Welcome to Writing the North! This blog will give you updates of the way the project is progressing and news of our events, as well as suggestions for finding out more about the literature of Orkney and Shetland. Members of the Writing the North team will also be posting short blog entries that will tell you more about individual stories and poems from the islands, or perspectives from visitors to them across two centuries.
The Writing the North Exhibition
at the Shetland Museum and Archives
Hay’s Dock, Lerwick, Shetland.
March 29-May 10 2014
This major new exhibition tells the story of Northern Islands literature through books, sound recordings, manuscripts and illustrations. The exhibition will guide visitors through four themes: myths and legends, visitors to the islands, working lives, and the sounds of Orkney and Shetland. …read more >>
We’re delighted to be teaming up with the Scottish Poetry Library and the Scottish Storytelling Centre for the Edinburgh launch of the Writing the North book of poetry, Archipelagos. Many of the poets who worked on the project’s Creative Partnerships to produce new work in response to older Orkney and Shetland writing will be there, and they will read and talk about their work. You can find out more about this aspect of the Writing the North project, and how the partnerships worked, on this website: http://www.writingthenorth.com/the-dialogues/
We will also have music from Fair Isle musician Inge Thomson. We’re particularly thrilled that Inge will be able to perform with us. Her sister, the wonderful poet and musician Lise Sinclair, was a part of Writing the North from its earliest phase and performed at our original event, ‘Between Leith and Lerwick’. Tragically, Lise died during the project, and this event, as well as the Archipelagos book, is dedicated to her memory. …read more >>
Guest post by Simon Hall
Education Scotland, Scotland’s national improvement agency for education, has appointed four Scots Language Coordinators to work with Local Authorities across the country, helping schools and teachers to develop their capacity and skills in teaching Scots Language, including the dialects of Orkney and Shetland.
The coordinators aim to raise the profile and the status of Scots in our schools. Studying Scotland – its history, culture, literature and languages – is a key part of Curriculum for Excellence, and the coordinators will work to promote Scots in all its rich varieties, including the dialects spoken in the Northern Isles and Caithness, through the Doric areas of the North East, to the Scots spoken in Scotland’s cities, in the Central Belt, and in southern Lowland areas such as Borders, Dumfries and Galloway.
The Coordinators themselves come from a range of different areas and backgrounds, and there is a strong Northern Isles presence in the group. Bruce Eunson is from Shetland, where he was formerly Shetland Dialect development officer. Diane Anderson is from the North East, and was until recently a Principal Teacher of English in Dundee. Simon Hall has also been a Principal Teacher of English in Orkney, while Katrina Lucas is a primary teacher from Falkirk with special expertise in Scots.
The appointment of the coordinators coincides with the Scottish Qualifications Authority’s launch of a new suite of Awards in Scots language, and the coordinators are already involved in supporting schools delivering these new Awards.
With 1.5 million people reporting in the 2011 census that they use and understand Scots, it seems that this cultural treasure is alive and well. The continued development of Scots language education will no doubt be welcomed in Scots-speaking heartlands such as Orkney and Shetland.
Guest post by Alison Miller
A year or so before he died my uncle told me of a piece of Orkney dialect that had tickled his father, my grandfather, who had preserved it intact. My uncle told me the circumstances in which it was uttered: a man from a farm near Viewfield where my grandfather was a dairy farmer came by one day. He may have been looking for peats. He delivered the piece of language my grandfather kept. …read more >>
EVENT AT THE SHETLAND MUSEUM
Join us at the Shetland Museum and Archives to celebrate the end of the project and find out more about Orkney and Shetland writing past and present. On 10th May we are holding a day of talks and readings, showcasing the work of the Writing the North project. Come for the whole day, or just drop in to whatever you like.
2.00pm – Walter Scott’s Tour to Orkney and Shetland, with Professor Penny Fielding and Professor Alison Lumsden
2.45pm – George Mackay Brown and Orkney Literature, with Dr Linden Bicket
3.30pm – Language and Dialect in Orkney and Shetland Writing. Panel discussion with speakers. Chaired by Dr Mark Smith
7.00 pm – Poetry from Writing the North
A poetry reading of all the new work from the project, introduced by the poets themselves. Authors include: Pam Beasant, Yvonne Gray, Robert Alan Jamieson, Morag MacInnes, Jim Mainland, Alison Miller and Raman Mundair.
This event showcases new works from Orkney and Shetland writers and gives an insight into the creative process. Members of the Writing the North team will discuss earlier writing from the islands and show how it is important and inspirational for writing today.
This is a free event, but please reserve your ticket at Shetland Museum and Archives reception, or by calling 01595 741562.
Guest post by Michael Stachura
“Neither the Shetlands nor the Orkneys […] have yet had poets of any worth […].” So says Hugh MacDiarmid in The Islands of Scotland (1939). It’s an obviously provocative statement, but MacDiarmid used provocation in an attempt to rouse Scotland (and its Isles) out of what he saw as a parochial and underdeveloped cultural context. MacDiarmid is not talking here in general terms about poets who come from the Northern Isles, but about those poets not utilizing the Isles’ distinct cultural and linguistic heritage. …read more >>
Guest post by Pam Perkins
The Edinburgh botanist Patrick Neill didn’t make many friends as a result of his journey to Shetland in 1804. It was a relatively brief visit: he arrived in Lerwick on the morning of 26 August and left again on 6 September, after touring Bressay, Yell, and Unst, as well as the mainland. The fact that he chose to publish an account of the history, botany, culture, and economy of Shetland (first in a series of articles in The Scots Magazine and then as a book) after spending less than two weeks in the islands might not have been a problem in itself, but his harsh criticism of the economic system touched a nerve and placed Neill at centre of one of the more lively pamphlet wars of the era. …read more >>
Guest post by Aileen Christianson
Willa Muir (1890-1970), novelist and translator, was neither born in Shetland nor ever lived there. But she had strong family links; her father, mother and paternal grandmother were all been born in Unst, and other relatives in Yell. …read more >>
Guest post by Pam Perkins
The winter of 1802-03 was a difficult one in Orkney. Crops had been scanty and late, and there was considerable distress among the poor. Thomas Stewart Traill, the twenty-one-year-old son of a Kirkwall clergyman had just returned to the islands after completing his medical studies in Edinburgh, …read more >>
An essential part of the Writing the North project is our work with schools. The education team from the Shetland Museum and Archives is working with pupils and teachers from Sandwick Junior High School, Aith Junior High School, Whalsay School (secondary department) and Brae High School …read more >>