Wednesday 9 December 2015

Happy Holidays!

While we get all our bizniz affairs in order after a busy year with SpectreTown, Elspeth is off beginning development on a new project with Glasgow Life called Buaireas anns an Uisge / Trouble the Water. She's going to be teaming up with our Assistant Director from SpectreTown, Rob Jones, and working with dancers/actors for 2 weeks in January 2016, before presenting a sharing of a work in progress at Tramway, Glasgow. Here's a bit more about the piece so far, below. Stay tuned for more info!

Stoirm Òg xxx

Buaireas anns an Uisge

Aig toiseach na linne seo, 2000, bha Uilleam Ruff, fear ainmeil mar neach-ciùil jazz Amairicanach, ag agairt gu robh mòran de cheòl African-Amairigeanach, gu mòr an crochadh air modh seinn nan salm as na h-Eileannan an Iar, a chaidh tarsainn a'Chuan Mhor nuair a bha am malairt nan tràillean a'tachairt. Is ann do dhualchas Africa-Amearaga a bhuinneas Ruff, is na bharailsan, ‘chan eil a’ bhreug ann an ceòl’ - ged tha e doirbh gabhail ris a-seo; bhon an uairsin chaidh a’chàineadh mar neach-brathaidh do chinneadh. Mas e an fhirinn gu bheil dualchas an latha an diugh air a’ sniomh a beartais is co-ionnanachd a’chinne-daoine, carson a theireamaid gur ann a-mhàin leinn fhein a tha e? Is e seo turas nan òrain is dannsa, a’ rugadh le cràdh an fhulangais, is gu h-aithghearr a dh fhàs gu glaodhaich is casaid.

Trouble the Water

In the early 2000s, eminent American jazz musician Willie Ruff suggested that much of African American music has its roots in the Gaelic psalm singing of the Western Isles, which crossed the Atlantic in the same years as the slave trade. Ruff, an African American, insists that although it’s painful, ‘the music can’t lie’, and he has since been called a traitor, and a puppet of white polemic. If most of contemporary culture is a maelstrom of influences, why do we want to claim ownership of it? This is a journey of dances and songs which begin as cries of suffering, and become the most urgent calls of protest.

Saturday 31 October 2015

A huge Thank you to Cumbernauld Theatre

We've almost finished wrapping up all of our post-production work following our wonderful run of SpectreTown. Last week we had a fulsome de-brief with the lovely Ed Robson and Tony Cownie from Cumbernauld Theatre - there was a lot to catch up on :-) We are so grateful for the past year and a half we've spent working with Cumbernauld Theatre, growing as a company, and realizing a project with them that was a year and a half in the making.

SpectreTown, 2015. Image by Mihaela Bodlovic.

It is largely due to the faith, support, guidance and encouragement of our host theatre that through all the twists and challenges of producing new work, we were free to create and present the work we felt compelled to make. Once more, a huge thank you to the whole team at Cumbernauld for having us this past year.

If you are interested in applying to be the next Company in Residence at Cumbernauld Theatre, click here. We HIGHLY recommend working with these folks!

In case you haven't seen it yet, have a look at our stunning trailer for SpectreTown, created by Yutsil Martinez and Aaron Cairns. So proud of the show we made :-)

Love, Peace, and a Happy Halloween :-)

Stoirm Òg

Wednesday 30 September 2015


Massive thank you to all who came out to see SpectreTown on the road! We're knackered :-) and off on a break - see you in October!

Gaol mòr,

Stoirm Òg xxx

Saturday 12 September 2015

SPECTRETOWN on the road!

We cannot believe we're more than half way through this mad tour! We wanted to share some pics of our journey sooner but we've been running around like banshees on stages, motorways, ferries, and wee roads across the country :-) Since setting off at the crack of dawn last Thursday to catch an early ferry to the isle of Mull, we've played 6 shows across 5 venues, met so many wonderful people, taught workshops grounded in the heritage of the North East, sung to eachother in cars and vans, negotiated our fairly complex set into all kind of spaces, and last night we even had a cabinet minister in our audience - what a week! Here's some shots from our travels and adventures - it's a privilege to be telling this story to audiences all over the country...

 The road to Oban....

Waiting in Oban for the ferry to Mull

 And it was a glorious day for the crossing :-)

Actors Mark Wood and Elspeth Turner! Mark was very excited to go see Mull for the first time!

