Literature Ambassador #4: Textual Healing

As a creative practitioner I’m very interested in the notion that art can heal, or at least strengthen us against life’s ills. I don’t know how close to the truth this comes, but I do know that the medical profession is beginning to take art seriously as a therapeutic force for certain conditions, with even hospitals employing artists and writers to run classes, for patients and staff alike. I also know how much the arts have helped me negotiate difficult times, and have seen its beneficial effects on my own students. Perhaps all it does is redirect our minds from the horrors for long enough for us to recalibrate, and perhaps that’s all we need.

With today’s announcement from that idiot woman who purports to lead us (as if we need to be led, ffs) adding another mine to the field, the need for some sort of diversion has become critical. So, here are a few options for the people of Dumfries and Galloway.

On Monday 24 April

Roncadora Press

will launch its two latest publications:

Roncadora Press launch event

Sheeppenned, by Hugh McMillan


Buirds, by William Hershaw

I’ve been to a few events featuring McMillan (an award winning poet who happens to live in Dumfries and Galloway) and always had a ball. The last was at the Moffat Museum Social where he entertained volunteers with his mix of poetry, history, and activism, leaving us all feeling much lighter of heart. I can’t recommend him highly enough, but who am I? Here’s what the Scottish Poetry Library says about him:

Hugh McMillan’s work has been anthologised and broadcast widely, and has won various prizes, most recently the Cardiff International Poetry Competition in 2010. Postcards from the Hedge won the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award in 2009, and he has also been shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award and the Basil Bunting Award. Not Actually Being in Dumfries: New and selected poems was published by Luath Press in 2015. Luath also published his book about his home region McMillan’s Galloway: An unreliable journey in 2016.

I don’t know William Hershaw at all, but his Scottish Poetry Library entry tells me we’re are in for a treat.

William Hershaw was born in 1957 in Newport on Tay into a family with a coal-mining background. He is now Principal Teacher in English at Beath High School, and has written two textbooks on the teaching of the Scots language in secondary school.

Hershaw has written poetry in both Scots and English; his pamphlet Winter Song won the Callum MacDonald Memorial Award in 2003, and he won the McCash Prize for Scots Poetry in 2011. In 2007 he collaborated with sculptor David Annand, writing the poem ‘God The Miner’ which is inscribed on the statue ‘The Prop’ as part of the Lochgelly Regeneration Project. He was funded by Fife Council to write musical settings for the poems of the legendary Fife poet and playwright Joe Corrie: in November 2012 Cage Load Of Men: The Joe Corrie Project by The Bowhill Players was released. Grace Note published three of his Scots language plays in 2016, including a translation of Shakespeare’s Tempest, and a novel, Tammy Norrie. His play Iolaire premiered in March 2016 at the Scottish Parliament, performed by pupils from Tynecastle High School and Stenhouse Primary.

He has co-edited the literary magazine Fras with Walter Perrie.

It will be interesting to see how these two writers spark off each other and, indeed, the venue:

The Stove Network

which is (in their own words):

‘a membership, artist led organisation based in Dumfries. We are a means for the creative community to play a significant role in the future of our region. We see the arts not as something solely for an ‘arts audience,’ but rather as a vital contribution to society on all fronts.’

That operates from 100 High Street, Dumfries.

I joined as a member at the very start, have run creative writing workshops there, and was part of the team who set up their monthly spoken word event. It’s one of my favourite entities (place, action, idea, group of people) in the whole world. I’d go there all the time if I wasn’t stuck out here in the middle of too-far-from-everywhere-on-a-bicycle country, it’s the kind of place where all your worries evaporate as you cross the threshold.

Here’s another text based art event happening at The Stove this month:

Reel to Real: Writing in the Sky

April 26 @ 7:00 pm9:00 pm

Reel to Real

A documentary on migration, poetry and humanity’s place in the natural landscape.

Writing in the Sky follows Dermot Healy’s process in creating his seminal work, A Fool’s Errand, an epic poem on the migration of barnacle geese, which pass over his home in Sligo, Ireland.

After the documentary, writer and poet David Borthwick will be sharing some of his knowledge and reflections on our local, migratory barnacle geese population.

Tickets: £4/2 on the door. Tickets are available in advance from the Stove cafe, or can be reserved online by emailing katie[at]

and, of course,

Brave New Words

Brave New Words poster

is on the last Friday of the month (April 28) as ever, at 7-9pm.

And here’s one last shout for Big Lit, the book festival in the Stewartry that takes this weekend, and looks like it’s going to be a doozy.


Paper Textiles by Isabell Buenz
Text-Isles exhibition: Original and extraordinary text-related art work on exhibition and for sale in The Bakehouse Studio by seven talented and innovative artists from Intertwine – Galloway Textile Collective – comprised of professional textile artists, living and working in Dumfries & Galloway. April 20 – 23 10.30 – 4.30

So, take your mind off the petty infighting, the warmongering, the sheer stupidity of the current political mindset that seems to be sweeping the western world, and get thee to a book event in serene Dumfries and Galloway. You will return refreshed and ready to face another week.


2 thoughts on “Literature Ambassador #4: Textual Healing

    1. When I was studying political philosophy I read in a text book that some huge proportion of those who survived the siege of Leningrad were actively involved in the arts. But I can’t remember the book, or the figures, and my notes are all in boxes in the loft.

      Good luck to your niece, that sounds like a very worthwhile way to earn a living.


Say whatever you need to

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.