Knox premiere took place on August 4 at John Knox House.  Murdo related: "It received a very positive response.  Given that it was largely our supporters and friends there, it would be difficult to get an objective view, but, on the whole, it was very positive and enthusiastic.  In other situations, people have said it was very professional, very engaging and feels more like they are watching a film than a documentary.  Since then, we have done other screenings in Glasgow, Belfast, Cornwall, Cambridge, Birmingham and Dundee."  And it doesn't stop there!  Talks are ongoing to broadcast Knox in North Africa, Romania and Bulgaria, with a translation into Arabic at the initial stages.  "We are also in talks to distribute it in China and it has passed clearance for distribution in North America, as well as the UK channel, UCB and channels in Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia," Murdo related, enthusiastically.  "It's going global!  Funding for the film came from all over the world, so this is appropriate.  It has been a global phenomenon from beginning to end."
To get a taster of the 1 hour and 18 minutes long film, you can view the trailer at https://vimeo.com/128689009.  The screening of Knox in Stornoway will be hosted in connection with the Gambia Partnership, featuring an introduction by Rev. Dr. Iain D. Campbell.  Knox will come to an Lanntair on Monday October 19 at 6pm and the Aros Centre, Portree on October 20 at 7:30pm.

(Interview by Roz Skinner)

Macbeth - Isle Of Skye Première

Article and photographs by Roz Skinner.

The red carpet went down at the Aros Centre on October 2.  The occasion was the première of Macbeth - a film that was close to the hearts of the Isle of Skye residents.  Starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, a number of local extras were also involved in filming.  Thus, the Aros auditorium was packed, with viewers hoping to see a glimpse of either themselves or their island home!

As well as showing appreciation for a lavish film, this was also a celebration of one of the unsung stars of Macbeth - the Isle of Skye.  The moody, misty atmosphere of Skye made a perfect backdrop for famous scenes in Macbeth, such as when Banquo is slain and various dramatic battle scenes.  The other-worldly feel of the Quiraing, with its bizarre, undulating features, was a positively inspired location for Macbeth's encounters with the Three Witches.  The scenery was accompanied by faultless performances from the actors, as well as a soundtrack that perfectly captured the mood of both Scotland and the film.  

Thanks to Visit Scotland, booklets were available, giving readers a taste of history about the real Macbeth.  Entitled The Man, Myth and Legend, the booklet listed a number of areas in Scotland where filming took place and other locations that featured in the original play.  

Talisker whisky tastings were available - with one of the most popular samples being the new "Talisker Skye" whisky.  Described as the "least smoky" of the Talisker whiskies, it boasted sweet and citrus flavours - this was a beautiful way to celebrate, not just an excellent film, but the Isle of Skye, with its evocative landscapes, jagged peaks and eternal fascination.

 

Minister visits TV setting on Sleat

Production company Young Films and the cast and crew of BBC ALBA Gaelic drama “Bannan” were recently delighted to welcome Cabinet Secretary for Europe & External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP, to their production base and on location of the current series of Bannan currently being filmed in Sleat.

Bannan, commissioned by BBC ALBA and funded by MG ALBA in partnership with Creative Scotland is the first Gaelic drama to be produced in over 20 years. The three pilot episodes screened in September 2014 were very well received by the BBC ALBA audience with 62pc of the channel’s audience tuning in to watch the first episode; the highest reach of any programme on the channel since its launch on Freeview in 2011.

Following this success, BBC ALBA commissioned Young Films to deliver a further 15 episodes with the next instalment of five episodes being transmitted on BBC ALBA on 21st September.

Chris Young, Producer of Bannan and Managing Director of Young Films said: “We are now filming the last five half-hours of the 18-episode Bannan cycle, and it’s amazing to think that we only started filming the pilot exactly two years ago next week.  That’s nine hours of TV drama produced in Scotland in two years, which is something I’m very proud of.  The support we have received from both Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government has made a huge difference in making this happen.

“In the process of filming Bannan, we have managed to train a whole new home-grown team of new writers, directors, producers, actors and technicians in long-running TV drama. 

“I believe Bannan provides a very good model for how we can significantly expand indigenous film and television production and training in Scotland.”

Ms Hyslop was joined by Richard Findlay, Chair of Creative Scotland and was able to witness some of the opportunities that have been provided by the drama during the past three years and meet production staff that have benefitted from working and being trained on Bannan.

