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'Writing the North' - New exhibition in Da Gadderie

by Deborah Leggate -

A year-long project which has explored the historical literature of Orkney and Shetland, and explored continuity with contemporary works will conclude with a series of events in the coming weeks.

Writing the North will culminate in a major exhibition in Da Gadderie at Shetland Museum and Archives, launching at a special event on Friday 28th March at 7.00pm. The exhibition will use books, sound recordings, manuscripts and illustrations to tell the story of literature in the Northern Isles through four themes: myths and legends, visitors to the islands, working lives, and the sounds of Orkney and Shetland.

Exciting interactive displays and activities will bring to life what it was like to live, to work and to write in the islands from the early nineteenth century to the present day. The exhibition will include items on loan such as a portrait of Walter Scott by William Nicholson from the National Portrait Gallery, and a Robert Louis Stevenson manuscript from the Edinburgh writers museum.

Robert Alan Jamieson will give a talk at the launch event about the project, the exhibition, and his own work. Mr Jamieson was born in Shetland and is the only living author included in the education resources developed for the project.

A key aim of Writing the North is to share the literature of the islands with as wide an audience as possible. To this end, local schools have been invited to take part in the project by introducing the work of an author to pupils, who will interpret it in their own way through film or drama. Pupils from Sandwick Junior High have been studying extracts from Sir Walter Scott's "The Pirate" and will produce a short film depicting a modern take on the piece. Aith, Whalsay and Brae pupils are also working on films which will be lasting legacy of this project. Pupils will receive drama lessons and help with set design and costume planning to provide a cross curricular learning experience.

The project website – gives a wealth of information about the literature of Orkney and Shetland and encourages visitors to contribute their own creative writing to an interactive map. There are also education packs to download and dialogues between academic specialists in Scottish literature and contemporary writers connected with the Northern Isles.

The exhibition will run until 11th May, with a final day of events planned for Saturday 10th May including a series of talks and an evening of poetry reading. See for more details. Free tickets for the launch and final events are available from Shetland Museum and Archives.

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