Review of November Book Week Scotland Event: Alastair Jackson

By Simon Clayton

The Spirit Is Willing…

The Reading Room were pleased to welcome photographer and author, Alastair Jackson, to a ‘Book Week Scotland’ event at Edinbane on Tuesday 19th November. A pleasing number of fifteen members and guests braved the drizzly night, to hear the former Skye resident talk about his collaborative work with poet Kenneth Steven.

The ‘Spirit of the Hebrides’ is a homage to legendary poet Sorley MacLean and skillfully combines the poetry of Kenneth and the photography of Alastair. In spite of his doubts surrounding the publisher’s imposed title, Mr Jackson went through the evocative and haunting images in the book, on slides, each accompanied by an appropriate poem.

Mostly seascapes and all monochrome, the photographs brought to life the wonderful boundaries of Skye and Raasay and made many of us want to visit some of the vantage points Alastair used. Many were subsequently put off when learning of the difficulties of access, and the (up to) 5-hour walks involved!

The topics brought to life by the photos and poems were very much the stuff of Skye’s history and a wider Scottish context. Depopulation was well demonstrated and one brooding picture of Storr Lochs – entitled ‘After Culloden’ – clearly told a wider story. Each image seemed to bring the ever-changeable Skye weather into play, to great effect.

After the presentation and questions, we all enjoyed the usual delicious home baking and hot drinks which helped the group have a good ‘blether’ – which is, after all, this year’s concept for Book Week Scotland. The icing on the cake was to learn subsequently that ‘Spirit of the Hebrides’ has been listed for the next Highland Book Award. We wish Alastair well in the judging of that competition.

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