|"A Place Beyond Belief" (Click to enlarge photo)|
...sorry that should be the St Magnus INTERNATIONAL Festival. An annual event held mainly in Kirkwall and Stromness over a period of a week with a wonderfully varied programme of drama, poetry, music, juggling and - yes - cake!
The sign in the picture above says it all really - A Place Beyond Belief...! This happens to be an exhibit at the Pier Arts Centre, photo taken on a grey murky day....very atmospheric I think!
Anyway back to the festival. I was only able to get along to a few events this year. But thoroughly enjoyed a concert in the Stromness Town Hall by O Duo (Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnel), brilliant percussionists with a great sense of humour and boundless energy. Some lively pieces and some quieter reflective ones. And loads of "stuff" (er I'm not a musician!) on stage which they manoeuvred round with dexterity.
Afterwards there were poems with tunes, tea and cake at the Stromness Hotel. There is a writers' course as part of the Festival so those folk read out their poems, while the rest of us ate - um - cake. And the tunes were provided by guitarist James Boyd. A lovely time was had - though I had to make a dash for the boat home - after consuming an "elegant sufficiency" of cake of course.
A couple of days later I travelled into Kirkwall to attend the "Foy". The theme this year was "Slaves in a Savage Land". In the 18th and 19th Century Orcadians went to work for the Hudson's Bay Company and travelled across the high seas, literally, to work in Northern Canada. Through storytelling, songs, music, poems, film and historical accounts the story of some of these folk, and the women they met and married, were told. There were just a few folk on stage bringing these stories to life but they held the audience in the palm of their hands as they spun the tales. I had shivers down my spine, a lump in my throat and a desire to learn more about the extraordinary "ordinary" men and women of the stories. A magical hour..... The programme was devised and directed by Fran Flett Holinrake and it has been said in my hearing, and I totally agree, it was the best Foy ever....
It felt really strange having spent an hour in "The North West of Canada" and then in the streets of Stromness in my imagination to then step out into the streets of Kirkwall. I felt quite disorientated and thankfully just had a short walk to my next event... This was a lunchtime concert in the St Magnus Cathedral given by the Randers Chamber Orchestra. The Cathedral was packed and I had a seat way at the back so couldn't even SEE the musicians. But the sound was beautiful and it gave me time to gaze upon the marvel that is our beautiful Cathedral.
And that was all I had time to enjoy this year. But it was fun to chat to strangers in cafes about performances seen and others anticipated. And brilliant that such a varied programme in some lovely quirky venues takes place each year in Orkney. Bring on the next one!
And a member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra has written a fascinating and entertaining post of "behind the scenes" at one of the concerts they performed at. Well worth a read....click here