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3 Mar 2020

Solas event week on Canna – call for papers

Written by Fiona Mackenzie
A black and white photograph of Margaret Fay Shaw, smiling. Text in the top left corner states: Solas - The life and work of Margaret Fay Shaw
Following on from the successful production of the ‘Solas’ film based on the life of Margaret Fay Shaw, the launch of the accompanying DVD will inspire a week-long event programme on Canna.

Due to the current Covid 19 outbreak, we have decided to postpone the Solas Week until such time as people are able to travel and enjoy our event. Please keep an eye out for further updates and we look forward to welcoming you to Canna for a proper ceilidh very soon!

In 2019, Canna archivist Fiona Mackenzie produced a new film Solas (Gaelic for ‘light’) based on the photographic life of folklorist Margaret Fay Shaw of Canna. The film uses the images and voice of Margaret herself to tell the story of her unusual life. It was premiered initially in South Uist, where Margaret lived for many years among the people whose faces and voices she captured on film.

A large screen in a hall shows an image of a smiling Margaret Fay Shaw, with the film title Solas.
The ‘Solas’ launch at St Peter’s Hall, South Uist, May 2019

Summer 2020 will see the launch of the film on DVD, enabling people across the world to see the film and discover the fascinating lives of John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw in the Hebrides between 1935 and the 1990s. The DVD will be available online, as well as on Canna itself, and will follow on the heels of a new documentary being made about Canna House and the Campbells for BBC Alba.

A colour image of the front and back covers of the Solas DVD
The cover for the ‘Solas’ DVD, featuring the filmography and photographic life of folklorist Margaret Fay Shaw of Canna.

The DVD will be officially launched as part of a week-long summer events programme on Canna, celebrating the breadth and diversity of the Campbells’ interests over the years. Fiona Mackenzie says:

‘We’re extremely fortunate with the wealth of resources we have in Canna House today to use as inspiration for projects both creative and academic, and also to bring new audiences to the wonderful collections in the National Trust for Scotland. With the advent of the Year of Coasts and Waters, I decided to develop a programme of events which will provide something for everyone, all themed around enlightenment and the sea. The programme will give us a chance to explore exactly what inspired John and Margaret Campbell to capture and display the world around them in the Hebrides, over the course of their long lives.’

The week of events on Canna, between Tuesday 23–Sunday 28 June, will begin with a Solas creative residency, which will see two artists/musicians create a piece of work over the course of a week, using the coastline and landscape as inspiration. This may be a piece of visual art, ‘found’ art, sculpture, music or writing but will ultimately act as a record of one particular week in Canna. The residency will include a workshop for residents and visitors – all are welcome.

A large pebble decorated with a drawing of a puffin and the words Canna Rocks. It is surrounded by smaller pebbles and felt pens.
Kindness Rocks workshop, Canna 2019

Wednesday 24 June will see archivist Fiona undertake her Cuairt Cladaich/Shore Walk during the ferry stopover. This gentle stroll will take participants from the Rhu Church to the Sanday bridge, stopping off at various points along the shore, where Fiona will tell stories and use poetic works and songs from Canna House to illustrate the environment. This event will last around one hour, allowing plenty of time to get back to the ferry in time for its departure.

A black and white photograph of a white-roofed church, taken from across a bay of water.
Margaret Fay Shaw’s image of the Rhu Church, Canna c.1940

‘SolasSea’ is the name given to the one-day conference organised for Saturday 27 June, which will take place in the St Columba Chapel. The keynote speech will be presented by Prof. Hugh Cheape of Sabhal Mor Ostaig, using John Lorne Campbell’s ‘Sea League Papers’ as his inspiration. John campaigned for the rights of the Minch fishermen, in conjunction with author Compton Mackenzie, then of the Isle of Barra. A Call for Papers has been announced for interested participants to submit an abstract to present 20-minute papers.

A black and white photograph of fishing boats sitting in the middle of a harbour.

The theme of ‘enlightenment’ will cover the creation of knowledge and enjoyment from all things around us visually and aurally, in particular the coastal environment. We invite scholars, researchers, artists and interested members of the public to explore what this theme means to them and how they’d like to represent their ideas and scope of knowledge.

Subject matters might include but are not restricted to:

  • How ‘island spaces’ affected the work of Margaret Fay Shaw and/or John Lorne Campbell in particular. How does the littoral zone affect creativity in the island space? ‘Work’ may mean folklore collecting, photography, filmography, writing, research, scientific studies or performance.
  • The Hebridean coastline through the lens – how this affects the way that we, as visitors in that environment, respond to the land and sea around us.
  • Climate change and creativity – how does climate affect the way we depict the world around us? Does it inspire, challenge or frustrate us?
  • How can we link coast, culture and conservation more closely?
  • Politics in the coastal environment – do you have new or inspired ideas about how to engage with communities on the coasts of Scotland in terms of improving or enhancing the lives of the people who live there?
  • Can we learn from historical initiatives which either succeeded or failed in this respect?
  • Linguistic links to the Hebridean coastline – how do these inspire creativity or a sense of belonging?
  • Practical demonstrations or performances of projects that involve ‘collage’ representations of the sights and sounds surrounding us (please note that space will be very limited in the case of performance art)
  • How has the geography and/or topography of the Scottish coastline affected the socio-economic structure of that particular area?

These are only intended to spark ideas; we encourage interested participants to interpret the theme in whichever way they wish! Please submit proposals of no more than 150 words to by Friday 3 April 2020.

Further information on the event or assistance with travel, catering and accommodation, can be obtained from the same email address. Updates will be posted on the Canna House Facebook page.

A banner with an illustration of a sailing yacht and the text ‘Canna – Not Cannes Film Festival’
‘Canna – Not Cannes Film Festival’ banner

The week of Solas events will conclude on the Saturday evening, with the inaugural Canna – Not Cannes Film Festival. This will see the Shearing Shed undergo a transformation into a cinema! The festival will screen a programme of films, all with a Scottish theme and suitable for all ages, including the original Whisky Galore (much of which Compton Mackenzie wrote in Canna House). The programme will also include the perennial favourite Local Hero, From Scotland with Love and Solas itself, among others to be announced. A popcorn machine is promised! Further updates and information for visitors will be found on our Canna House Facebook page.

A display of two old bottles of whisky and a ten-shilling note.
Canna House’s two bottles of whisky, ‘liberated’ from the SS Politician in 1941 when it ran aground off Eriskay. This event was the inspiration for Compton Mackenzie’s ‘Whisky Galore’.

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