The Isle of Man is a pretty special place to be. We are the only whole island nation in the world to be classed as a UNESCO Biosphere. Unsurprisingly, our artists have a wealth of source material to inspire them. Feast you eyes on some of their creations – I think you too will be enchanted by the quality and diversity the island has to offer.
Cover photo Nicola Dixon. Click on the pictures to view in the lightbox.
We have the world’s oldest continuous parliament, Tynwald, which is over 1000 years old and started in 979 although its roots are said to go back even further.
We have some other pretty cool heritage here too. The largest water wheel in the world, the Lady Isabella in Laxey; horse trams, which have been running along Douglas promenade since 1902; our narrow-gauge steam railway dating back to 1870 which still runs from Douglas to Port Erin and the Manx Electric Railway (since 1893) which runs from Douglas to Ramsey via Laxey and from Laxey to the top of Snaefell, our ‘snow’ mountain. It’s a good route if you like hill walking although the Island has loads of fabulous walks to offer including the coastal path which goes all the way around the island.
We have our own tartan and Laxey Woollen Mills is not only the place to go for all things woolly, it also has an art gallery upstairs called The Hodgson Loom Gallery which hosts some fabulous exhibitions. Other art galleries on the Island are The Sayle Gallery, The Isle Gallery (which does loads of art workshops) and Studio 42.
Our old ruined houses are called ‘tholtans’ and there are many examples to be found tucked away in the hills. They are curiously beautiful and captivating. Ray Kelly has photographed and documented many of them in two books, along with information about the people who lived in them.
In the west of the island Peel Castle dates back to the Vikings. Peel has a wonderful cathedral which is very supportive of the arts. Some of the Island’s best artists live in Peel and with its fabulous sunsets and ancient past it’s not hard to understand why. We have Celtic roots with symbols dating to ancient times. The triskel (three legs) is the emblem on our flag.
Peel is not the only place on the Island with quirky streets and alleyways and artists have plenty of interesting lanes and facades to choose from.
One of the special things about the island is it’s proximity to nature and all creatures great and small. Whilst we do have wild wallabies (which escaped from the Wild Life Park about 30 years ago) we don’t have foxes, toads, newts, deer, badgers or snakes. We do have a special breed of sheep, however, the Loaghtan, which has very impressive horns – and of course the world famous Manx cat.
It’s not just diversity on land. In the seas around the Island we are privileged to have annual visits from majestic basking sharks and dolphins. There’s also a seal colony at the Calf of Man, the small island just to the south separated by the narrow stretch of water at the Calf Sound. The Calf is a wildlife sanctuary and a haven for birdlife. Although puffins have not nested there in recent years they have been seen around the coast this summer, so we are hoping they will return.
I can’t image living away from the sea. Here on the Isle of Man we are never far away. We have miles and miles of amazing beaches and coastline studded with pretty harbours and secluded bays perfect for diving, kayaking, sailing and all kinds of other water sports.
The sea inspires so many here. It is ever changing and a constant source of energy. Artists Claire Pearse (Element.isle) and Nicola Dixon are based at Grenaby Studios in the south of the Island and much of their work takes inspiration from nature and the sea.
We have all kinds of artisan businesses. Nearly 85% of all companies on the Island employ less than 9 people. It really is a great place to live and work if you’re looking for quality of life, a safe environment for your children to grow up in and good tax advantages (we are a low tax jurisdiction and are on the OECD’s ‘white list’). There are government grants available for people establishing business on the Island with new co-working spaces such as The Engine House in Castletown, which is aimed at providing affordable desk rental and business support. Local artist Adam Berry designed this cool logo. We have some fab graphic designers here too, producing logos and posters and all manner of things for businesses both on and off Island.
While you’re shooting for the stars with your business, it’s also the place to come and look at them. Our fabulous dark skies mean that we get some of the most spectacular views of the night sky. There is a map of the best dark skies sites around Island by artist Alice Quayle but for many of us all we need to do is open the door and sit in the garden.
If you’re looking for entertainment, the Annual Film Festival is going from strength to strength, last year attracting visitors from around the globe. Now in its 7th year, artist Bruno Cavellec has designed the artwork from the outset. There is so much to do here you could be out every night of the week if you wanted. As well as the Isle of Man Film Festival there is an annual Art Festival, TheatreFest, Manx Litfest, Celtfest, Beer & Cider Festival, Mannin Angling Festival, Isle of Man Bowling Festival, Isle of Man Gin Fest, and the Isle of Man Food and Drink Festival.
There are loads of gigs and music events featuring local bands and artists. We have festivals such as the Dark Horse Festival, Deep South Festival and this year, the first MannKind Festival which was exclusively for those with disabilities and their families.
To go with the music there are local beverages such as Bushy’s beer, Manx Cider and Fynoderee gin.
As well as the good ale there’s good food to go with it. Being by the sea we have the freshest catches and of course, our famous smoked Manx kippers. We export our produce worldwide including queenies (native to Manx waters – a small type of scallop), beef and speciality cheese.
The Island’s bees are pretty special too. Disease free we have strict rules prohibiting the importation of bees. They seem to be pretty popular with our artists too.
I think perhaps the Isle of Man is best known around the world for the Isle of Man TT. Thousands of bikers flock to the Island each year for the most exciting race on earth. With a new average lap record of 135mph through country roads and villages and vantage points all around the 37.73 miles of the course you could visit for many years and always have a different view or corner to watch from.
But we’re not just leaders in road racing. We are leaders in beach cleaning too. Beach Buddies which was set up around ten years ago by retired journalist Bill Dale, is leading the charge and setting global standards. More than 10% of the Island’s population now regularly collect litter from the beaches, including huge amounts of plastic and fishing gear. We have the cleanest beaches in Europe, if not worldwide. Artist Frauke Watson uses found materials from the beaches to make her artwork.
There’s so much more I could say and show you but I think it is fair to say that Manx people are incredibly proud of their island, and rightly so. I hope you’ve enjoyed this arty view of the Isle of Man.
Have a great week.