The Heart and Soul of Orkney
The Heart and Soul of Orkney brought together artists and writers to perform a Foy at St Mary’s Episcopal Church, Stromness, Friday 14th September, 7.30pm-9.30pm. A varied programme of poems, prose and music was performed. I read some pieces from Bessie Skea and my own ‘Countrywoman’s Diary‘ from this summer.
ASLE – Orkney a Place on the Edge?
The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE-UKI) Postgraduate Conference will be held in Orkney in September 2018 in conjunction with the Orkney International Science Festival.
The Conference will run from Wednesday 5 to Friday 7 September. It encourages dialogue between disciplines that have an interest in creative responses to the environment and examines in particular how this exists in communities at the edge of society, who might be at the forefront of change.
I will present, ‘People, poems and place: Stromness an acrostic town.’ a description of Stromness Writing Group’s experience of place based writing and an analysis of the place of their work within the context of the environment. Session 5. Orkney: People and Place. 14.00-15.30pm, Wednesday 5th September, Kirkwall Town Hall.
More information about conference registration and the full programme can be found at ASLE-UK.
Sail Britain Coastline
Sail Britain Coastline project brings together scientists and artists at sea. Writer Harriet Fraser is a sailing to Orkney with a crew of geologists. She will be meeting with Orkney writers including members of the Stromness Writing Group and sharing her work created on the voyage – inspired by the sea and island life along the coastlines of Orkney and Northwest Scotland. This will be an informal event held at the Episcopal Church, Church Road, Stromness at 7pm on Wednesday 29 August. Writers are invited to bring along their own work to share.
More about Harriet’s work with Rob Fraser:
J. Storer Clouston
The Fiction of J. Storer Clouston and Beyond – The Stromness Writing Group hosted an afternoon of writing inspired by J. Storer Clouston on Saturday afternoon May 12th at the Orkney Library and Archive.
J. Storer Clouston moved to Orphir in Orkney in 1903. He wrote a prestigious number of novels and had a popular entertaining style admired by many including P.G. Wodehouse. The Spy in Black was adapted into a film and his plays were performed in West End theatres. He also wrote and edited history books about the islands where he made his home.
The Making of the Man was inspired by the title A Lunatic at Large and the cover illustration for Carrington’s Cases.
Orkney Book Festival
The 2017 Orkney Book Festival took place between the 9th and 12th November. I read a new short story after the George Mackay Brown Memorial Lecture as well as participating in events with the Stromness Writing Group.
Events were many and varied with workshops on screenwriting from Sara Bailey to Renga Poetry with Yvonne Gray. A review of the festival can be found here.
There was a chance to hear the many voices of Orkney writers with authors such as Amy Liptrot, Tim Morrison and Morag MacInnes reading at venues around the islands.
Gabrielle Barnby and Sara Bailey appearing at the The Orkney Book Festival.
Stromness Per Mare: Street name Acrostics + Haiku
Stromness Writing Group celebrated the 2017 200 Per Mare year with an exhibition acrostic poems based on Stromness street names. The poems were written by group members displayed with a map of Stromness in the Northlight Gallery, Stromness. The exhibition came back for a second showing from Saturday 7th -16th October. Entry was free to all and there was a chance to meet the writers on Saturday 7th from 2-4pm. A limited edition publication of the poems was available to purchase at the gallery and at Stromness Books and Prints. Copies have been deposited at the Scottish Poetry Library and several of the poems were selected for the Best Scottish Poems 2017.
Stromness Per Mare: Foy
Stromness Writing Group celebrated the 200 Per Mare year by hosting a Foy of new poetry and prose based on and around Stromness. The evening included readings from over a dozen writers as well as music and refreshments. The winners of the Flash Fiction 200 words competition were announced and invited to read their work. The Foy took place at the Pier Arts Centre, Stromness on Friday 8th September.
The Inspiration of St Magnus
These poems were written as part of a celebration of music, visual arts and literature on the 900th anniversary of the martyrdom of Magnus Erlendsson. Between 28th-30th July a number of events organised by the Catholic Church will be held on Orkney, including pilgrimages to Birsay and Egilsay. More information is available on the Diocese of Aberdeen website.
Booked with Shirley Whiteside
Pulse 98.4 fm, Sunday 15.00-16.00
Gabrielle Barnby talks about her new novel The Oystercatcher Girl to writer, reviewer and radio presenter Shirley Whiteside this Sunday afternoon on Booked, Pulse 98.4 fm. Find out more about the ideas behind the novel and how the characters came to life. Hear about the myth of the oystercatcher and being a writer in Orkney.
