SICK of the “rental rut” of Edinburgh where decent accommodation at a reasonable price is hard to find, musician and music producer Lomond Campbell decided to buy a dilapidated old school in the Highlands and turn it into a home studio.

Nine years later he is the guest speaker at a conference this week on how digital technology could unlock new opportunities for the creative and heritage sectors in rural communities.

The free Shared Perspectives event on Saturday, delivered by Xpo North, will offer the chance to take part in workshops and meet with specialist advisers.

Campbell, who produced Kathryn Joseph’s shortlisted Scottish Album of the Year, will be part of a panel discussing the power of the creative economy and how it can be harnessed.

Ahead of the conference, he told The National there is huge potential for the creative industries to stimulate rural economies, such as Lochaber where he is based, and this needed to be recognised.

“My understanding is that the arts are critically underfunded but there could be huge investment in Lochaber – if you were to put an arts centre in the middle of Fort William it could really turn the place around,” he said.

“Orkney has the Pier Arts Centre which is really high profile so it can happen.

“There are people here doing interesting stuff but it is just a bit hidden away because we don’t have a venue to hang out in.

“A music venue would be good too. Galashiels in the Scottish Borders has a really good one and is on the tour circuit so there is no reason why Fort William couldn’t.”

Campbell added: “I just think creative industries are not really spoken about enough.

“Their visibility is not as prominent as other industries and what I find interesting is that people seem to get a bit annoyed when the creative industries are funded. 

"It is something that can be frowned upon but in my experience it is really positive as the creative industries have tentacles – they spread right out and there are crossovers with many other sectors.

“You think of the creative industry of just a painter in their bedroom or studio making work and that it is a solitary pursuit but it is much more than that and you can really build on that. You can actually build something much bigger than you think.”

Despite the lack of a place to network in Fort William, the nearest town to his studio, Campbell works hard to make sure he is not forgotten about and it seems to be working.

He has won a BAFTA for his work as part of the band and art collective FOUND and his discography includes his recently released album Lup.

The conference will feature Campbell in conversation with Simon McKerrell, Professor of Media and Music at Glasgow Caledonian University, Highlands-based luxury designer Iseabal Hendry, and StrategyStory co-founder Kate Hooper.

McKerrell said there was “huge potential” for the creative industries to transform rural economies with the help of digital technologies.

He has spent the last couple of years researching music in the Highlands and Islands and the creative economy and has interviewed many artists who have moved back to the area because they think they can make a better living.

“The big story in my mind is that the more place-based the enterprises are – the more connections they have to their local community and the more they make of that – the more financially sustainable those businesses are,” he said, “Place-based capital in rural Scotland is particularly suited to traditional music, song, and crafts that have a connection to the place.

“Gaelic singers, instrumentalists, and composers can make a lot of hay with place-based connections to the land, to the history and to the culture of the Highlands and Islands and there are some people who could make a better living in the Highlands and Islands than London and Edinburgh.”

McKerrell added that digitalisation, which was speeded up by Covid, meant that the online presentation of rural communities could now be a more effective branding for the marketing of the business.

“The pandemic has accelerated digitalisation of our physical landscape and its power in the minds of consumers,” he said.