Yesterday afternoon/evening, Keith Kirk and I led a dozen participants (the event was limited to 12 people so it was actually a sell-out) on the sunset poetry walk organised as part of CatStrand’s Inspiring Writers project, Ken Words.
CatStrand is a multi-arts centre in the heart of Dumfries & Galloway, which offers an amazing programme of music, theatre, cinema, dance and visual arts as well as being a venue for all manner of classes and workshops. They draw a wonderful and eclectic list of performers: Judie Tzuke who headlines Glastonbury, The Unthanks and pop icon Kiki Dee – all this in a village with a population of less than 350.
Inspiring Words brings all CatStrand’s literature-focused events and activities under one umbrella. Events include writers Margaret Elphinstone and James Robertson in conversation about their historical fiction; film and poetry workshops, and events such as the sunset poetry walk.
Our sunset poetry walk took place on the Threave Estate and it was fabulous. It was cold – very cold – but crucially, it was a clear evening, didn’t rain and we did get to see the sun setting.
We also saw starlings gathering before they flew off to join the great murmuration which takes place just outside the town. Keith has uploaded some fantastic photos and videos on Facebook of the starlings. Keith pointed out a badger sett. We saw roe deer, heard – some of us – geese, listened to the River Dee.
We stood opposite the great bulk of Threave Castle while I gave a very brief potted history – a full account of the castle’s history, and more importantly, the stories of the Black Douglas dynasty would take up the entire time of the event.
We took longer than anticipated on the walk because everyone was so fascinated and had so many questions. Going for a walk in the countryside with Keith is a wonderful thing, especially as he is so happy to share his knowledge.
I have to say I found standing in silence in the deepening dark with a dozen people, all our senses tuning into the falling night, quite a moving experience.
A moving experience of a different kind occurred as we walked back to the visitor centre and encountered a herd of young cows which was not there when we set out. They had wandered onto our path – for some reason they were in a field with no gate – and had to be moved to allow us to continue.
Back at the visitor centre tea and shortbread were produced by the event organiser, Jane McBeth and Andrew Mellor while the serious work of translating the experiences into words.
What was really special was that everyone – new writers, established poets, artists – enthusiastically took part in the workshop and everyone shared what they’d written with the group. Keith was astonished at how twelve people on the same walk together produced twelve very different accounts of their experiences.
At the end Jane handed out specially produced postcards of Keith’s sunset at Threave Castle photo,
with an envelope and stamp so that people can send in their edited work so that it is not lost – perhaps displayed on the walls at CatStrand or perhaps a poetry pamphlet?
We are already talking about repeating the event next year – in the summer.