Stomness Writing Group – Diary Extracts and the Stories we Created.
Saturday 8th July from 2pm
Orkney Library & Archive, Kirkwall
A chance to hear diary extracts from 200 Years of Diaries, Life’s Documents Chronicled from 1800-2000 curated by Dylan Jonas Stone followed by a range of creative responses from Stromness Writing Group.
The diary extracts are taken from between 1909 and 1975 and have prompted a variety of writing including diary continuations, short fiction and letters. Each piece uses a diary as a starting point and takes the ideas to form a creative response that will be read out by members of the writing group.
Diary Entry Feb-March 1909
THE OYSTERCATCHER GIRL
The launch was hosted by Scottish poet Yvonne Gray on Thursday, April 20th , Kirkwall library. There was a full house for the book launch made up of friends, family, writers and visitors. Yvonne Gray steered questions on the new novel and there was an opportunity to talk about the way I worked and what inspired me to write The Oystercatcher Girl. There was also a chance to hear some readings from the new book and a discussion of the myth from South Uist of how the oystercatcher received its markings.
‘The oystercatcher, a black and white shore bird with an orange beak, was known as Gille Brighde, or the servant of Brighde, foster-mother of Christ. It was said that an oystercatcher had hidden the baby Jesus from enemies beneath a covering of seaweed; ever since that time the bird has worn a cross on its back.’ From Archaeology and Folklore, Ed Amy Gazin-Schwartz, Cornelius J. Holtorf. 2000, Routledge.
This year Stromness celebrates 200 years of being officially decreed a Burgh of Barony, meaning that the town had the right to manage and run its own affairs separate from Kirkwall. There are a host of Stromness 200 – Per Mare celebrations during the year including homecoming events, drama activities, tea dances, displays of vintage clothing and events on the water organised by the Nav School.
Stromness Writing Group
The Stromness Writing Group is joining in the celebrations with a writing competition with a difference – everyone’s a judge. There are 200 days to submit pieces up to 200 words in length that have the theme of Stromness Per Mare. These will then be displayed on the writing group facebook page for people to ‘like.’ We’re hoping the competition will be fun.
Other plans include
- Scrawl crawl at the museum in May.
- Writing Haiku for display at Stromness library and on the Hamnavoe.
- Street name acrostics to be displayed at the Northlight Gallery in June.
- Foy – storytelling with refreshments and music.
Saturday 18th February – Stromness 200 Per Mare Bicentennial celebration launch, Royal Hotel, Stromness
MUSIC – VISUAL ARTS – LITERATURE
Monday April 17th – The Inspiration of St Magnus
2017 marks the 900th anniversary of the martyrdom of Magnus Erlendsson. His death took place on the island of Egilsay but his body was later brought to Orkney mainland and rested in St Magnus Church Birsay. At a later time his bones were removed to St Magnus Cathedral.
There will be many celebrations during the year. I prepared a number of poems to perform at The Inspiration of Saint Magnus, an evening of music, visual arts and literature. The evening at St Magnus Church, Birsay included readings and reflections on work by Robert Rendall, Gilbert Marcus and George Mackay Brown, music from the Orkney Schola and readings from the Orkneyinga Saga. The church is also the location of a new an art installation by Erland Brown and Dave Jackson.
George Mackay Brown 20th anniversary
April 2016 marked the 20th anniversary of Orcadian writer George Mackay Brown. A programme of local events was organised by parishoners of Our Lady and St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Kirkwall where he attended mass took place to mark the occasion.
The events included an Anniversary Mass and on Friday 15th April the eve of St Magnus’ Day. Later, there was an evening of ‘Reflection and Celebration’ at the St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall during which Alison Gray launched her book George Mackay Brown. No Separation. The Orkney Schola, a Gregorian chant group base in Orkney, also sung parts of the reconstructed office of St Magnus.
My impressions and ideas occasionally manifest themselves as poems. I find joy in everyday happenings, give reverence to small moments that touch deeply and might otherwise pass by unremarked. It’s hard work, exploiting any idea to its full potential, critically questioning its value and the effect of a particular phrase, yet retaining the freedom of imagination.
The happenstance of person, place and faith interacts in subtle and beautiful ways in George Mackay Brown’s poetry. Faith and environment act as a lens through which a new perspective is found. As a writer and a Catholic living in Orkney this is something I share.
There was also a service at St Magnus Church, Birsay to celebrate the feast of St Magnus. 2017 represents the 900th anniversary of the saint and will be widely celebrated in Orkney.