Orkney Writing

Orkney Writing Community

There’s such richness in the landscape and the people here, such encouragement for any endeavour. I’ve found time for writing – even when it’s seemed quite impossible.

There’s silence enough for thinking and writing, and then there’s sharing and laughing. Writing is a serious business, but it must be regularly laughed at with friends or it could be a lonely occupation.


Stromness Writing Group

Every fortnight the Stromness Writing Group sallys-forth into  a new writing exercise. Over time, notebooks full of treasure and friendship build up. The record of my journeys, the mood and the weather as I drive towards Hoy are themselves a source of inspiration.

Critical feedback in a supportive atmosphere is for writing like manure to roses, and there is an abundance of all that and more. The group has recently published ‘Come Sit at Our Table,’ a celebration of writing at the old Stromness Library.

Recently the group has begun contributing to Living Orkney, Orkney’s monthly full-colour magazine. The new pages called ‘Writing Orkney’ contain poetry and prose written by the group either from evening exercises or pieces being worked on individually.



Originally for eight to twelve year olds this group for young Orkney writers was set up by Amber Connolly and Alison Flett three years ago. Wirdsmit now also has regular workshops for thirteen to fifteen year olds and is affiliated with the George Mackay Brown fellowship

Over the last two years I have been involved assisting and giving workshops. Our sessions run in Stromness and Kirkwall Libraries and the fabulous Brownie cottage outside Orphir.

Recently, money gifted by the family and friends of Margaret Bell Storr was given to the group to support outreach and development work. Margaret was a member of the Stromness Writing Group and a great enthusiast of Wirdsmit group. It is with pleasure that I’ll be helping edit the results of the children’s writing into a book that will be a fitting memorial to a generous friend.

The older group is currently financially supported by the Clore Duffield Foundation to explore Orkney’s Literary Heritage and will be producing a book of writings under the guidance of Alison Miller. Money will also go towards producing a new artwork for the George Mackay Brown fellowship room in the new Stromness Library.

Wirdsmit has run workshops in partnership with the RSPB, even attempting writing at sea during Orkney Nature Week on the Hamnavoe – with somewhat mixed results. This year we teamed up with RSPB volunteers and visited Cottisgarth and were lucky enough to see a cuckoo being chased like fury and the aerial displays of Hen Harriers. We wrote about the cries of the birds and the minute details of landscape.


Story Club

Over the winter, I run a Story Club on Wednesday lunchtime at St Andrew’s School. The focus is on story telling, voice and developing imagination. We develop stories to share with the whole school and incorporate everyone’s ideas.

Orkney Storytelling Festival

The Orkney Storytelling Festival is organised by the Orkney Storytelling Trust. Each year a long weekend of oral storytelling takes place in different venues around the islands. The festival is open to all and brings together local storytellers and invited guests from all over the world. In 2016 the Stromness Writing Group was invited to take part in a session at St Mary’s Episcopal Church. New writing was shared and favourite stories told. More information about the festival and its events can be found on line.

Writing at an Orkney beach, Gabrielle Barnby, romance, mystery, scottish islands, books, The Oystercatcher Girl, The House with the lilac shutters
Hen Harrier, Wirdsmit, Gabrielle Barnby
Story Club buttons, Gabrielle Barnby
Orkney Storytelling Festival, Kirkwall, Stromness, Gabrielle Barnby

Orkney daisies, Gabrielle Barnby
Orkney doorstep, Gabrielle Barnby
Orkney, Birsay winter sun
Gabrielle Barnby