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.

Alastair Jackson Blethers With His Camera: Spirit of the Hebrides

Tuesday Evening, November 19, 7.30 pm, Edinbane Hall, Free Admission

Book Week Scotland is the annual event which celebrates books and reading, sponsored by the Scottish Book Trust. We invite the public to come and play with this year’s theme, Blether. Bring your passion for reading and propensity to chin-wag, and join us at Edinbane Community Hall on Tuesday, 19th November, at 7.30 p.m.

Our merrymaking will center around Skye and Raasay and island life, with Alastair Jackson, co-author of The Spirit of the Hebrides. The book combines the poetry of Kenneth Steven with the photography of Mr. Jackson and features images of Skye and Raasay in homage to one of Scotland’s leading 20th century poets, Sorley MacLean.

Alastair JacksonAlistair Jackson is a photographer who grew up on the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland; the environment has inspired him to create images which reflect this. He has been exhibiting since 2016, and his interest in wandering the hills and coast bring a psychogeographical dimension to his work, along with his interest in the history and culture of the Highlands. His photographs capture the sublime beauty of the isles, and those of us who love them should appreciate the familiar haunting quality of the images.

In addition, Alastair has sought to collaborate with a range of other creators, including artists Kate McMorrine and Moira Buchanan; photographer Ingrid Budge; and broadcaster & record producer, John Cavanagh.

His latest projects broaden his scope of work to look at environmental issues which are currently causing concern.

Kenneth Steven, Skeabost Hotel, 2015

Kenneth Steven, Skeabost Hotel, 2015

Kenneth Steven grew up in the Scottish Highlands and is first and foremost a poet. In late April, 2015, the Reading Room had the pleasure of his company for a companionable, informative and inspiring afternoon workshop and impressive evening reading. His gentle, contemplative nature worked its charm on the audience and he is fondly remembered and wished well on this collaboration with Alastair. The Spirit of the Hebrides, with Alastair Jackson’s stunning photography, must have touched what Kenneth is most interested in – the link between people and their land, what makes individuals the way they are, and how that identity is shaped and changed by wild places in particular. Though he will not be with us for the evening, we will naturally be blethering about his literary contribution to the book.

This event is funded by Scottish Book Trust. Admission is free. Refreshments will be served.

For more information about our event or questions about the Reading Room, please contact us at: skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or on Facebook: The Reading Room – Skye.

 

July at the Reading Room

It looks like there’s lots on in July on the literary front so the Reading Room folk are taking some time off. You’ll probably see some of us at these other events that are happening soon:-

Christopher Whatley, author of Pabay: An Island Odyssey will be at
Edinbane Community Hall – Saturday 6th July from 5.00-7.00pm
Cafe at An Crubh               – Monday  8th July from 5.30pm
Tickets are free for both events but please email events@birlinn.co.uk to RSVP or to find out more information.

Reading Room Book Stall at the monthly Indoor Sale at
Skeabost Memorial Hall      – Saturday 13th July from 11.00am-3.00pm

Anne Pia, an Italian Scot award-winning author poet based in Edinburgh will be at
Bog Myrtle, Struan              – Sunday 21st July from 4.00pm
tickets via http://www.seall.co.uk/events/anne-pia/

Last month we had a great time at our Open Mic with guest poet and all round good guy Harry Gallagher. There will be more about the event shortly but imagine our surprise when chairman Simon Clayton opened the evening by welcoming Harry in verse thus:-

Welcome to Harry

Edinbane, on the Isle of Skye,
Hosts meetings of the Reading Room.
At best, they light a writer’s fire,
At worst, they lift a little gloom.

Our members love the written word,
More so, when read aloud.
We always welcome poets here,
We’re not an awkward crowd.

This month, we are truly blessed,
And expect a thrilling ride.
Harry Gallagher’s only here,
All the way from Tees-side.

Remember, tonight’s an Open Mic,
For visitors and members.
So, let the breath of this good throng,
Be blown on your word’s embers.

After this short, sweet, intro,
You people can show your mettle.
And read until you’re satisfied,
Or ‘til Deb puts on the kettle.

To Harry we give grateful thanks,
Awaiting poems with Northern grit.
Poetry ripe with the richness of life,
Public bar sawdust, and spit.

Now, I’ll be quiet and we can start,
Please clear your throats and ears.
And welcome Harry to this place,
With great Applause and Cheers.

 

Who Am I? Jewish Identity and the Faces of Tracey S. Rosenberg

Reading  January 29 7:30 pm Edinbane Hall  Workshop  January 30  7:30-9 pm  Portree

rosenberg-headshot-oct2018

She’s a funny lady, a self-pronounced loud poet whose cat vociferously agrees with her. When she’s not making people laugh, they might be weeping over the eloquent poems of her second chapbook, “The Naming of Cancer” (Neon, 2014), which enfolds the reader as witness to the agony and courage of patients, family and health carers. Her first novel, “The Girl in the Bunker” (Cargo Publishing, 2011), elicits a groaning sense that children, somewhere, are even today being forced to decipher truths about racism and self-identification.

tracey

Tracey S. Rosenberg describes herself as an American who came to Scotland and never left. We will detect if she has become a wee bit Scottish, when she joins us to read her story “The Western Wall”, a fictional response to Muriel Spark’s award-winning novel, “The Mandelbaum Gate”.  As part of the celebrations of Spark’s centenary, Tracey was awarded an Endless Different Ways grant from Creative Scotland, and she travelled to Jerusalem to write the story, which depicts three modern young women whose personal identities conflict with their shared religious history.

