Report: Expressing the Earth, 22nd to 24th June 2017

The conference was held at Seil Island Hall, Ellenabeich in Argyll, and was a very rich and full programme, with six invited speakers, (Norman Bissell, Mairead Nic Craith, Neil Simco, Alastair McIntosh, Mike Russell and Anuschka Miller) six field trips, eight workshops including those held by members Helen Boden and Mandy Haggith, and an astonishing 24 presentations, on subjects ranging from geology, heritage, education, community and landscape, to herbs, films and urban geopoetics. Although a thunderstorm happened the night before, taking out the WIFI at Seil Island Hall, and making it impossible to tweet, stream events or even to run the films we had planned, there was enough going on without that!

There were 55 people stayed for all three days, and many who could only do one or two, so it was lovely to meet old friends, some familiar figures from previous geopoetic events, some from the poetry world, and some known only from Facebook up to now – and the making of many new ones. The setting on the island was beautiful and the catering provided by a local firm Fisherman’s Kitchen was wonderful.

The performance highlight was undoubtedly Dreaming Agrakas, an opera written by Mark Sheridan moving between the coasts of Scotland Greece and Sicily, combining references to traditional Gaelic music and coastal folklore, a classical Greek ode by Pindar and a modern reflection on the many migrants drowned in the Mediterranean. There were only three performers, Hannah Bown, voice, Morag Currie, violin and Mark himself on piano, but it was a magnificent achievement.

Music was also provided by Alastair Taylor, Nikita Pfister’s who performed his river suite on the melodeon, and Dave Francis, long known to me for his generosity as a teacher and developer of traditional music, and poetry by Helen Moore, Jan Sutch Pickard and Ian McFadyen.

David Francis summed it up by saying: “That was a wonderful three days at the Expressing the Earth at Eileanabech in Argyll, a rich brew of thought, ideas, music, song, story, landscape, archaeology, local food and conviviality. All conferences should be like this!”

© Elizabeth Rimmer 2017

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