Fitting up at Mull Theatre - one of our favourite theatres to play in - always so magical :-)

Roll up! Posters up at Mull Theatre - Elspeth trying to stop traffic :-)

Big thanks to Martin and Sheena and all the lovely folks at Mull Theatre for the warm welcome - hope to be back soon :-) 
We left early the next morning to head to the Macrobert Arts Centre near Stirling, where we had lots of help doing our get-in into the studio space. It was a really special, intimate show, and our producer Aiyana showed up too - she can't get enough of this story! It was a hectic day so we didnae get ony snaps like :-( but a braw time was had by all - we love the lay-out and energy of the space there. Thanks Julie Ellen for having us, and all the best to her in her new post as Artistic Director - exciting times ahead!
Early net morning we zoomed off North to Aberdeen and the Arts Centre Theatre! While our wonderful crew unloaded into this lovely space....
Artistic Director Elspeth and Composer Matt Regan began a day of workshops with these wee rascals in our 'Fairytale of Aberdeen' workshop! They acted out all the characters in bothy ballad The Guise o' Tough with great relish - and two Dads stayed to join the fun too! Great to hear the young folk singing these songs :-)

After this, our awesome Assistant Director Rob Jones arrived to lead our workshop for adults, with a focus on devising theatre from local material, called 'A Local Beauty'. Elspeth helped out too, and the group was led in two new bothy ballads by the great Sheena Blackhall - Aberdeen's own Makar and an amazing human being :-)

For the final session of the day, local Torry man and actor Mark Wood led an action and story-packed workshop with some very energetic and clever Aberdonian youngsters! In this workshop, 'My City, Early Days', Mark, Sheena, Elspeth and Rob encouraged the young folk to create stories and sketches based on their own experiences of growing up in Aberdeen...and it grew into an epic tail of secret rowie-recipes, local politics, revenge, crackens under the sea, and crazed zombie seagulls.....of course it did!!

What a RIOT :-)
Then, after a wee lie-down (phew!) the crew did a show in ACT's gorgeous theatre! Wonderful to hear the Doric echoing around that space :-)
On Sunday afternoon, Elspeth, Matt, Sheena, and Stage Manager Simon sped off to Torry, for a visit to Balnagask House, a Residential Home for the elderly, where it was a huge privilege to play some music, songs, and swap stories with the residents there. And great that they were up for a sing-song! Many thanks to Julie and the team there for the welcome :-) Several people in our audience were living with dementia, and it was so heartening to see them recall moments in their lives through music. Sheena, after the show, chatted to one lady who had lost the power of speech. Sheena asked her to squeeze her hand if she had enjoyed it, and she gave it a good tight squish!

After this lovely wee concert, Simon kindly took the crew to the Torry Battery, to see if we could spy some dolphins at the Bay of Nigg!

 We were in the midst of a late summer - what sunshine!
On Monday, Elspeth, Matt and Mark returned to ACT in the afternoon to work with the senior drama students from Aberdeen Grammar School and Kincorth Academy, and also the HND students from North East Scotland College. It was a fruitful and inspiring afternoon of exercises, exploration, and devising - we were so impressed by the imagination and daring of all the young thesps! After sharing the work created that afternoon for eachother, the group was treated to a tour of the SpectreTown set! Matt Regan took them through all the gadgets at his on-stage sound station, and answered questions on how he'd gone about creating the score for the show. Lastly, our Production Manager Susan Martin gave a talk on working backstage in theatre, and the various routes available to those with an interest in this. She's also a wizard with lighting, is our Susan, so it was great to see the young folks asking questions about the lighting design and how that works on the road. Pics off this lovely afternoon to follow - big thanks to the tutors for bringing their classes to hang out with us for the day :-)
On Monday night, we had a huge audience at ACT for our performance - and what an atmosphere! It was the first time we'd had so many teenagers in the house, and it made for an amazing show. here's hoping we can show it to many more school and college students along the way! It must've set their brains firing, because in our post-show talk there was a flurry of questions from our eager's Mark Wood demonstrating some of the techniques used in rehearsal for getting under the skin of the text in the play...
We'd like to send a BIG THANK YOU to Aberdeen City Council, North East Arts Touring, and ACT Aberdeen for so generously supporting this brilliant weekend of activities and performances in the city! Big thanks too to Paula at ACT for all her wonderful work making it happen - what a force of nature!
Aw...thanks ACT!

Actors gettin' ready at ACT!
So after a jam-packed 3 days in Aberdeen, it was back down to the central belt for a wee rest, then on Thursday we arrived at Platform in Easterhouse for our only Glasgow date. We hadn't ever been to this building - and what a place. So full of energy, colour, light, and wonderful people!

