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Around Town

A still from Hallaig

Songs of home Kirstin Innes finds out about a festival and a screening looking at the darker sides of the Scottish Diaspora

Between the numerous gigs, gatherings and soap carving workshops (we kid you not) under its umbrella, ‘Homecoming’ itself has become a rather vague concept this year. It’s refreshing, then, that in their 20th year the Scottish International Storytelling Festival has decided to address many of the real issues of the Scottish Diaspora.

Subtitled ‘Homelands’, this year the programme run mainly, but not exclusively out of the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile features live storytellers from New Zealand, USA, Canada and Australia, all countries well-populated by people of Scottish origin. However, don’t expect the same sort of bloated, shiny ‘celebration’ that has characterised public perception of other Year of Homecoming events. From an interactive workshop exploring Aboriginal language and storytelling, to a storytelling session about the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from their homelands, the focus here is on indigenous cultures that have been marginalised and moved by more powerful settlers. Of course, Scotland’s own storytellers might have a thing to add there. One of the most interesting events is a double bill screening at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse, pairing up a BBC film of John McGrath’s 1974 play The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil, which looked at the brutal realities behind the Highland Clearances, one of the driving forces behind the Scottish Diaspora, and Hallaig, a cinema

adaptation of Sorley McLean’s poem about the loss of the Highland community on the island of Raasay. ‘I remember when [The Cheviot] came out, people sat up and listened,’ says the Gaelic storyteller and singer Margaret Bennett, whose late son Martyn wrote the score for Hallaig. ‘Until then, the Highlanders had stayed quiet about all those issues. About who took over their land; who owned the land. But these issues, the forced Clearances. They left scars. I think what [The Cheviot] did was it got people talking; made people a little braver and a little bolder to talk about these issues and not just to sit back and let things happen to them. The Gaelic language had declined in those years too the Highland schools didn’t even entertain teaching it, so there was no room to revise and modernise the language. My mother was born in 1919: her generation of Gaels had practically resigned themselves to being the subservient race. They were self-conscious, they felt inferior; they were a dispirited people. I think it’s time for Scotland to be reminded of these issues again.’

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival runs from Fri 23 Oct–Sun 1 Nov. Screening at the Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Sun 1 Nov; Margaret Bennett will be participating in a tie-in discussion, Leaving the Land, Tue 27 Oct. See www.scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk

www.list.co.uk/aroundtown Hitlist FIREWORKS, FANZINES & FUNDRAISERS*

✽✽ Bonfire Night Fireworks Displays Remember, remember . . . that there will be loud bangs in the Glasgow Green and Edinburgh Meadowbank areas, and you might want to reschedule your early night. Meadowbank Sports Centre, Edinburgh & Glasgow Green, Glasgow, Thu 5 Nov. ✽✽ Fanzine Sunday Collective will be open for young publishers, emergent writers and artists to go into the gallery to produce new work, whether it’s a self-published catalogue, a written text or a fanzine. Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, Sun 25 Oct & 1 Nov. ✽✽ Handmade Haven Last Sunday of the month means it’s time for the Glasgow Craft Mafia’s cosy handmade market, with everything from specially selected vintage clobber to hipster homeware on sale. Mono, Glasgow, Sun 25 Oct. ✽✽ Fundraising Event for Wateraid One of Glasgow’s friendliest shops opens up for an evening of food and wine tastings, green makeovers and mini-massage sessions, all to raise funds for Wateraid. Grassroots Organic, Glasgow, Thu 29 Oct. ✽✽ Ballroom Barney: Mods V Rockers, a Murder Mystery Okay, so. There are mods, there are rockers, there’s a fight, there’s a murder. And you have to help solve it. We think. People’s Palace & Winter Gardens, Glasgow Green, Fri 30 Oct. 22 Oct–5 Nov 2009 THE LIST 33