Spring Foy

Gabrielle Barnby, Orkney 2022, Culture Collective, Age Scotland Orkney, creative sessions

The foy* has just finished. What a great gathering of heart it was. There was such a good atmosphere in the building, of welcome and of accommodation to people’s needs. A line of mobility aids grew at the back wall and chairs had to be gathered from reception, the kitchen and the resource room in order to seat everyone. The group that gathered ranged from 3yrs to 93yrs and included participants, friends, family and a handful of intrigued newcomers. There were also Age Scotland staff and a well known local musician or two.

It was so generous of Kenny Ritch to come along and play accordion. He plays as if it were no more difficult than the blinking of an eye finishing on a quickstep melody that had everyone’s toes tapping. Balfour joined him on the guitar and then played a charming trio with a husband and wife in attendance. It was so good to hear Robert reading and giving his own introduction too. Clare read a newly written piece that had been inspired from one of the sessions, she read confidently and finished tenderly with a metaphor of tears and the falling rain that was very touching to all.

Eday was brought alive by Jen’s poem – her depth of appreciation of the grey and red heads of Eday and all the birds and sea animals that make their homes beneath those cliffs had everyone in the room transported. What a sense of yearning it created. The poems remembered by heart by Bob and Sam were lovely – I like that phrase ‘remembered by heart’ it says so much. Bob told the Robert Rendall poem of the Shorepicker – written about his own forebear. And Sam gave us The Heart of the Cabbage with humour and enthusiasm.

I am grateful for all the hands on deck who either read poems when asked and helped tidy up the left over sandwiches and cake afterwards. In a blink of an eye it was all done whilst I was farewelling the folk who had gathered and shared their stories and music together. Shout out here to the Blide Trust mental health charity who provided the catering. Wonderful brownies.

It was a gentle rolling programme, yet what a gift was repeatedly given of listening, of paying respect and attention, and I sensed a process of taking in and storing the moment so it can be enjoyed again at leisure. Although no one said it in words I could see how the invitation to perform and contribute, and the process of holding attention, was so appreciated. To be warmly included in a safe space, where every performance is simply taken as a joy was heartwarming.

I overheard this comment as folk got themselves comfortable –

‘It’s no joke this getting old.’

‘I ken.’

But there is a lot of laughter released when people come together. I see pairs of friends, siblings, children and parents, husbands and wives who come and support each other, and those who simply come and plough there own furrow for one reason or another. Here is a place where they will not be turned away. Where they will be invited to try small challenges, to take courage and maybe next time join in a little more, or even if it’s less and less then that’s okay too.

This was a most satisfying event to be part of, it was one of the most unpredictable and most unpolished. It was hugely generous and courageous. A Foy! An eagerly anticipated delight.

I counted twenty-six people which included folk from Eday, Stronsay and Hoy, and from East Mainland over to Orphir and all over Kirkwall. Not everything went right – partly because there was no correct plan to stick to. Everything evolved quickly and freely and was held together with great good will. We all wanted it to go well. So it did.

I learned a great deal during the afternoon and during all of the sessions that preceded it. I look forward to reading the feedback. I am relieved, delighted and in a small a way sad because it is an ending for now. It is a chapter come to a conclusion, but there are many future possibilities.

  • A foy is chiefly a Scottish farewell feast, a traditional island Foy is an eagerly anticipated night of music and entertainment.

Culture Collective, Creative Islands Network, Gabrielle Barnby, Pier Arts Centre

Support my creative facilitation – buy a book or ebook!

*NEW* Across the Silent Sea

            The Oystercatcher Girl        The House with the Lilac Shutters and other stories


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Gabrielle Barnby