Working the Map

Beautiful artists' book by John Cumming: Working the Map – islanders and a changing environment

Shetland/Orkney artist and Sea Change commissioned artist John Cumming has created and edited an artists’ book documenting social and ecological change across the Northern Isles. Produced in partnership with the RSPB and launched at the Orkney Nature Festival, the book includes contributions from artists and social scientists on Orkney.

Working the Map – islanders and a changing environment looks at climate change and its impact on the lives of those who live in Britain’s most northerly isles. Farmers, fishermen, scientists and artists tell us in their own words, of the changes they have experienced, its impact on their lives and their concerns for the future. The text considers the implications of a warming climate for both land and sea use. In an essay entitled Boundaries without Fences – Dividing up the Sea, scientist Kate Johnson looks at the increasing demands made upon inshore waters as fishermen, the oil industry, renewable technology, conservationists and commercial traffic compete for the same marine territory. 

The book is generously illustrated by sketchbook drawings of wildlife by John Cumming, while essays discuss the drastic losses now occurring in native species. Poets Morag MacInnes, Pamela Beasant and Yvonne Gray use their art to reflect on the bond that exists between islanders and their landscape.


"Beautifully put together, this is no mass produced tome. The book itself is as much a joy to hold and handle as it is to read."

Review by Sigurd Towrie titled A Joy to Handle and to Read published in The Orcadian.