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Arts / Filmmaker to return to Foula for feature-length documentary

Gareth Goodlad aims to document Foula, where he grew up.

THE REMOTE island Foula is set to be the subject of a new feature-length documentary which will be shot by a filmmaker who grew up in the community.

Gareth Goodlad said through preparing for its filming he learned that the island has a “very tight grip on the hearts of the people who’ve left it, and I want to share their stories, reconnect with my own memories and to discover what island life is like now”.

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The filmmaker is now based in Edinburgh, but he grew up in Foula – located around 20 miles off the west cost of Shetland with a population of around 30 – before leaving prior to turning ten.

His family ended up there after his grandparents saw an advert in Exchange and Mart in 1976 which said ‘remote croft for sale’.

He said his memories of the island have felt like a “dream I’m trying to remember as I wake up – some of it is very clear but other memories not so much”.

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“To me Foula has always had a sort of mythic, somewhat intangible quality,” Goodlad added.

“After leaving, when I was a kid my bus route to and from school was on Shetland’s west coastline facing Foula, every journey without fail I would look out the window to try and spot it.”

A Foula photo from the Goodlad family archives.

Thirty nine year old Goodlad said the aim is to present the island in a cinematic way – with the documentary feature length.

“It will touch on the realities of living so remotely, good and bad,” he added.

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“The hope is that the viewer will be inspired by the islanders’ stories and want to visit and discover the island for themselves.”

Goodlad and his small team will visit Foula in July for the self-financed project after his plans for the shoot were initially curtailed due to the Covid pandemic.

“We will be entering the finished film into every film festival we can,” he added.

Goodlad is also keen to hear from anyone who has video footage of Foula they can contribute to the film. He can be contacted on goodladgareth@gmail.com.

Among his filmmaking CV are clients like the Scottish BAFTAs, the Edinburgh International Film Festival and bands like Mogwai and Idlewild.

Foula has famously appeared on screens before – in the 1937 film The Edge of the World, which was about the eviction of St Kilda off the west of Scotland.

But it was only shot in Foula because its makers could not film in St Kilda.

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