Well, I’m sure it has been an extraordinary year for most of us, and for many of us a year of loss and sadness. For me, it has been, mostly, a year of isolation – wait and see, restricted for much of it to my home due to my high vulnerability to COVID-19. Unlike many of friends in the global South, I have had the benefit of vaccination and the support of a government (in Scotland, at least) somewhat more concerned with the lives and health of their population than others seem to have been in countries like Brazil and, until recently, the USA.
A year of isolation and retreat has, however, provided an opportunity to focus fairly on writing projects and some associated music and film-making ideas. It has also provided the opportunity to provide some online mentoring and editorial support for other writers and projects.
So, as we come out of lock-down (again and at least temporarily), it’s time to get the show on the road again on so many levels.
Over the last 12 months, with the help and support, in particular, of Mary Armour, I’ve produced (and re-produced and finally produced) Threads, a novel set in Angola, Scotland, the USA and South Korea between 2005 and 2011.
It is the product of first-hand experience, deep research and, perhaps most challenging of all, a determined empathy for all its diverse characters.
Working in Angolan oil & gas operations in 2005, I was struck by the fact that the ‘pilgrims’ depicted in Heart of Darkness (1899) were alive and well in the 21st Century. But any reprise of Conrad’s novella of the present age, has to offer a polyphonous, multivalent account, giving voice, especially, to indigenous perspectives. In Threads, Caliban’s much-maligned mother, Sycorax, confronts Conrad’s Mr. Kurtz with the consequences of his actions and demands a compensation greater than his death.
Adopting terms from Portuguese, Kimbundu, Calão and Scots, the tale challenges reader-expectations as the point-of-view switches between colonised and colonist, woman and man, living and ‘dead’, unfolding in a shatter-zone of experience and memory.
I’ll be posting more thoughts on the development of this really challenging project over the next few weeks.
Also ready to roll is Pibroch – my spoken word show and poetry collection exploring parallels between the Climate Emergency and the Piper Alpha disaster which occurred in the North Sea in 1988.
Pibroch was originally conceived a one-person spoken word performance with accompanying music and visuals. And it still is and can be! The pressures of the last year have, however, driven the piece to be far more digital that might otherwise have been the case and it will be suitable for streaming as an installation as well as a performance. This has been a great opportunity to learn new skills in film making and music production which have been integrated into my practice.
There is a complementary collection currently in preparation. Publication of Pibroch by Red Squirrel Press is expected in 2021.
More information on some of the themes and practical issues with the development of Pibroch will be appearing on A View from the Long Grass over the next few weeks. So watch this space!