Today we have some news from Puppet Animation Scotland’s wonderful Artistic Director, Simon Hart, who has been with us for the past 25 years. Over this time, he has nurtured Puppet Animation Scotland and helped it to grow into what you see before you today. Unfortunately, there does come a time when one must move on and although we will all miss him so dearly, we hope that you will join us in wishing Simon all the very best for this next step in his journey. We are very sure that this is goodbye for now, but not for long as we intend to stay in close contact with him over the years to come.

Please read Simon’s leaving words below:

“It is with a great deal of sadness that I announce that I will be leaving Puppet Animation Scotland towards the end of May, to take up a position – Director of Business & Development – at Taigh Chearsabagh, the arts centre on the island of North Uist.

Over the past eighteen months, my partner Andrea and I have been talking about potential options as we make our life together. They now coalesce around our plans at some point in the future to develop a creative retreat, either in the north of England or the west of Scotland. The position at Taigh Chearsabagh is a brilliant and very exciting opportunity in its own right. It also offers us an intrinsically valuable journey of positive challenges, learning and experience which will help us reach our longer-term destination.

We recently visited North Uist, to see if the lifestyle would work well for both of us. Taigh Chearsabagh is an important cultural and life-skills focus for the island’s inhabitants. As well as each year presenting a wide range of exhibitions featuring the work of leading Scottish-based and international visual artists, and providing the venue and facilities for the University of the Highland’s honours degree course in fine art, Taigh Chearsabagh is also the base for an art therapist and a digital skills development officer, both of whom engage closely with the local community. It has a very nice shop and café, as well as Lochmaddy’s local post office. I was immediately very impressed by the arts centre and the high calibre of its staff and trustees. So much is already created there and there is great potential for further future growth.

My job, as CEO in all but name and line manager of the 14 full and part-time staff, will be to create clear new strategies to help maintain and strengthen Taigh Chearsabagh’s ongoing success and sustainability, as well as guide future initiatives and innovations. The island is beautiful – even with the gales! – with marvellous beaches and big skies. Andrea and I are outdoors people so, without tempting fate, everything is aligning for a good, challenging and rewarding work–life balance for us both.

I am very sad to leave Puppet Animation Scotland. For, dare I say, the past 25 years (!) this has been the very best job! We have a brilliantly strong, committed and utterly professional team and board of directors, both present and past. Together we have made a very great deal happen and I thank them all so much for their thoughtful, robust and insightful guidance and support throughout my time with the organisation. Whatever success and standing we have established and maintained in Scotland and abroad, is due in very great measure to their unstinting effort, commitment and enthusiasm.

Puppet Animation Scotland is in a very good place to weather and thrive through whatever future storms and challenges it may face. I have had the very great pleasure and privilege to work with so many gifted, dedicated and inspiring Scottish-based and international artists, festival directors, arts managers, administrators and practitioners over these past years. Thank you to you all for making my job so enjoyable, rewarding and fun. There is so much I will miss. There is so much to look forward to!”

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