We were wondering how our Doric play would go down with the Easterhouse/Glasgow crowd - and they loved it! Lots of laughs and a great reception :-) Massive thank you to Matt and all the team at Platform for having us. All power to your theatre, music, community-building, performance-making arms!
Platform Brochure - go check them out!
And yesterday - it was off to Crieff for our first village hall show - at the beautiful Strathearn Arts Space.
Our get-in was pretty funny...a treacherous walk across the A85 to get from van to door....luckily our mannequin Pam and Matt Regan made good lollypop men....

And a lovely piece in the local paper!

Susan and Simon had their work cut-out, fitting up and lighting the space, but it was worth it as the show looked beautiful, and what a resonance the cast had to play with in the hall :-) The audience were so engaged and responsive - we love getting up close and personal in village halls! Big thank you to David for all his help - this arts space has everything, from Life-drawing to Yoga to art installations to stand-up to theatre - a great asset to the area :-) And we were THRILLED to have the lovely Cabinet Minister Roseannah Cunningham, who Tweeted us after - magic!

And today we head to The Brunton Theatre in Mussleburgh - off to the seaside we go! It might be grey and rainy, but we shan't be kept from our 99 cone! Looking forward to meeting our audience tonight, and we'll post some more pics from the road this week - as we head to St. Andrews, Inverness, Fife, and spend our last few days of the tour with the good people of the rural North East thanks to North East Arts Touring - canna wait min :-)

Stoirm Òg xxx

Thursday 6 August 2015

SpectreTown hits the Fringe!

Greetings from the Edinburgh Fringe, where SpectreTown had its first preview today at Assembly Hall - woop! A smooth (ish!) get-in, and a lovely first audience - we're very happy :-) Remember we've got some 2-for-1 shows coming up - so grab a pal and come on down!

It's been a belter of a week! Last Friday we had the first of two preview performances at Cumbernauld Theatre. The place was packed both nights, and the people of Cumbernauld loved the show, which was wonderful to hear. One audience member dropped the theatre a line after it...

'My friend and I came to this evening's performance of 'Spectretown' and I felt I just had to write and let the actors, musician and supporting company know how much we enjoyed the experience.

The acting was superb (how the cast remember all the dialogue, and their stage positions, I don't know!), the setting etc. was perfect, the scene and staging atmospheric, the musician invaluable, the acting superb and the story itself intriguing. The whole play was innovative and very cleverly staged and we were riveted all the way through, to the extent that we were sorry when it finished.

Thank you to all involved, and to the Theatre for bringing this production to Cumbernauld.'

We've had some lovely preview pieces come out this past week about the show, too. Gareth Vile published an interview with Elspeth on the writing / dramaturgy of SpectreTown - check it out here - a great insight into the creation of the play. In the North East, the Press and Journal geared up for our visit there in September with a lovely interview with Elspeth, and fellow actor Bridget McCann. And on Monday The Skinny published a really insightful interview with Elspeth on Stoirm Òg's journey so far - read it here! Oh, and the lovely folks at The Scots Language Centre published a piece on the play too - a great read :-)

Right, enough bletherin' fae us! Time to get some kip ahead of tomorrow's second preview - hope to see you all at Assembly over the coming weeks!

Stoirm Òg xxx

Saturday 25 July 2015

Meet the Cast!

In our second week of Meet the Cast, we're delighted to bring you Mark Wood, a wonderful actor who was born and raised in Torry, Aberdeen. It's a delight to hear him and Bridget revel in using their native Doric onstage. Read all about him and his work below, and click HERE to get your tickets for SPECTRETOWN this August!

Mark has appeared in VICTORIA at Dundee Rep, directed by Philip Howard and THE GINGE, THE GEORDIE & THE GEEK for Shed Media Scotland as well as the TV pilot WALKABOUT, a new comedy drama directed by Vito Millazzo. Other credits include the feature MY BROTHERS KEEPER directed by Lee Hutcheon; regular Angus Fergus in TRINITY for ITV; THE MEN OF PIPER ALPHA for Clan Films; HOW NOT TO LIVE YOUR LIFE for the BBC; SEA OF SOULS for the BBC; THE VERDICT for the BBC and TAGGART - DO OR DIE for SMG. Mark is looking forward to the release of two feature films later this year - THE REDWOOD MASSACRE and ASHES. At the Citizen's Theatre his credits include Laertes in HAMLET directed by Guy Hollands and BLOOD WEDDING, directed by Jeremy Raison.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Meet the actors!

