Fa­clan: books at edge of the world

The Oban Times - - Leisure -

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.

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