“The Mandelbaum Gate” provides the author  prepositional angles in theology, adventure, humour, romance and mad philosophy to shimmy up, hang from and slide down, so we can look forward to her creative gymnastics inspired by the novel that Spark wrote after witnessing a few days of the Adolf Eichmann trial in 1961. The novel addresses, among other issues, complex interpretations of Jewish identity.

tracey cancer

The surgeon’s finger stands in for the blade: /
it will remove her, just here.       “Touch”

The poems of Tracey S. Rosenberg have been published in a variety of journals and anthologies, including The Istanbul Review, Gutter, New Writing Scotland and The Journal of the American Association. Her short story “May the Bell be Rung for Harriet!” won the Brontë Society Creative Competition, with the shortlist judged by Dame Margaret Drabble, and was selected for Best British Short Stories 2015. She can be seen performing and volunteering at multiple literary festivals around Scotland, and among the intriguing vimeos in which you can view her, my favorite for sheer, exuberant delight is the “Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremonies”.

Our Tuesday evening reading at Edinbane Hall, January 29, begins at 7:30 p.m. £5 at the door; members are free. Everyone is welcome. Refreshments are served after Tracey’s reading and there will be plenty of time for Q & A, browsing our Good Reads section and general chatting. Be sure to ask about our reasonable memberships and feel free to give input on what you would like to see happen with the Reading Room in the future.

Tracey’s workshop on “Portraying Character” will be held at St. Columba’s Church, downtown Portree, in the Parish Rooms, on Wednesday, January 30th, 7:30-9:00 p.m.  No preparation is needed and participants need only bring paper and pen and £5 fee. Refreshments will be served.

Be sure to catch Tracey on Simon Clayton’s “Ever Changing Moods” program, Cuillin FM, Wednesday, January 30, 10:30 a.m.

If you need info on this event or the Reading Room, please contact us at skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or on Facebook: Reading Room – Skye.

 

 

 

 

The People’s Poet Harry Gallagher To Juice up Open Mic

Nurse Ratchet might have sent Harry Gallagher downstairs for irreversible treatment but his electrical poetry and delivery threaten only to send thrills down spines. He is The People’s Poet, who performs up and down the UK, sharing his rhyme and rhythm penned for anyone who toucheHarryGs his heart – and it must be big and tender, because he is champion of so many, with his words that cut, bruise and soothe.

Write in Tuesday, July 10, with a big scratchy star, to see Harry and hear a lot of super poetry by him and participants of our Open Mic, at the intimate Edinbane Community Hall, 7:30 p.m.

Harry is described by poet and Black Light Engine Room Press editor, p.a. morbid, as a “truly wonderful troubadour of the everyday”, for his latest collection, How it is – Snapshots From a Northern Town (Stairwell Books, 2018). 

HarryNorthern Lights

“Gulls idly chatter with herons on bones of conveyors, cranes, staithes lodged in silt, water topped up with ancient stevedore blood.” Ghost River

Stunningly beautiful one second, brutal the next.  He gets to the guts of what it means to be a modern human.”
Robert Francis, poet and host of Permission To Speak event, Stourbridge

In his poem, “Bevin Boy”, Harry illustrates why his work is considered a love letter to the people from the North East of England:

No bloody medal for you,
just backbreak and slack
that seeped through your lungs,
laying the eggs of the wheezes
that you always knew
would oneday sing you to sleep.

Harry Gallagher lives and writes on the North East coast. His work has been widelyHarry GChasing the Sunset published by, among others, The Stare’s Nest, Black Light Engine Room, Lucifer Press, Rebel Poetry, The Fat Damsel, Material, Alliterati, Dead Snakes, Write Minds and Clear Poetry.  He is co-founder of The Stanza, a monthly poetry night in Newcastle upon Tyne.

There will also be an opportunity for local writers to share their work in 5-minute slots during the Open Mic session. Please sign up with Francis Mitchell when you arrive or contact the Reading Room at skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk.

Entrance is free for participants and members; £3 for non-members/non-participants. Tea, coffee and treats are served. Everyone is welcome. There is some parking at the hall and more on the street. Some of us stop into the Edinbane Inn for dinner around 6 p.m. Please feel free to join us.

We can be contacted at skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or on Facebook: Reading Room – Skye.

Saturday Afternoon OPEN MIC!

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Please note Rody Gorman is unable to be here but all else is a go! Come and enjoy an afternoon of refined and/or wacky writing at Aros on the Isle of Skye.

OPenMicJune 2

Writers are winners

The Skye & Raasay Schools’ Gaelic and English writing competition, organised by the Reading Room (Seòmar Leughaidh), as part of Book Week Scotland 2017, proved to be a resounding success. Over 60 entries on the theme of ‘Nourish’ were shortlisted and put before a panel of experienced judges, which included four retired Head teachers and three distinguished Gaelic speakers

The objective of the Writing Competition was to encourage children and young people of all abilities to write, and to reward both the best and those who had made great progress in their writing.

The quality of the winning entries was exceptional. The young authors explored the theme of Nourish in diverse ways: feeding the heart, the spirit and the mind, as well as the body. Some entries were humorous and others were descriptive or sensitive. The judges enjoyed a feast of good writing from all age groups.

The Reading Room is grateful for the substantial prizes donated by:

        • Alexander McCall Smith
        • Ian Rankin
        • Gilleasbuig Ferguson
        • Chris Watkiss
        • Alasdair Galbraith
        • the Isle of Skye Sea Salt Company
        • Cafesia
        • Sabhal Mor Ostaig
        • Urras an Eilein
        • Glasgow Skye Association
        • the Highland Council
        • the Highland Society of London

     

    Many thanks are due also to all the pupils who took part, their teachers, the panel of judges and last but certainly not least a huge thank you to Ann Galbraith for all the time and energy she devoted to this project – a great achievement indeed.