Highland Stravaig: Moniack Mhor & Scottish Centre for Geopoetics
“Abriachan is a rural community set high in the hills above the western shores of Loch Ness. We will explore Abriachan both as a rich cultural and literary landscape and as a part of a diverse bio-region, reflecting on different creative, poetic and aesthetic ways of being in this place.
A live theme at last year’s Expressing the Earth’conference on Seil Island in Argyll was the contribution of geopoetics to modern land consciousness. There is a social and poetic link here: 2018 sees the 20th anniversary of the Abriachan Forest Trust’s community land buy-out in 1998, which followed the Isle of Eigg in 1997. This year’s Stravaig event is, in part, a celebration of this milestone in Abriachan’s history. Local writer Katharine Stewart (1914 – 2013), a former member of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics, played an important role in this story. Stewart’s writing – including A Croft in the Hills (1979) and Abriachan: The Story of an Upland Community (2000) – is celebrated this year by Moniack Mhor with a bursary for aspiring nature writers and writers of historical fiction.
Following the inaugural Tony McManus Lecture on ‘Nan Shepherd as an Early Geopoet’ by James McCarthy in November 2017, we will also reflect on the work of local author Jessie Kesson, who, upon a chance meeting with Shepherd, was inspired to pursue her writing.
To introduce the day, we will discover more about the story of Abriachan from leader of the Forest School, Suzann Barr, and Gaelic expert Roddy MacLean will share his deep knowledge of Gaelic place-names, native flora and fauna and local geodiversity on a forest walk in the shadow of hill Carn na Leitire (outdoor wear recommended!). In the afternoon, following a lunch of soup and bread, we will hear from ecologist and international river campaigner Lucio Marcello – who is currently investigating archive materials to chart the impact of dams and other land use changes on the biodiversity of the Ness river system – and from writer and cartographer Raghnaid Sandilands who will share her creative approach to landscape and cultural memory.
Following some free creative time in the afternoon, we will traverse 1.4 miles up the road to the Village Hall. Writer and musician Heather Clyne will introduce us to the work of Jessie Kesson with a selection of readings on a short walking tour through the village. This will be followed by a hearty shared meal in the hall and an evening ceilidh with opportunities for open floor contributions. Music for dancing will be provided by the local ceilidh band.