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Renowned Scottish Artist takes up residence at Stirling Castle

1 September 2011

Stirling Castle has been the inspiration for many paintings and drawings over the centuries – and now its has its own artist in residence.

                        Iona Leishman

Visitors will now be able to see Iona Leishman – a rising star among Scottish painters – carry out a residency at the castle for the rest of 2011 and view a selection of her work on display and on sale.

During this time she will work with schools and community groups to develop the creative talents of children and adults – including supporting high school students who are putting together portfolios for art exams.

Iona said: “It’s tremendous to be offered the chance to become the artist in residence for Stirling Castle. As I get to know the castle I hope to produce work which will capture its essence as a place which is full of history, has wonderful architecture and which is set in the middle of such a fantastic landscape.

“Because I will be here for six months I will see it in different seasons and in all sorts of weather, so I hope to be able to produce work which shows it in fresh and sometimes unexpected ways. I’m very much looking forward to working with school and community groups and will really enjoy the chance to encourage people to find ways of expressing their creativity.

“It’s great to be able to add to what Historic Scotland is already doing to bring people in so they can use the castle as a source of inspiration and ideas for art.”

Iona will also create her own art, capturing and reflecting the character of one of the Scotland’s most famous historic sites in a way that has never been done before.

Visitors are likely to see her sketching or painting in the castle.

The initiative is part of Historic Scotland’s far-reaching educational programme which aims to make the best and most imaginative use of our national heritage.

Perth-born Iona, 48, has been a professional artist for eight years and has a growing reputation as a landscape painter and especially enjoys working in oils.

She lives in Dunblane, and is the granddaughter of one of its most famous citizens, John Reith, first director general of the BBC. Her colourful and distinctive style is increasingly popular with galleries and collectors across the UK and overseas.

One of her aims during the residency is to capture the life of the castle as it is today – as both a workplace and a visitor attraction.

Exhibitions are planned in the autumn and winter where visitors can enjoy art by Iona and by members of the groups she has supported.

Kirsten Wood, Stirling Castle learning development officer, said: “This is an exciting initiative and will really build on what we have done over the years to open up the castle to groups of all kinds to use for arts projects. It will be superb for people to have the chance to work with a professional artist of Iona’s ability who can help them discover lots of interesting approaches to use in their art.”

Iona not only has skills in drawing and painting but other techniques, including crafts.

During the residency she will run sessions for many groups, and has already worked with the Chernobyl Children’s Life Line which provides respite breaks for youngsters whose health has been damaged by the after-effects of the meltdown of the nuclear reactor.

The residency project is a collaboration between the Historic Scotland Learning Services with the kind support of Sterling Furniture Group, of Tillicoultry, match funded by a New Arts Sponsorship Grant from Arts & Business Scotland.

Gordon Mearns, Managing Director, Sterling Furniture, said: “Sponsoring an artist in residency programme is a first for Sterling Furniture and we are delighted to support Iona during her time at Stirling Castle in a project that clearly reflects the heritage of our headquarters in Tillicoultry and the link between furniture design and the arts.

“Initiatives such as this really do help narrow the gap between the business and creative sectors. We feel privileged to be able to add this much needed level of investment to enable an important project such as this to come to fruition.”

Notes for editors:

  • The residency emerged from an earlier arts project in the North East of Scotland involving arts development expert Kathleen O'Neill and Historic Scotland. Kathleen, who runs Culture Matters (see www.culture-matters.co.uk/home.php), brought Historic Scotland together with Iona and then worked to take the residency from an idea to a reality.

  • Among the groups that Iona will work with is Artlink Central, which runs a programme for people with mental health issues, and has been involved with a series of projects at the castle. Visit www.artlinkcentral.org/arts-and-health.   

  • Iona has previously painted many Historic Scotland sites including Doune, Stirling and Kilchurn castles as well as Inchmahome Priory and Dunblane Cathedral. Before becoming a professional artist Iona worked in PR. She was born in Perth and now lives in Dunblane. She has four children who are Calum (17), Ewan (15) and 10-year-old twins Jennifer and Bryony. To find out more visit www.ionaleishman.co.uk.

  • Works by Iona are in many public and private collections including those of: the University of Stirling, the 51st Scottish Brigade Officers’ Mess, The National Trust for Scotland, The John Muir Trust, Touchstone Heritage Management Consultants and Music Scotland.

  • To find out more about Sterling Furniture contact www.sterlingfurniture.co.uk or call Lisa Dixon on 01259 750655.  

  • For all the latest on the palace project, and everything else that happening at Stirling Castle, visit our website at www.stirlingcastle.gov.uk and sign up for our free e-newsletter.

  • Historic Scotland has 345 historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For further details visit: www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/places.  


  • Arts & Business Scotland (A&BS) is the national charity dedicated to encouraging new and sustainable arts and business relationships.  

  • The New Arts Sponsorship grants – funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by A&BS – aim to build private sector sponsorship of the arts.  The grants provide match funding for new arts sponsors, doubling their sponsorship benefits.



For further information


Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07920 768096
lesley.brown@scotland.gsi.gov.uk