Nature as Solace

Lockdown put an end to many of the plans I had lined up for 2020. Like everyone else I had to endure the cancellation of numerous projects: workshops, theatre events, tutoring … the list goes on and on and I won’t bore you with it here!

On the plus side, nature has became my daily solace. Human life has slowed down and wildlife has definitely taken advantage of that fact. There are more birds in our garden than ever before including greater spotted woodpeckers, reed buntings, red polls, wood pigeons and collar doves, all alongside our regular garden visitors. Simply looking out of our kitchen window helps take my mind off things and brings me temporary joy.

I’ve also been taking regular walks out onto our local moor and been lucky enough to catch frequent sightings of wild hare and deer, hear the skyarks, meadow pipits and curlew. And in the woods, at dusk, there are the cuckoos and tawny owls to be heard.

With the terrible storms in February and early March, then the awful coronavirus pandemic, and now the very real and rightful anger of Black Lives Matter, nature has helped me keep my sense of perspective. As I walk out into the landscape each day, the words of Van Morrison often come to mind and can, I think, be applied to the effect the natural world is having on me during these stressful times: “Come take away my sadness, come fill my heart with gladness.” Even if this is only for a short while.

I hope you too can find a green space in which nature will bring you some solace to help you through these difficult times.

Busy, Busy, Busy!

2019 proved to be one of those extremely busy years with so much going on that I didn’t even have time to update my blog!

Playscripts seemed to dominate the agenda & I had a fun time working with community actors and Odd Productions Theatre Company to produce my short play, “First Steps,” as part of “Unveiled Secrets.” Together with Oliver Eade’s plays, the theme of four plays, four women, four secrets proved a great success, touring to sell-out audiences at the Eastgate Theatre, Peebles; MacArts, Galashiels; Carlops Village Hall and the County Hotel, Selkirk.

For me, it was a great privilege to sit behind the scenes and see how a play comes together in terms of rehearsals, props, costumes, re-writes, lighting and sound. It was a great experience, including the time I was roped in to be responsible for the lighting, which I thoroughly enjoyed! Thanks to all those who made the project possible and a great success.

As a founding member of Borders Pub Theatre I also found myself writing 10 minute playscripts for events in the County Hotel, Selkirk and Cornucopia, Hawick on the themes of “In the Beginning,” and “Take Two.” Watch out for a James Hogg themed Borders Pub Theatre coming to Duns PlayFest during the week of 2nd to 9th May 2020! Two of my scripts were performed, script-in-hand at the inaugural Duns PlayFest in 2019 – a week-long event of plays and everything to do with theatre!

All in all 2019 was a fun year of writing scripts and working with actors and directors. It was, for me, also a steep learning curve about theatre and the way it works!

Borders Pub Theatre

Delighted to be part of this exciting new venture to promote and encourage new writing in the Scottish Borders. The first event ‘In the Beginning’ will feature my ten-minute script, “Stop Procrastinating,” where Carol is sorting socks the Marie Kondo way but who or what is she trying to avoid? All welcome!

Where? The County Hotel, Selkirk on Saturday 23 March at 7.30pm. Eight scripts in a night of fast action and drama, performed by local professional actors & featuring playwrights from Galashiels, Greenlaw, Hawick, Kelso, Carlops and Melrose. Not to be missed!

The plays are:

Mozart & Salieri by Thomas Clark
A second-rate composer plots a terrible revenge against his god-gifted rival.

Secretly Edgy by award-winning playwright Jules Horne
A cooncillor’s last-ditch mission to market the Borders

It’s Pronounced Stow by Campbell Hutcheson
A Borders Railway passenger reacts to a train cancellation

Stop Procrastinating by Anita John
Carol is sorting socks the Marie Kondo way but who or what is she trying to avoid

Form 4a Section Nothing by Emily Larner
Today is Gracey’s Armageddon. She must defend her territory, claim victory and ride out in a blaze of glory (kind of).

The beginning of the end of the First World War by John McEwen
A married couple confront a time-warp

Say Aye Tae a Pie by Laura McIntyre
A 30 year friendship turns sour when the duo collude to hide a dark secret

Worth a Second Look by Robert Sproul-Cran
Ula doesn’t recognise the husband she despised after his appearance is changed by Witness Protection – and this time her reaction may be unexpected…

The plays will be semi-staged and directed by Caitlin Skinner, founder of The Village Pub Theatre, and local director Clare Prenton.

