Faclan: books at edge of the world
The theme for this year’s Faclan: The Hebridean Book Festival at An Lanntair, Stornoway, is Ultima Thule.
In other words, a place in mediaeval geographies beyond the borders of the known world.
In the popular imagination, this is the northern islands and territories, but for writers it is an endless territory to explore, revisit and reinvent.
Faclan 2017 presents a diverse, intense and ambitious programme that includes talks, discussion, film, launches, exhibitions and workshops viewed via a series of chapters and through different lenses.
Daoine nan Àite: People in Place will open the festival and bring together Gaelic cultural historian, Finlay Macleod with Murdo Macleod, long-time staff photographer with the Guardian. They will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Gaelic publisher Acair with a look at historic photography in the Outer Hebrides, notably Robert Adam, James McGeoch and Dan Morrison.
The overture to Absolute North will be a silent film of Iceland from 1925 with live accompaniment by Jessica Danz, followed by internationally acclaimed Icelandic photographer Ragnar ‘Rax’ Axelsson whose austere yet lush images document The Last Days of the Arctic. In similarly elegiac mood, the decline of oceanic birds is lamented by Adam Nicolson in his new book The Seabird’s Cry, described by the FT as a masterpiece.
Lands of Ice and Fire juxtaposes ancient and modern myth and reality. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough follows the Vikings on a journey Beyond the North Lands while with Winter is Coming, Carolyne Larrington looks at how the medieval world has informed and nourished HBO’s Game of Thrones. In-between is a special screening of the eponymous 1st episode of this global success story.
The Outer Hebrides are a crucible for Gaelic culture and, under the banner of The Language of Eden, three events cluster for another dimensional viewpoint: Briseadh na Cloiche (Breaking the Stone), a new short film from MG Alba. BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, Peter Mackay, explores 500 years of the erotic in Gaelic song and verse. In Litreachas nan Tìre, the literary landscapes of Sorley Maclean, Duncan Ban Macintyre, Neil Gunn and others are charted by John Murray.
Over Land brings geographical and philosophical perspective through Mapping Scotland’s Islands with the National Library’s Christopher Fleet followed by Into the Unwild, presented by and showcasing the aerial photography of Patricia and Angus Macdonald.
Anchoring these themes-within-a-theme and bringing the programme to a conclusion will be High Altitude High Latitude with mountaineering legend Doug Scott CBE followed by best-selling author Michelle Paver on her chilling ghost stories Dark Matter and Thin Air.
Threaded throughout is a film programme that includes Capra’s Lost Horizon and Powell’s The Edge of the World ( both 1937), Herzog’s Aguirre: The Wrath of God and documentaries The Epic of Everest on Mallory and Irvine’s doomed attempt and The Great White Silence ( both 1924) on Scott’s failed expedition to the South Pole.
Other events include arts journalist and author, Jan Patience, on the much-missed, charismatic artist George Wyllie, also known as The Why’s Man.
Two exhibitions will form a backdrop to these events: HYPERBOREA: Lands of the North featuring the work of three estab- lished and acclaimed photographers in a show-within-a-show. They are: Alex Boyd: Dark Mountains | Silent Islands Chris Friel: After Ragnar Axelsson: Faces of the North
Forradh: Sly Cooking by former Sunday Herald Art Critic Catriona Black presents an exhibition of linocut illustrations of Gaelic Words and Expressions, collected by Fr. Allan McDonald, revealing the sophistication of a language full to the brim with folklore.
Early Bird Faclan Festival passes are now available for £ 55, which will give pass holders entry to all Faclan events, at a savings of over £70. Early Bird passes are available until mid-August. Individual tickets will go on sale in mid-August with the release of the full schedule of events.
Grateful thanks to Creative Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Acair, MG Alba, The Royal Literary Fund and Natural Retreats for their generous assistance with this year’s rich and intriguing programme.