5th International St Magnus Conference
I will be speaking about the Orcadian writer ‘Countrywoman’ Bessie Skea on the second day of the conference, Thursday April 15th, 12.10pm.
Bessie Skea (1922-1996) published poems, prose and memoir and contributed columns to The Orcadian newspaper for nearly forty years.
She wrote during a period of significant change for agriculture, tourism and communication that transformed Orkney in the twentieth century. Her voice is direct and personal and describes life in the community, enriched with a love for the environment.
More information about my research can be found on ‘Bessie Skea – memories and more’
UHI Literature Society
Interactive talk – 30th November, 2020 at 7pm
To register interest please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
I will be speaking to the University of the Highlands and Islands Literature Society about my writing processes and how they have changed over time. I’ll be sharing what works for me at different stages of the creative writing process and some suggestions for getting started and building skills. I’ll also speak about the importance of input and how to nurture the creative garden, the importance of support and preparing for, receiving and recovering from feedback.
Fair Saturday – HMS Pheasant
Fair Saturday exhibition, HMS Pheasant 1917, 30th November, 2019
Northlight Gallery, Stromness, Orkney
The story of the sinking of the HMS Pheasant is little known, even less known are the lives of its crew, all of whom where lost when it collided with a mine on 1st March, 1917 just off Rora Head, Orkney. This exhibition will share research carried out by Fiona Grahame editor of The Orkney News. Stromness Writing Group has been working on creative pieces inspired by her findings and these will also be on show.
Fair Saturday is an antidote to the consumerist bonanza of Black Friday. Fair Saturday is a global movement of artists and cultural organisations to support social causes. Donations for the event at Northlight will go to the Orkney Rape and Sexual Assault service.
An illustrated talk on the HMS Pheasant is also taking place on 25th November, Orkney Library and Archive.
A crowd funding campaign has been launched to support the exhibition.
Horror on Hoy
Book Launch: Thursday, 19th September, 4.30pm, Carnegie Room, Kirkwall Library
Book launch for Horror on Hoy, by B.K.Bryce (Barbara and Kathleen Stevenson). Horror on Hoy is the third book in a neolithic whodunit series set in the Orkney Islands. I was asking questions about the experience of sisters writing and working together on the stone age series.
Peace-Land: Reflection – Remembrance – Response: Saturday, 7th September, 2pm, Stromness Town Hall
This performance of commemorative poem Peace-Land will be accompanied by slides of artwork from Ralph Robinson inspired by the piece as well as short musical interludes. Tickets are available from Orkney International Science Festival
Peace-Land accompanies The Day the Fleet Went Down, directed by Liz Coward. This dramatisation of the scuttling of the German Fleet on Scapa Flow used the words of eyewitnesses to the event including school children on the Flying Kestrel.
There will be an opportunity to purchase copies of Peace-Land before after the performance.
Peace-Land: Reflection – Remembrance – Response: Thursday 20th June, 6.30pm, St Nicholas Church, Holm.
The performance of the Scapa100 commemorative poem Peace-Land was accompanied by inspired artwork from Ralph Robinson, musical interludes and refreshments. Ticket details to follow. Proceeds to The Friends of St Nicholas.
Peace-Land began as a response to the centenary events held in Orkney to mark the end of the First World War in November, 2018. It grew out of my experience as a witness to how society remembers war while conflict still continues daily. It grew out of my wish to remember the uncommemorated who died as a result of conflict, but who never fought. Finally, it grew out of a wish to make a statement of peace.
Written over the course of six months these verses are a small testament to the passing of time and season and the fleeting moments that seem to make life matter.
One Day To Play
National Theatre Scotland teamed up with the Orkney Folk Festival to bring together different artists and give them a chance to work together. It was a privilege to be partnered with dance artist Julia McGhee who transformed my words into movement and gave a brilliant performance inspired by the birds around the Peedie Sea. The Girnell was a great venue for everything from poems to dance, to music and storytelling.
Read and hear the poem – The Tern
Orkney Free Fringe Festival
The first Orkney Free fringe Festival was be held on March 23rd.
I read something inspired by the witch craft trials memorial day – a classroom video that shows it’s not quite your ordinary afternoon at school….
2.00-2.30, Sunbeam Coffee House a peedie place on Victoria Street that sells coffee and cakes just a stones throw from the centre of town
3.30-4.00, Kirkwall Hotel
6.00-6.30, Helgi’s everyone’s favourite bar
Spend your money on coffee and books rather than on tickets.
More information on other activities that happened throughout the day on the Orkney Free Fringe Facebook page.
There will be an opportunity to hear a selection of my recent poetry as well as short stories with a seasonal theme on Sunday 16th December at the Deerness Distillery. It will be an informal event with light refreshments. I will be available afterwards to sign copies of my books and speak about my work and current projects.
Admission is free and everyone is warmly invited.
More information and directions are available on the Deerness Distillery website.
On Saturday 24th November Deerness Distillery opened their doors to a group of divers and experts from the Scapa 100 initiative to share a first tasting of their new Scuttled Gin. During the evening I shared some verses inspired by the commemoration events in Orkney on November 11th. The aim of my creative response is to complete a 100 verse reflection on both remembrance and contemporary experience of conflict culminating in a completed poem for the anniversary of the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet next June.
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.