Entrepreneur helps students bring agricultural history to life

By press office

Serial entrepreneur supports students bringing agricultural history to life at unique East Lothian steading  

A serial entrepreneur is harnessing the power of young digital creators and performers to breathe new life into an historic steading development in East Lothian. For the second year in a row, Scottish tech entrepreneur, George Mackintosh is providing an award programme which will see new creative talent help transform Papple Steading into an impressive agricultural heritage centre which celebrates the rich history of the agricultural revolution.

Papple Steading is thought to be one of Britain’s finest historic model farms of the Agricultural Improvement Movement, designed and built in the mid 19th century. Once part of the Whittinghame Estate, whose Laird was AJ Balfour, the British Prime Minister between 1902 and 1905, the farm fell into disrepair with the buildings unused for decades. 

Rising like a phoenix out of the ashes as it undergoes an extensive restoration, Papple Steading is currently being transformed into an inspiring countryside venue which will not only communicate the historic importance of the agricultural revolution in Scotland, but will provide tourism, business and community opportunities.  

Under George’s leadership and vision, the ambitious plans to develop an agricultural heritage centre, heritage reference library, cafe, shop and auditorium, as well as an artist’s studio, meeting rooms, private dining areas and accommodation cottages, are moving forward at speed. With a passion for all things tech, George is harnessing the talents of filmmakers, media experts and creatives at Queen Margaret University to showcase the Papple Steading offering in new and exciting ways. The aim is to use creativity, filmmaking, storytelling and drama performance through digital means to captivate and entertain new and diverse audiences, encouraging them to learn about Scotland’s rich agricultural past.  

"Papple Steading is developing into such a new and exciting facility that we want to use modern, innovative and creative ways of connecting people with Scotland’s fascinating agricultural past. I am passionate about nurturing young talent and exploring the use of technology to enhance what we have here at Papple Steading’s heritage centre. By working with students and new graduates at Queen Margaret University we can use digital media to blend the new with the old, allowing us to share our history, our traditions and our contemporary facilities with wider audiences across Scotland and beyond."
George Mackintosh

Now in its second year, the Papple Media Prize @ QMU, funded by Papple Steading, is seeing QMU students pitch their creative concepts as part of a competition. The students were given a creative brief and had the opportunity to choose from themes focused around global agricultural development and food production arising from the achievements and innovations of the people of the Lothians and Scotland. 

Sir Paul Grice, Principal of Queen Margaret University, said: “We are honoured to be involved in such an inspirational and innovative development which showcases an important and transformational period in Scotland’s history. We admire George Mackintosh’s vision for Papple Steading and his foresight in the use of student and graduate talent to enhance and communicate the Papple Steading offering. The awards present outstanding opportunities for QMU graduates to showcase their skills while making a valuable contribution to the transformation of an important historic but contemporary facility for Scotland.” 

There are two group winners this year, each who will receive £4,500 to progress their creative project.  

Alexandra Gilbert & Jourie Fraser-Harris will create a multimedia project based on sheep farming. The project, which centres around the use of local school children, will be a fun, light-hearted film which communicates the history and facts of sheep farming and its impact on agriculture in the local areas. This project builds on the style of filming that Alexandra and Jourie produced in 2021 when they created ‘Our heritage of oats’. The film featured lighthearted interviews with pupils from Stenton Primary School discussing their knowledge of oats. 

Stuart McPherson and Shannon Dalyare also winners of this year’s Papple Media Prize @ QMU. Their project ‘Come the spring’ is a coming of age story, set against a backdrop of the agricultural revolution in East Lothian. This will focus on the fictional character, Mary, who is a gamekeeper and bondager in the mid 1800’s. The work will highlight the female voice from around this time period.  

Both groups of winners will bring their concepts to life this summer, with their final pieces of digital being ready by October.  

Notes to Editor

More about Papple Steading 

Papple Steading is one of the finest farm buildings in Britain. It is largely in its original condition and shape, although in a very poor state of repair. It contains the entire provenance with which we can tell the story of the Agricultural Revolution. James Balfour made a fortune in India to spend it in 1817 as an improving landowner in East Lothian. His grandson, the then laird AJ Balfour [later Lord Balfour], commissioned Papple’s construction some time before 1860 for it to become a wonderful late example of a “model farm”. However, its sheer size required a level of investment in the site that had be underpinned by financial logic. It demanded the preparation of a complex plan for its use and a commercial viability that would support its initial development and long-term financial sustainability. 

Papple Steading will provide a place for heritage, business and community use. It will be a place to discover more about farming and the “Improvement” which changed our landscapes so dramatically and the organisation of agriculture so radically; a place for groups of business-people, families, wellbeing practitioners to retreat and build or reawaken relationships; and a place for local communities to meet and be entertained and for people of all ages to enjoy its buildings, woodland and open spaces. 

Link to the Papple Media Prize @ QMU film made by QMU graduate film company Naka. 

Film by QMU graduates which won the Papple Media Prize @ QMU last year ‘Our heritage of oats’ Our Heritage of Oats - Papple Steading 


For further media information please contact Lynne Russell, Communications Manager, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, E: lrussell@qmu.ac.uk, pressoffice@qmu.ac.uk, M: 07711 011239.  

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