Greentrax Records Profile for Hands Up For Trad Landmark Award

1986 was the year of the first release by Greentrax records. Catalogued CDTRAX001, it was Ian Hardie’s: “A Breath of Fresh Airs.” A 30 year project with hundreds of releases and distribution partnerships around the world was far from founder and managing director Ian Green’s intentions when he suggested the record to Hardie as a means of promoting an upcoming tunebook. 

Hardie had every reason to go to Green for promotional advice. Recently retired from the police force after 30 years of service, Green had been heavily involved in the burgeoning folk scene in Edinburgh: From his legendary police folk club - affectionately nicknamed “fuzzfolk” - to the Edinburgh Folk Club, the Bells Broadsheet and Discount Folk Records, a mail order record company, Green had a wealth of experience. 

Green’s suggestion to Hardie to make an LP to promote his book posed a problem - a lack of organisations to produce, distribute and promote the work of Scottish artists. Taking the matter into his own hands, Green invested some of his police pension and Greentrax was born. CDTRAX001 just the firstof a wealth of releases by the label. 

Thirty years later, with a catalogue numbering in the hundreds, an international partnership with Alasdair Fraser’s Cilburnie records and spinoffs including G2, Celtic Connections and Grian Music Publishing, Greentrax has become much bigger than Green could have imagined. Initially the plan was to release three or four albums per year, but due to his connections within the folk scene people kept knocking at his door. After seven years, the business outgrew his and his wife June’s home, and they moved to a dedicated premises in Cockenzie, where they run the business to this day. 

Over the years, Greentrax’s releases have come to reflect the variety of the Scottish music scene at the present day. Their catalogue includes releases from pipe bands, ceilidh bands, Gaelic and Scots singers, folk bands, singer songwriters, instrumentalists, international artists, and even School of Scottish Studies archive material. 

The label’s all-encompassing attitude towards Scottish music sees this archive material available alongside some of the last 30 years’ most innovative, game-changing albums, such as Shooglenifty’s Venus in Tweeds. In 1994, the album was a shock to some and criticised by purists, but Green’s commitment to promoting the work of Scottish artists saw the release go ahead. This commitment is as strong today, with the continuing innovation of young artists a big part of the ever growing Greentrax catalogue.  

It’s impossible to find anything but universal praise for the work of Greentrax. Sheena Wellington, who has had a part in six recordings they’ve released, said: "Ian and June Green's names are a byword for integrity and goodness. I am very proud to be a Greentrax artist, as is everyone who has had the honour of being part of the Greentrax family.” 

Far from being the small project that Ian Green had intended, Greentrax has become a leader in its field, its work helping the Scottish Music scene to grow and making a vibrant, varied sea of recordings available internationally. From CDTRAX001 in 1986, the company is now at CDTRAX390, with no plans of stopping any time soon! In the words of Gordon Gunn, another Greentrax artist: “Ian Green’s vision has turned the Greentrax catalogue into a huge, classic collection which will live on for future generations to enjoy”.

Highland Print Studio Profile for Highland Youth Arts Hub Website

The Highland Print Studio sits on Bank street in Inverness, I’ve walked past it countless times with no real idea of what it was, or how many different projects they have going on. It’s a really vibrant creative place which hosts a range of artists in residency, workshops and classes. 

It’s an open studio, which means that anyone can learn to use the printmaking facilities and access the sunny, creative space to make their own artwork. The studio provide a range of workshops for all ability levels, in traditional printmaking techniques including screenprinting and wood block carving, as well as cutting edge techniques such as polymer photogravure, which combines photography and adobe photoshop with printmaking. It’s possible to see the stunning results of all of these techniques in the gallery on the Print Studio's website.   

One of the studio’s most successful projects has been Wise Guys- with perhaps a slightly unexpected group of participants. Research from organisations like Age UK has shown that older men don’t engage with social activity to the same extent as women, which in certain circumstances increases the risk of loneliness and isolation. Through Wise Guys, a group of older men came together to get involved with the Highland Print Studio: Learning to use the equipment and a range of traditional printmaking techniques. For many, this was the first time they’d engaged with visual arts. Participants included: A retired farmer, anaesthetist, TV engineer, exciseman and Free Church minister. 

Alison McMenemy, Director of Highland Print Studio told me: "Research shows that older men have difficulty finding activities that are appealing to them. We now know that printmaking and its emphasis on working with materials, tools and equipment (along with a whole load of biscuits), is the thing that gets their creative juices flowing.”

On completion of the course, many of the Wise Guys have continued to use the studio, one has even gone on to build his own etching press. They’ve given presentations at Luminate Festival receptions, appeared on BBC Radio Scotland’s Culture Café and many have had their work featured and sold at exhibitions.

About the project, one of the Wise Guys- Richard MacKenzie said: “Although I’ve learnt many skills in my life, I didn’t have anything to do with the artistic side and had never made anything that wasn’t purely functional, so to do something in art is entirely different for me.  I think people would be surprised at how good the work we produced was.  It’s amazing how far we came in only three hours’ tuition a week.  The more I do the more I want to learn, so I’ve kept on doing it.  I’ve invested in my own printing press and set up space in my artist wife’s studio.  I’ve exhibited my prints at several local exhibitions and have another coming up in August.  The Wise Guys programme has given me entirely new skills and a whole new direction to follow, making artwork that is completely my own, that I’m proud to see on the wall. There’s a great team at Highland Print Studio and I’ve made many new and valued friends.” 

It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on the Print Studio. The range of projects, classes and exhibitions they run is forever being updated, it seems to me like there really is something for everybody!