Finding the voice
The radio station celebrating Scotland’s rich heritage
Celebrating and preserving Scotland’s rich heritage comes in many innovative forms, but a small band of broadcasters are punching above their weight to get noticed. An online internet radio programme that celebrates the Scots language and culture, and which is presented in Scots, was nominated for a top international award in the Celtic Media Festival, alongside some of the world’s biggest radio stations.
‘Scots Radio’ is presented and produced by well known broadcaster Frieda Morrison and features Scots ‘fae Shetland tae the Borders and athin in atween’. Set up in December 2013 the programme attracts thousands of listeners, from local Scots to
the dedicated Scottish diaspora, with its special blend of discussions, events and music.
In the nominated episode, the programme features the Book of the
Howlat, which is based on a 15th century poem that was launched at Darnaway Castle in Morayshire, the Scottish Storytelling Festival, and finishes at the Food Festival in Edinburgh. Other episodes feature stories from the vast well of Scottish Heritage - the whisky smug- glers, the slave trade in Scotland, the thinker’s heart, hidden Aberdeen and the soldiers of Killiecrankie.
Scots Radio stands out because it talks in the language of Scotland, rather than about the language of Scotland. Language, community and culture are always intertwined. Heritage is a subtle interplay of the land, the people, the language, music, culture and history. If you remove or undermine one element, it has a knock-on ripple effect across the board. Scots Radio is making small but significant steps to make talking in Scots a talking point.
Whilst most media outlets publish and broadcast in English or Gaelic, Scots Radio is one place where local accents and dialects are used with an ease that’s natural and engaging. Frieda believes that this is one of the most important aspects of Scots Radio and, for many people, one that evokes personal memories.
‘When I went to school you were punished if you spoke in the language of your family and failed to speak “properly”,’ she says. ‘The message
When I went to school you were punished if you spoke in the language of your family
coming through was that the way my parents spoke, the language of my grandparents, the accents of the people I loved, was no longer valid or particularly welcome. This was quite a difficult and mixed message to deal with, especially for a child.
‘Then when I progressed to presenting work in the media I had to learn “received pronunciation” – this was
Attitudes to using the Scots language have changed and I feel our nomination recognises that change
done in special training classes in London at that time. It all pointed to the notion that Scots was not acceptable. But gradually BBC Scotland changed its attitude to local accents.’
When she was eight years old, Frieda suffered a head injury and experienced temporary blindness due to having bandages around her head and eyes. Her grandfather often took care of her whilst she was off school, taking her by the hand on long walks along the Buchan coastline.
‘As I couldn’t see all I can remember is his voice, his stories and local tales,’ she says. ‘Listening to him as he described everything that I couldn’t see, comforted, entertained and became a part of me. Local knowledge, folklore and history are worth preserving, but the way it’s expressed, the language in which these captivating tales are woven, is worth preserving too. Attitudes to using the Scots language have changed and I feel our nomination recognises that change.’
It’s quickly apparent that Scots Radio isn’t just a job, it’s a labour of love for the dedicated work of a handful of impassioned individuals. Recorded in Edinburgh at B&B studios by Richard Werner, whose banter and personality have become a much-loved part of the programme, it also features guest appearances from folklorist and musician Steve Byrne.
Nominated in the Celtic Media Festival’s ‘magazine category’, this small team is up against some global brands
and household names, which is a staggering feat in itself. The other finalists include Scotland’s BBC Radio nan Gaidheal and Northern Ireland’s BBC Radio Ulster, as well as Ireland’s RTE Raidió na Gaeltachta and BBC Wales, all aspiring to be awarded the Festival’s ‘Torc’ Award for Excellence.
Scots Radio has a lot of people rooting for it, not least The Scots Language Centre and Creative Scot- land. As Kenneth Fowler, the director of communications at Creative Scotland, says: ‘We are delighted that Scots Radio has been nominated in the Celtic Media awards. As we state in our Scots Language Policy, “we tak tent that the Scots language is an innermaist pairt o Scotlan’s identitie an culture” and we will “forder oor wurk tae heize up an develop Scots language”. Our funding support for Scots Radio forms
Scots Radio remains the only place in the media where Scots can be heard regularly, in all its dialect and regional varieties
an important part of that work and it’s great that their role in championing Scots, raising awareness of the language, while entertaining and informing at the same time, is being recognised in this way.’
Author and poet James Robertson adds that: ‘Scots Radio remains the only place in the media where Scots can be heard regularly, in all its dialect and regional varieties, featuring urban and rural speakers discussing a whole range of subjects across daily life. Frieda Morrison and her colleagues give the lie to the notion that Scots in the media is only fit for fitbaw and comedy – although that is not to say that
Scots Radio continues to be an oral-aural celebration of the Scots tongue and as such is both a delight and a necessity
there isn’t plenty of humour in the programmes. Scots Radio continues to be an oral-aural celebration of the Scots tongue and as such is both a delight and a necessity – a rare example of the Scots language being given its rightful place in our media.’
Frieda was in Douglas on the Isle of Man for the 38th Celtic Media Festival which took place on 3-5 May 2017. Although Scots Radio did not win, getting there was a huge achievement. As Frieda said: ‘We have been judged by a Scottish jury and an International jury - on behalf o the Scots Radio team, thank-you tae oor listeners and contributors for their support.’
Image: Well-known broadcaster Frieda Morrison presents and produces Scots Radio.
Left: Acclaimed traditional singer-songwriter Steve Byrne is a regular on Scots Radio. Below: So too is the much-loved Richard Werner.
Image: Guests from Episode 34 (l-r): Kyle Steel, Mairi McFadyen, Rachael Gillan.
Image: Frieda with Kevin McKidd, who plays the minister in the film version of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s SunsetSong.