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.
Dunbar is a town that feels at once curiously familiar and brusquely strange to me. The light and space that comes one side open, always, to the water, the birdsong and gullcries, the streets worn by sand and wind, the harbour, the boats. This feels like the town I grew up in, facing out to the Irish Sea. I remember this. I miss this. And at the same time, I’ve lived in big cities for all of my adult life, peripatetic and drifting through my twenties. My friends and I are Generation Rent, mostly childless, often single or chaotic in love, moving flat, job, career, hobbies with interest. Weekend workers, digital natives, midweek carousers. The idea of Civic Week, advertised in a library and community centre teaming with children and the half-attention of one eye always watchful to what the small person underfoot is getting up to, is an exotic notion. The library shelves are filled with posters and pamphlets proffering gentle advice such as ‘Life’s Even Better When You Get Online’ and ‘Advanced Diploma in Local History via the Internet.’ It’s stirring halfmemories, riptides of emotion. A sense of community. Small town bliss. Small town blues.
So, I have four months to write about Dunbar. I’m not sure what that’s going to look like yet. I’ll be spending a day a month out in the town, creating work from each visit. There is something about the physical side of this environment that’s pulling me strongly. But I'm curious to explore the social, civic community too. Who's here? And why? Questions to be explored. I’m armed with a copy of John Muir’s autobiography and of Roy Moller’s ‘Imports’, Appletree Writers' emerging poet 2014, not to mention actual resident of Dunbar. Me, I’m an alien here, remembering the smell of home.