Tributes are being organised to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of Scotland's more revered poets.

This year’s Scottish International Storytelling Festival is to host a special opening weekend of events celebrating Orkney and the islands' famous son, writer George Mackay Brown who was bornon October 17, 1921 and died 25 years ago at the age of 74.

Among the performers will be his great grand niece Ailsa Dixon (below) who is taking part in a special Open Hearth event in which storytellers and musicians will gather at the Netherbow Theatre in Edinburgh.


The festival starts with an Orcadian weekend of events celebrating George Mackay Brown on October 16 and 17.

It will include an opportunity to see the newly created film of George Mackay Brown’s early play The Storm Watchers, performed by a cast of Orcadian women filming in their homes on mobile phones during lockdown.

The drama presents the lives, anxieties, regrets, fears and memories of women as they deal with the waiting and the aftermath of a storm with all their men at sea. The screening is presented in association with the St Magnus International Festival and will be followed by a short Q&A with director Gerda Stevenson and composer Alasdair Nicolson. And in Raking Among the Treasures: A Centennial Celebration of George MacKay Brown, co-writers Barbara McLean and David Campbell begin with some memories of the writer illustrated with a collage of recordings and readings, story, music and song.

Festival director Donald Smith said: "George Mackay Brown is a key inspiration for storytelling because alongside his literary dedication he was totally grounded in his local environment and its storytelling traditions, including seasonal tales and the Norse sagas.

"Through his mother he also had a connection with the Gaelic culture of Sutherland.

"He constantly pressed the importance of community storytelling.

"I wrote a letter to George to explain how a group of us were planning to set up a Scottish Storytelling Centre with the aim of revitalising live storytelling. He wrote back in his meticulous miniscule handwriting offering his full support in any way and saying, 'Never has the world had so much need of storytelling and its healing powers'. I was unaware that at this time he was in hospital in Orkney during his last illness.

"We have enjoyed a rich exchange with Orkney in the Scottish Storytelling Festival since that time and it is flourishing this year in celebration of the 100th anniversary."

Yesterday (Wednesday) author James Robertson was to delivery The George Mackay Brown Memorial Lecture for 2021.

Titled “All Time Was Gathered Up – brief life and the everlasting in George Mackay Brown’s novels”, it was to be delivered via Zoom.