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Reading Althing From Scotia Review

4th September 2007

Photograph of Reading Althing From Scotia Review

Tempest Surf Cafe, Thurso Harbour
Wednesday 12th September 7.30pm

SCOTIA REVIEW: Writing & Reading Althings, Caithness Arts Festival 2007
From Christine Russell editor[AT]
Tel. 07918171347

For the past eighteen months, Scotia Review has been hosting a new local writing initiative, which is to make its first public appearance during Caithness Arts Festival, with support funding from Highland 2007.

Scotia Review's Writing Group is hosting an evening of new writing at its Reading Althing in the Tempest Surf Caf at Thurso harbour on Wednesday 12th September. The idea is to highlight the spoken word, inviting the public joining the group to read writing of their own, or a favourite poem or story from a published writer - living or dead.

'We reckon there's quite a bit of music in the county, but not much opportunity to experience absolutely original writing, fresh off the page. To hear new work is very exciting, and it's satisfying to discover writing that often displays a local Caithness twist. Many folk probably know the 'althing' was the national parliament of Iceland - the assembly of the Icelandic people to sort out its constitutional affairs. Our Reading Althing and our Writing Althing during this year's Caithness Arts Festival are both designed to remind folk of the joy and excitement of the written word, and the core function of creative writing to allow a person - or a community - to express themselves . '

The writing group held its first session in March 2006. Awards for All funding allowed the group to begin with professional writing support from George Gunn, who was tutor, but also counsellor, agitator and - occasionally - driver of flagging creative spirits. Since then, the group has grown in size, developed in confidence, and is now producing new work on a weekly basis.

'We now have a group of about a dozen people - I don't think they'd mind me saying we are a pretty mixed bag of ages and backgrounds! This has proved an exciting aspect of the identity of the group, as we're all very different, which makes for a fertile and unpredictable exchange of ideas, styles and aspirations. Having George at the beginning was very good for establishing ambitious but attainable goals for each of us. He also made us reckon with the responsibility of striving to reach those goals, and taking ourselves seriously as creative individuals. At the same time, we have a lot of fun, and turn some up some extremely wacky stuff along with the more soulful, heartfelt material.'

Ormlie Community Association's Ormlie Centre, off Henderson Street, Thurso has been home to the group since it started. Chair of Scotia Review, Christine Russell, values this community dimension.

'When I was growing up in Orkney - even with the example of George Mackay Brown - it seemed writing was a sacred activity, to be undertaken only by those appropriately initiated. I'd like to encourage everyone to consider that aspect of themselves, and to give it expression. There's very little to lose, and an awful lot to gain. Ormlie seems to me an appropriate place for a writing group to take root and flourish, and we're very grateful to the Ormlie Community Association for giving us that base.'

Apart from the Reading Althing, the Scotia Review Writing Althing takes place for the duration of the festival from 8th-22nd September in the St Fergus Gallery in Wick. The pubic can visit Contrasts, the exhibition of Caithness art and crafts in the gallery; writing materials will be available to encourage visitors to respond creatively to the work they see, writing either in direct response to the work, or simply using the situation in the gallery to stimulate thoughts, ideas they might want to write down and share with other visitors.

'This is unashamedly experimental. I'd love folk to feel what they have to say is of value. The St Fergus Gallery is a beautiful space. Most of us rush about to get through our daily obligations. To take five minutes to think about other folk's work, and to respond to it either directly or in the form of a poem or descriptive piece of writing - the outcome of that might mean folk surprise themselves pleasantly.'

Writer and storyteller Janis Mackay will be on hand for two sessions to help anyone needing an extra nudge towards their creative stream. Janis will be at the St Fergus Gallery on Fri. 14th Sept. (6pm-8pm) and Sat.15th (10.30-1pm).

Reading Althing - Wednesday 12th September, 7.30pm Tempest Surf Caf, Thurso Harbour; FREE

Writing Althing - 8th-22nd September, St. Fergus Gallery, Wick; FREE
Gallery opening hours: Mon/Tues/Thurs:12-5.30pm Fri. 2-8pm Sat. 10.30am-1pm


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