From the beginning Bannan has focused on providing training and development opportunities at all levels of production and development. Around 20% of Bannan’s budget can be attributed to training and staff development and almost half of the 70 plus cast, crew and staff working on the show are going through some form of training /career progression.

As a result Young Films has witnessed significant progression and development of skills across the whole spectrum of TV/film talent and craft disciplines. Chris added: “I believe that with Bannan Young Films has created a strong model for the future and we are confident that we have the resources and talent to deliver outstanding drama from a Scottish base to a national and international TV and cinema audience.”

Ms Hyslop said: “Meeting some of the talented crew who have been trained to a world leading standard while working on Bannan demonstrates just some of the benefits of Scottish film and TV production.

“Bannan is a major Scottish success story – reaching a bigger audience than any other programme on BBC ALBA since it launched in 2011 and allocating a significant proportion of its production costs to training and professional development opportunities for young people.

“Our continuing support for Bannan underlines the Scottish Government’s firm commitment to increasing indigenous language programming which we have made clear to the UK Government we expect to see more of through the BBC Charter renewal process.”

One of those who has gained experience from working on Bannan is Laura MacLennan, 24, who works as a scriptwriter and script-supervisor. Laura is from Barvas on the Isle of Lewis and graduated in 2012 she was given the opportunity to work as a trainee alongside Bannan script supervisor on the pilot and has never looked back.

Laura said: “I am now the sole script supervisor, and have been involved in translating scripts from Gaelic to English. This involvement has given me an extensive knowledge of the characters and of the Bannan style of writing.”   This allowed her to become a fully-fledged scriptwriter on the show writing and delivering two episodes.

“Two years ago, I didn’t know what a script supervisor was, and I had not prepared any creative writing since school. Now I’m relishing the challenges and honing my skills to write must watch TV – opportunities I’d never have got without the help of Young Films and the opportunities Bannan has presented,” Laura continued.

Mairead Hamilton is another young trainee benefitting from valuable experience on Bannan. Mairead comes from Sleat and after working as a runner on the pilot and after expressing an interest in directing she was given the opportunity to work as director’s assistant to Tony Kearney and then offered the role as trainee director. In the last block of filming Mairead directed episode 11 and is currently directing another episode on this block.

Mairead said: “To say I am grateful to Chris Young, Morag Stewart, Tony Kearney and Young Films as a whole for this extraordinary opportunity is to put it far too mildly! I have learnt so very much from my time on Bannan and it has been an absolute joy to see the evolution of the show and the actors and to work through the medium of the language, which is integral to the story - Gaelic.”



 

Fiona Hyslop & Richard Findlay with trainees on set of Bannan (from R to L - Mairead Hamilton - trainee director, Laura MacLennan - trainee scriptwriter & script supervisor, Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cristin MacKenzie - trainee director, Richard Findlay - Chair of Creative Scotland)

 

From right to left - Donald Campbell - Chief executive MG ALBA, Maggie Cunningham - Chair MG ALBA, Richard Findlay - Chair Creative Scotland, Fiona Hyslop MSP, Chris Young - Producer & Managing Director Young Films, Margaret Mary Murray Head of Service BBC ALBA, Tony Kearney - Director, Bannan, Chrisella Ross - writer & creator Bannan.

 

Para Handy sails into Book Festival

How did three men, using only accordion, pipes, mandolin, piano and inventive percussion, manage to make their audience feel like they were on board Para Handy's puffer, The Vital Spark? That is exactly what Allan MacDonald, Iain MacLeod and Russell Hunter (A.K.A. The Crew Of The Puffer) were able to achieve in "Para Handy: A Highland Voyage" - the final event in the Skye Book Festival, held at the Aros Centre.

Originally featured in Neil Munro's short stories, Para Handy was the captain of The Vital Spark - a steamboat that delivered essential supplies around the west coast and Hebridean islands. Allan, Iain and Russell were bringing a musical touch to the stories as they took their listeners on a journey, starting from Glasgow to running aground on the Isle of Skye, and finally to The Grand Ceilidh at Dunoon.

Allan, Iain and Russell put great energy into their performance. Their foot-tapping songs were irresistible, with the audience happily chanting the choruses. If you closed your eyes, you could easily believe you were on The Vital Spark, as the sound of the engine was brilliantly mimicked by the men.

Displayed as a backdrop was an evocative picture of a puffer, dwarfed by the dramatic Scottish scenery. That, and the talents of Allan, Iain and Russell, made the audience feel as if they were just watching three friends playing music and having fun on calmer waters as their puffer carried them home.

(Words and photographs by Roz Skinner)