Greetings from Cumbernauld! Our rehearsals are now in full swing, and we're having a great time exploring the play in the lovely studio here. Brilliant to see the actors at play....talking of whom, maybe it's time we introduced our cast.....first up - it's the wonderful Bridget McCann :-)

With over 40 years professional experience, Bridget has worked in many theatres in Scotland and England, appearing in ‘3 Sisters’, ‘Hay Fever’ ‘The Crucible’ ‘Travesties’, ‘The Importance of Being Ernest,’ ‘White Bird Passes’ ‘84 Charing Cross Road’ and ‘Trumpet’.
Her television appearances include ‘Plays for Today’, ‘High Road’, ‘Taggart’, ‘Rab C Nesbitt’, ‘Still Game’ and ‘The Last Laugh.’  She is currently appearing in ‘River City’.
Recent radio appearances include ‘With Great Pleasure’,  ‘Sunset Song’ and ‘The Mountain’ by Nan Shephard. Brought up in Aberdeen she is passionate about the rich but
untapped seam of writing of the area. She has recorded the bible in Doric with Robbie Shepherd, appeared in plays by Jessie Kesson and has recorded and showcased for radio
Scotland much Aberdeen writing. She has just finished filming ‘Sunset Song’ with director Terence Davies.Bridget also teaches presentation skills using her TV, broadcasting and theatre skills. Her book aimed at helping young lawyers in court, ‘The Advocacy Skills Book’ was released in January 2015, and is now available on Amazon and is on the booklist at five Scottish law schools.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Happy Birthday Aiyana!

This week, our Meet-the-Team series focuses on our wonderful producer, Aiyana D'Arcangelo. It just so happens to be Aiyana's birthday today, so we're glad to say she's galavanting around restaurants and things and not chained to her desk! A wee bit from our founder, Elspeth Turner, on working with Aiyana...

'Aiyana and I met at the Federation of Scottish Theatre Emporium of 2013. I immediately recognized somebody as hungry as myself, and I counted myself very fortunate when she joined forces with me to mount a first tour of The Idiot at the Wall. Boy, that was a challenge. We met in the February and we were mounting a tour for the September - 17 dates over 3 weeks. I was determined not to delay, but that wasn't much time to get it all up! We were so green, and unknown to people, that sometimes it involved just sitting with a huge map of Scotland, asking questions like 'Does anyone know anyone near Lochinver Village Hall, and can we get there from such and such a place in under 4 hours?!' Happily - we did, and we could. That tour was a huge success because we packed out theatres and village halls up and down the country, including some places which hadn't had professional theatre there in 20 odd years. We moved people with a story very much their own. On Berneray my Dad went around practically hustling people into a van headed for the hall - no one stayed home! We played one especially magical show for all 14 residents of the island of Canna. That tour was something special, and it was all down to Aiyana's guts and good sense, really.

It's a funny thing, trying to explain what a producer does. Pretty much everything that gets the show from your head / the page to a stage - they do. It's a lot, a lot, a lot of work! A good producer will find creative ways to reach audiences with the work - striving for a reach that matches your ambitions. A great producer will do all this with poise, tenacity, openness, and a big heart. All these things I am very lucky to have found in Aiyana, and I am so excited to see all of our work over the past year and half on SpectreTown come to fruition this August.'

So here's a bit more about Aiyana....

Aiyana D'Arcangelo, Producer - Project Management and Touring

Aiyana is a freelance producer and project manager living in Fife and working in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Born and raised in southern Oregon, she has been slowly moving east over the years. After completing her undergraduate studies in Theatre at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Aiyana lived in New York for 6 years where she did production work for New York University (Tisch School of the Arts and Villa La Pietra), Robert Wilson (Watermill Center for the Arts), Lincoln Center Festival, ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ (Pace University), Cynthia Hopkins (‘Must Don't Whip 'Um’ - National Tour), and St. Ann's Warehouse. Since moving to Scotland in 2011, Aiyana has completed a post-graduate degree in Managing in the Creative Industries at the University of St Andrews and worked with the Dundee Rep, Derby Playhouse, Graeae, Edinburgh International Science Festival, Poorboy Theatre, David Leddy / Fire Exit, and Scottish Dance Theatre. 

Thursday 11 June 2015

Who's Who in SpectreTown? Week 3!

On Monday we were immensely excited to take part in a design meeting for SPECTRETOWN, featuring our hugely talented designer, Richard Evans. Having been working all over the UK, Richard has now settled in Glasgow (yay lucky Scotland!) and we're thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with him on this project. Wonderful to look at some early design ideas.....which we'd better not give away on here!

Anyway, here's some more info about Richard's work. Come see us in August and be mesmerized by his craft, artistry and visual feasts!

Richard Evans, Designer

Richard trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Recently Richard's scenic design for Addams Family was shortlisted for the 2014 Broadway World Awards and his set design of The Merchant Of Venice was nominated for the 2013 Off West End Award. National Touring credits include: Avenue Q (2015 and 2016), Jekyll and Hyde (2015), Kidnapped (2014), A Midsummer Nights Dream (2013), The Man Who Had All The Luck (2012) and Lord of the Flies (2011 and 2012).