On top of all this – there will also be a raffle with lots of prizes, including cakes and plays!

Borders Pub Theatre has been founded by playwrights who were originally part of the Scottish Borders Playwriting Programme run by Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland.

Spine Poetry

Inspired by #BookWeekScotlandSpinePoem here’s my haiku-type interpetation!

Our thoughts are bees
running with a snow leopard
from the heart of the crow country

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the poets/authors whose titles I’ve borrowed! For more Spine Poetry as part of Book Week Scotland see here!

Juffits & Bullies

Writing about two of my favourite woodland birds in this month’s blog for RSPB Scotland Loch Leven – juffits & bullies – otherwise known as long-tailed tits and bullfinches. And I love both of them. The way long-tailed tits arrive suddenly, momentarily brightening up bare trees like Christmas decorations; the way bullfinches’ feathers flash bright white and deep red when they fly. To read more about them and other wildlife sightings at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven see here.

Playwrights’ Studio Scotland

Delighted to be selected for the Scottish Borders Playwriting Scheme for a second year running. Earlier this year ten of us presented our scripts at the first TalkFest in the Borders and hope to do so again in the spring of 2019. For information on Playwrights’ Studio Scotland and the scheme see here.

Playwrights’ Studio Scotland has lots going on at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival. Why not take a mosey along to some of their events? See here!

 

Newcastleton Music Festival

Delighted to be this year’s Poetry Judge at the 49th Newcastleton Traditional Music Festival. It was a great weekend with much poetry, music and singing. One of the highlights had to be Aly Macrae’s rendition of the traditional song “John Barleycorn.” Right from the start he managed to get the audience singing along to the chorus and by the end of the song we were belting it out!

Some great original poetry to be heard too, mostly ballads, one of the most memorable of which included a summary of the 1525 Curse of the Borders Reivers by the Bishop of Glasgow. The story of this curse can be read here: The winner of the competition had written a beautiful lyrical poetry about the power of love over greed.

The sun shone on the Music Festival this year, which was a good thing because we were camping all weekend. Each morning we woke to the cries of the rooks and jackdaws, replaced later in the morning by the sounds of fiddles, accordians, tin whistles and the song of human voices. Next year will be the 50th year of the Festival. Not to be missed! For more information, see here:

 

Nov 19th Wildlife Writing Workshop

Looking forward to running my fifth Wildlife Writing Workshop for the RSPB Scotland Loch Leven on 19th November 2017. Last week the pink-footed geese started to return in their hundreds and it’s sure to say that most of the swallows have now left to make their journey to Africa. In November we have the return of the White-Tailed Eagle to look forward to.

This workshop is open to all level of writers. Usually we begin the day with writing exercises and then take a tour of the reserve for inspiration. There’s a chance to write up your ideas before and after lunch, again with the help of writing exercises, and we usually finish with a sharing session – although this is not compulsory!

Previous sightings in November have included red squirrels, gold-crest, kingfishers, mallard, golden-eye, swans and geese, and, of course the elusive white-tailed eagle!

It should be fun! All you need is paper and pen and a willingness to be inspired by the wildlife and landscape of Loch Leven.

Brief details are: November 19th, 10am – 2pm, Cost £10.00 members/£15.00 non members.  Tea/coffee provided. For more details see here: Writing Workshop Poster Nov

How to write a 45-minute play!

I was delighted to be selected to the Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland Borders Mentoring Scheme in July 2017 (see here). Ten of us are now working with Associate Playwright Jules Horne to develop our first 45-minute theatre piece for two to three actors. It’s proving an inspiring but challenging task!!

So far we’ve explored issues such as the journey and transformation, characters and conflict and the big question, which seems to drive all narratives: what does your character want? Easier asked than answered!!

We were privileged in August to meet Frances Poet, the author of Adam which won a Fringe First during the Edinburgh Festival this year and which you can see a trailer of here. Frances gave us a run-down on how her journey into theatre began and how she came to write Adam. It made the play all the more poignant when we saw it.

Looking forward to September’s workshop which will be all about dialogue and voice. “I cannae wait!”