A rich mix of film, performance stories, poetry, talks, exhibitions, 40,000 Barnacle Geese and much more across two-weeks
Two weeks of events are about to get underway which explore Scotland’s remarkable relationship with the Arctic and the threat to the region from climate change.
Scotland and the Arctic: A Conversation runs from 8 to 20 October and involves a wide range of inspiring activities in and around Dumfries.
The festival, which considers narrative, history, representation (visual and literary), environment and ecology and artistic engagement between Scotland and the Arctic, is being organised in partnership with the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, Moat Brae National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling, Glasgow University School of Inter-Disciplinary Studies, Dumfries, WWT Caerlaverock Wetlands Centre, Robert Burns Film Theatre, Cample Line and Highlight Arts.
It follows hot on the heels of the Scottish Government’s publication of Arctic Connections – Scotland’s Arctic Policy Framework.
The festival will be the largest event organised by A Year of Conversation 2019, whose Creative Director is Dumfries poet Tom Pow, and it coincides with the annual migration of Barnacle Geese from the Arctic to south west Scotland.
Co-presented with The Scottish International Storytelling Festival, it will feature international storytelling at Moat Brae – the National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling – where the guests will include Dawne McFarlane from Toronto and Louise Profeit-LeBlanc, an Aboriginal storyteller, cultural educator artist and writer.
Highlight Arts will be making use of the festival to gather material for their work in Greenland, home to Jessie Kleemann, Inuit poet and performer, whose performance piece The Arctic in Chaos will be one of the highlights of the fortnight.
There will also be a Wild Goose Weekend, a film festival, children’s events and a day of conversation about Scotland and the Arctic, featuring storytellers, poets, naturalists and academics, as part of Glasgow University’s marking of 20 years in Dumfries.
As part of a mini-festival of the Arctic in Film, Colin Tennant and Dr Saskia Coulson will share their photography and film of the region – and the rapid changes it is undergoing. Colin, who is from Dumfries and Galloway, has recently returned from sailing through the North West Passage.
Scotland and the Arctic will also look at how Scots have been involved with The Arctic over the centuries – sometimes as scientific explorers adding to the sum of human knowledge, at other times as whalers exploiting and endangering its wildlife. Robyn Stapleton will be singing songs about whaling as part of one key storytelling event.
Pow, who has visited the Arctic as a writer and storyteller and who has written a Radio 4 play about the famed Orcadian, John Rae (Aglooka: John Rae and the Fate of the Franklin Expedition), says: “This event is an opportunity to think about our past, present and future links with one of the most wondrous and fragile places on Earth.
“It once seemed very distant, but the inter-connections between what is happening there and its global impact bring it into greater focus.
“The history of Scotland’s relationship to the Arctic has been one of exploration and exploitation.
“The undoubted heroism of early Polar explorers, such as Dumfries-born Sir John Richardson, subject of a talk by Professor Ted Cowan, has to be seen alongside the remorseless work of the whalers from east coast ports like Dundee and Aberdeen.
“Nowadays, there are concerns of fresh exploitation of natural resources, of the effects of climate change which can be ‘read’ in the behaviours and feeding habits of the Arctic geese which land here each autumn, and of the impact of global culture on fragile ecologies.
“In short, the time has come for Scotland to re-evaluate its connections to and relationships with the Arctic.”
The all-day conversation, taking place on Saturday 19 October (hosted by GU’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies), involves Francesco Bertoldi, the Scottish Government’s Senior Policy Adviser on the strategy, as well as storytellers, artists, ecologists and academics from Scotland, Greenland, Iceland and Canada. It will explore possibilities for future dialogue.
– Ends –
Notes for editors
Fiona Hyslop, MSP Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, says in the foreword for Arctic Connections – Scotland’s Arctic Policy Framework: “At a time when the Arctic is the focus of mounting geopolitical attention, this framework puts people back at the heart of Scottish-Arctic dialogue…It is an important milestone in the journey towards consolidating Scotland’s position as a European gateway to the Arctic and establishing it as the international partner of choice for both our Arctic neighbours and other like-minded countries that are interested in working with us on addressing common challenges.”
- Arctic images please credit Coulson & Tennant.
- Other images are courtesy of the Beyond Words International Storytelling Festival.
Scotland and the Arctic programme:
For the full details see www.ayearofconversation.com
Among the events taking place are:
- Wednesday 2 October: Dumfries Academy, unveiling of a plaque to Sir John Richardson (1787-1865) – Surgeon, natural historian and Arctic explorer.
- 8-12 October: Scotland and the Arctic Film Festival
- Tuesday 8 October: Moat Brae, 6.15-7.30 pm, festival launch with opening of exhibition Polar Bears in Picture Books. By invitation.
- Wednesday 9 October: Outside The Stove, 7-8pm. Geese Over The Town! In anticipation of Wild Goose Weekend, join us at this family event to have a gander at wild pink footed geese as they fly over the town on their migration path to the Solway Estuary.
- Friday 11 October: RBC, 7pm Atanjarjut, The Fast Runner, the first feature film in the Inuktitut language.
- Saturday 12 October: RBC, 7.30 pm Film, photography and creativity in the Arctic. Join Colin Tennant and Dr. Saskia Coulson to learn about their recent photography and film assignments, as they discuss the creative process, the difficulties and the urgency of documenting this important but rapidly changing environment.
- Saturday 12th, Sunday 13th October: Wild Goose Weekend. WWT Caerlaverock Wetland Centre, Eastpark Farm, Caerlaverock, DG1 4RS. (01387 770200)
- Friday 18th, Jessie Kleeman, Inuit poet and performance artist, Moat Brae.
- Saturday 19th October: A Conversation about Scotland and the Arctic. Glasgow University, Rutherford McCowan, Crichton, Dumfries DG1 4ZE, 10 am-4.30pm. Speakers include Paula Williams – Curator Maps, Mountaineering and Polar Collections, the NLS; Jessie Kleeman – Greenland Inuit poet and artist; Canadian storytellers, Dawne McFarlane; Dr David Borthwick (Glasgow University Dumfries) who runs the M.Phil, ‘Reading the Environment’; Dr Natalie Welden (Glasgow University Dumfries) – expert on plastics and their impact on sea-life; Brian Morrell, Centre Manager, WWT Caerlaverock Wetland Centre and many more.
- Saturday 19th October, Moat Brae, storytelling with Dawne McFarlane, Director of the Toronto Storytelling Festival and Louise Profeit-LeBlanc, an Aboriginal storyteller, cultural educator artist, writer, choreographer, and film script writer from the Northern Tutchone Nation, Athabaskan language spoken in northeastern Yukon in Canada. With whaling songs from winner of the BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year, Robyn Stapleton.
About A Year of Conversation 2019
- A Year of Conversation 2019 is an exciting project designed to celebrate, to initiate and to explore conversation in Scotland and beyond.
- It has been developed in conversation with a wide range of partners within arts and community sectors. A Year of Conversation is a collaborative project designed to celebrate, initiate and to explore conversation through the arts.
- Find out more at ayearofconversation.com
A Year of Conversation 2019 has five broad themes:
- Translation as conversation
- Conversation as a social good
- Conversation as event (micro and macro)
- Conversation within and across art forms and across borders
- Conversation in a digital age.