The Final Blog

The dust, joy, hangovers and suntans have settled from CoastWord 2016, but the memories are still resonating. What an absolute joy that was. What a privilege and an honour to have been part of it. This is my final blog as Writer In Residence for CoastWord 2015 – 2016, and I'm already salivating slightly at the prospect of Catherine Simpson's work for the coming year. I mean that quite literally. Have you read her description of eating an 8oz Dunmuir burger topped with Doddington’s smoked caddy’s cave cheese and bacon, hand cut chips, onion rings and baby leaf salad in the middle of a flash mob??

So, here, a summing up of the final bits of activity as my time as CoastWords WiR, and where all that thinking about community, small seaside towns, mums, women's voices (both poetic and physical), gull cries and how we use, wield, craft our voices got me...

I've already written about the joy of a residency like CoastWords, which offers the writer time and space to respond to Dunbar and its environment, and see where the work is led. Following many conversations with the marvellous Hannah Lavery, CoastWord director about this, it gradually dawned on me that this was a very special residency indeed..no particular outcome expected, but a chance to explore ideas, thoughts, poems, practice. To be bold, and brave, and to step out further. And having done some of the thinking on this, it was time to call in the professionals. More specifically, it felt that this work around women's voices – so much inspired by the work of the Writing Mums in Dunbar – couldn't just come from me. I wanted to work with other women, to see if this work resonated, and whether this leap in the dark was in answer to some call I could hear, or if other women could hear it too. I asked Anna Porubcansky, musician/performer/voice artist and co director of the Glasgow based Company of Wolves, to lead a voice workshop in Dunbar to see if we could free our voices, shake, shiver and howl a little. What happened in Carey and John's living room will stay in Carey and John's living room but suffice to say, some visitors to the beach got an earful later on...

This laid the foundation for the final workshop of the Residency during the Festival itself, a sound poetry workshop in the dramatic, low beamed, exposed rock but with full Wifi and coffee making facilities of MacArthur's Store. The sun always does shine in Dunbar...with a committed and mischievous group, we explored sound and concrete poetry, with nods to Edwin Morgan; taking the names of the rock formations around Dunbar and s-s-s-s-s-s-t-r-e-t-c-h-h-h-i-n-g them out; and a final guerilla performance with participants performing the sounds of the harbour, the shore, the sea around them. When Colin Will sets up a call and response with a circling gull, you know something magical has happened. I am profoundly grateful to CoastWord for the opportunity to explore and develop this work, to work with the local community and to respond to the physical, social, emotional surroundings of Dunbar. The poems that have emerged, blinking and mewling, from this are growing in strength and voice even now, as I sit here in Montreal, an island in the middle of a river where I do not speak the language, continuing this work so far from the sea.

The Monstruous Regiment of Women

The Monstruous Regiment of Women

Since my last blog in January, I've been thinking about a number of things, and wondering if the strands could be brought together during this residency. I think that they can. In fact, I'm excited to think that they can. Something is brewing. Something noisy, guttural, stomping, stamping and good. Anyone want to come and play?

Is It Always Sunny In Dunbar?

Is It Always Sunny In Dunbar?

Morning at the sea. Heat, blue. That rank, rich smell of seaweed, iodine, and salt. And a heron. Always, herons.

These are my notes from last year’s Coastword Festival, wandering down from the Dunmuir Hotel on a scorching May morning in 2015, following a riotous circus of words and music at Words To The Beat the previous evening (Michael Pedersen, Kirsty Law, Catherine Simpson, Davy Henderson and more in attendance). Eight months on, I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be working in Dunbar as Coastword’s Writer In Residence January to May 2016, working towards a body of work that will be presented at this year’s Festival.