Literature Ambassador: Shoreline Voices

Oh how I love it when someone sends me a press release, it makes life so much easier. And this is exactly the kind of thing I’d go to if I had the cash.


Saturday 3rd June, 2.30 pm. Theatre Royal Studio, 66-68 Shakespeare Street, Dumfries.


Standing on a clear day on any prominent hill or headland in Dumfries and Galloway you can see easily, to the south, the Cumbrian Lake District and the Isle of Man. Westwards, you can see Ireland. Travel, commerce and exchange between these lands has been traditional to the existence of our region for thousands of years. It has often been easier to sail from one shore to the other across the sea, than to labour along hilly terrains between valleys and distant towns in the same land. In its way, the Northern Irish Sea can be seen as an ‘island’ of water bounded by its shorelands and hills. It never formed a country of its own, but it has structured what it is to live in this part of the world.

Modern transport and convenience are now encouraging us to imagine our landscapes differently, but not necessarily true to the longer span of time. InSight seeks to explore, encourage and enjoy those traditional links across the northern Irish Sea. We want to find ways to foster new connections and collaborations between our four shorelines.

On the Shore

In this first event, four of the finest living poets from these areas perform their work and discuss it with cultural commentators representing the shorelines – and with the audience – revealing new insights and perspectives.

The four poets are:

Stacy Astill (Isle of Man): As the first living Manx Bard, in 2015 Stacey did a huge amount to promote poetry during her year as Bard, both at home and abroad. She took part in a cultural exchange with the US, where she worked with people in prisons and correctional facilities; she held special poetry events and workshops around the island, appeared on the radio; and gave talks in schools and at events such as TEDx Douglas. One of Stacey’s poems features on the main window of the Henry Bloom Noble library in Douglas, which she officially opened in her role as Bard, and where she has hosted two evenings of poetry and prose to mark International Women’s Day, in 2016 and 2017.

Paul Yates (Northern Ireland): Born in Belfast, but with family connections to the Mourne coast near Annalong and Kilkeel, he is a poet, painter and film-maker. Paul has had eight books published, including ‘Mourne’ (2005), and his work has been translated into French, Danish and Russian. His documentary and poetic film productions (including ‘XII Months of Mourne’) have won wide acclaim and his paintings and video art feature in various private and corporate collections. Some of his poetry film will be shown in ‘Shoreline Voices’.

 Liz Niven (Dumfries and Galloway): is a widely published Scottish poet writing in Scots and English. Her last collection, The Shard Box, was a Scottish Libraries Summer Read. Awards include McCash/Herald for poetry and TESS/Saltire for her ground-breaking work for the Scots language in education. Residencies range from Poet-in-residence at Inverness Airport to commissioned poetry engraved in wood and stone in southwest Scotland. She is an honorary Fellow of the Association of Scottish Literature and on the Executive Board of Scottish PEN. ‘The stance that Liz Niven takes, that the Scots are internationalists, travelling, commentating and contributing, makes this collection unique and important, particularly as the poet frequently uses the Scots language to address other cultures and by doing so reclaims our mother tongue as literary, contemporary and internationally valid.’ (Janet Paisley)

 Peter Rafferty (Cumbria): is a poet, translator, and sometime geomorphologist, who was born and lives in Carlisle. With one collection, Eoliths, published by Arrowhead, and anthology appearances that include The Cockermouth Poets and The Faber Book of 20th Century Italian Poems, he is currently working on absolutely the last revision of his Laforgue selection.

 Also taking part are:

Ruth Taillon (Northern Ireland): is Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies based in Armagh, Northern Ireland and Dublin, Ireland. The Centre has a unique role in promoting and improving the quality of cross-border cooperation – on the island of Ireland and beyond – through research and provision of resources, tools and other practical support. Ruth has many years’ experience working with a range of public and civil society organisations in both jurisdictions as a researcher and evaluator specialising in gender, equality, and peace and conflict issues. She is currently a member of the Irish Government’s Oversight Group for the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Ruth also occasionally writes and lectures on Irish women’s history, about which she has a strong personal interest.

 Dr Brian Irving (Cumbria) : thinks of himself as a ‘Solwayman’, someone who has experienced the area both as an onlooker and champion and as a participant in some of the many and varied pursuits the area has to offer. He was born in Carlisle and has lived in the area all of his life. He has managed the Solway Coast ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ for over 20 years and in that time has written and delivered four statutory management plans to provide protection, restoration and conservation to the designated 118 sq. km on the English side. Brian is passionate about the relationship between England and Scotland – for him there is no distinction both geographically and culturally. He says – “It is only land ownership, wealth and politics that inevitably influence where the Solway rests. Take those ‘higher’ influences away and a palpable cohesion exists”.

 Dr Valentina Bold (Dumfries and Galloway): teaches Scottish literature at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Strathclyde and is a member and of the University of Exeter’s Atlantic Archipelagos Network. She recently co-curated ‘Swords in the Stories’​ for 2017 Year of Heritage, History & Archaeology with Dumfries Museum and is working on another exhibition
on the History of Scottish Children’s Writing with the Museum of Childhood, Edinburgh in 2018. Current research includes a study of the modern revival of pilgrimage journeys in Scotland, and an edition of James Hogg’s Brownie of Bodsbeck & other Tales to be published by Edinburgh University Press in 2018.

Julian Watson (Dumfries and Galloway): Originally from the north of England, he has worked in museums, arts centre management and exhibition organisation in Ireland (both sides of the Border) and Scotland. A practicing artist, Julian has an interest in community mapping and borderlands. With Valentina Bold, he is organiser of the InSight project’s first steps.

This event is intended to be the first of a series of multidisciplinary events organised through InSight, which, over the coming years, will celebrate the conversations which the Shorelines can have with each other.

SHORELINE VOICES | Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival


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