HEARTSTONE & THE COMMUNITY COVENANT  26 February, 2013 From 2-4pm –  Assembly Rooms Edinburgh  


Tomorrow afternoon (26 February 2013) at the Assembly Rooms from 2-4pm, the first of three main exhibition events will be staged in  the Heartstone Community Covenant project being undertaken over 2013/14. The event will conclude with a special ceremony in the evening at 6.30pm in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle with special guests the Minister for Youth Employment, Angela Constance, Air Officer Scotland and Major General Nick Eeles from The Castle.

The Reporter spoke on the phone to Sitakumari Director with Heartstone to find out the reason behind staging the one day only exhibition:-

This is a new way to bring together young people, the communities they are part of, veterans and current day serving personnel from the Armed Forces to build greater contact, understanding and communication. However, the unusual additional facet of this project is that it also provides an innovative route through which to reach potential employers.


Heartstone was successful in securing a major grant from the MoD for this project, confirmed in January, which includes 10 Scottish authorities and which is led by Edinburgh City Council.

The programme centres on special access photodocumentary coverage undertaken with all three arms of the Armed Forces who have assisted Heartstone photographer, Nick Sidle, since 2000 to facilitate the production of the exhibition which forms the focus of this project around which all the activities take place. The second half of the exhibition includes images from Heartstone’s environmental story, ‘Without Frontiers’ produced with the assistance of SNH, Cairngorm and Loch Lomond National Parks, the RSPB and other major environmental organisations based in Scotland. Assistants for the photographic coverage are often drawn from the Armed Services and the two sections together provide a visually stunning real-life backdrop through which it is possible to take audiences as close as possible into locations they would otherwise not see, and  hear from those who have been in those locations about their own personal experiences.

The spectacular images, all the work of internationally acclaimed photographer, Nick Sidle, have not been staged, posed or manipulated and capture a real ‘moment in time’ and each story has been presented in settings such as the British Museum and the South Bank in London as well as locations such as Pristina, Kabul and NATO HQ in Brussels. For the first time in this exhibition, several stories are coming together, which have taken over 10 years to produce, provide a unique and powerful route to connect people who would otherwise not necessarily meet.


On the day, personnel from all 3 Services who have a connection with the photostories will be there to talk about their own daily life experiences in the context of the exhibition.


This first event has an aviation focus, the second in June taking place at the Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh will have a land focus and the third event at the end of the year at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow will have a marine focus. The veterans participating in this project cover all three Services, each event will have a visual representation covering Heartstone’s work with the Royal Navy, Army and RAF including photodocumentary coverage in the Balkans and Afghanistan stretching over the last 10 years.


To help stage the exhibition, the veterans and service personnel will be assisted by 9 ‘Business in a Box’ teams of young people drawn from across Scotland covering authorities from Argyll & Bute to Aberdeenshire. Each team is responsible for undertaking its own project in their own authority, staging a miniature version of the main event, selling greetings cards drawn from the ‘Without Frontiers’ images to raise funds for local causes of their own choice and using the programme to build their own contacts and connections with Armed Services veterans in their own areas who will be assisting in the staging of the local events.


This project is being undertaken with Edinburgh City Council as the lead authority for the initiative together with Edinburgh Castle.


The exhibition is open to the general public for one day only on the 26th February from 2-4pm at the Assembly Rooms. Admission is free.

Heartstone is a UK-based non-profit organisation established in 1990 to incorporate and use ‘The Heartstone Odyssey’, a magical fictional story which addressed a range of issues surrounding prejudice and intolerance in a unique and effective way. From this step into the world of documentary and social issues, the work of Heartstone expanded to cover real-life stories drawn from across the globe using photojournalism as the foundation for its communication of experience, a medium which has proved ideal in terms of its ability to cross language and many cultural barriers as well as appealing to all age groups. In addition to social concerns, Heartstone has also become widely recognised for its impact in raising environmental issues especially where interventions require cooperation across national boundaries. Heartstone has also worked extensively in exploring historical stories related to its contemporary themes.


All photos Nick Sidle/Heartstone