Theatre credits includes: Urinetown (Assembly Hall), Seussical (West End and International Tour), 12:1 and Changing Stages (Chickenshed), Avenue Q (Lyric Theatre, Hong Kong), The Girl Who (Speigeltent), Addams Family (Assembly Hall),  St Finnigan's Elbow and Dial M (Eastern Angles), The Merchant Of Venice (Jack Studio), Little Shop Of Horrors (Polka Theatre), The History Boys and Hound of The Baskervilles (Greenwich Theatre), The Seagull (York Theatre Royal), Company (RCS), Spring Awakening (Pleasance Beyond), Oedipus (BAC).

Opera and Dance includes: Hansel and Gretel (Belgrade Theatre), 125 (Groundswell) and VITA (InBetween).

Film and TV includes: As Production Buyer;  Bill (Horrible Histories/Cowboy Films), Moving On (BBCOne), Justice (BBCOne), AMINA (African Film Tour) and More Than Words (BBC Learning/BBCOne).  As Art Director: Windscreen Wimps/1930s Car Design (Riverside Museum), Make A Musical (BBCTwo).

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Look who's making our beautiful score for SPECTRETOWN...

We've been working with the lovely Matt Regan since summer 2014 - exploring bothy ballads with our own voices :-) Not only is he extremely gifted as a musician, writer, performer and teacher, but he's also possessed of a gorgeous, compassionate, creative soul. Come see SpectreTown and let him carry you through some trippy, luscious places with his music :-)

A wee bit more about Matt and his work...

Matt Regan is a freelance musician/writer living in Glasgow. He creates his own music, makes music for performances and teaches. He facilitates drumming, singing, and music workshops in communities, hospitals and prisons across Scotland. He was nominated for a CATs Award for his work for Theology, awarded young innovators funding for Swim Team and was part of Enormous Yes' Platform 18 Award at The Arches. His own work is under the name 'Little King' which involves spoken word, poetry, and song performed with a string quartet. More information found at  

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Meet the Team! Matthew Lenton, Director.

We are massively excited to introduce the artist directing our production of SPECTRETOWN, Matthew Lenton. Read all about him and his work here....

Matthew is a freelance director and the artistic director of Vanishing Point, the company he founded in 1999. He works from Scotland, across the UK and internationally. His shows have been performed in over 20 countries.

Recent work for Vanishing Point includes TOMORROW, a co-production with Cena Contemporanea Festival (Brasilia), Brighton Festival, Stanislavsky Festival (Moscow) and Tramway (Glasgow); THE BEAUTIFUL COSMOS OF IVOR CUTLER, a co-production with The National Theatre of Scotland; WONDERLAND, a co-production with Edinburgh International Festival, Napoli Teatro Festival Italia and Tramway; SATURDAY NIGHT, a co-production with Teatro Nacional Sao Joao (Porto), Teatro Sao Luis (Lisbon), Centro Cultural Vila Flor (Guimaraes) and Tramway (Glasgow); THE BEGGAR'S OPERA, a co-production with the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh and the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry; INTERIORS, a co-production with Napoli Teatro Festival Italia, Traverse Theatre and Lyric Hammersmith; LITTLE OTIK (a co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland); SUBWAY, commissioned by The Lyric Hammersmith and MANCUB, a co-production with Soho Theatre.

Other recent work includes MISTER HOLGADO for the Unicorn Theatre, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM for the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh and HOME for The National Theatre of Scotland.

Matthew works regularly at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, developing work with acting students and most recently directing DRACULA by Liz Lochhead. He recently directed his first film, BOY, for Touchpaper Television and Channel 4. In 2010, Matthew was chosen to be the first British director of the Ecole des Maitres, a European theatre laboratory previously associated with Jerzy Grotowsky, Peter Stein, Emuntas Nekrosias and Jan Fabre.

Current work includes a number of projects with Vanishing Point, BLUEBEARD'S CASTLE with Scottish Opera and a new project for the Stanislavsky Festival in Moscow and the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts in Beijing.

Friday 22 May 2015

News from the North East!

Our Artistic Director is currently up in Portsoy, Banffshire. She's been tucked away working on the latest draft of SPECTRETOWN and also visiting some more folks to practice some Doric! Here's the latest...

'Yesterday I visited Aden Country Park, near Mintlaw. I don't have a car, so I took 2 buses over a scenic route ;-) via Turriff, but didn't mind at all as I was entertained and regaled by a lovely Polish bus driver all the way - thank you Michael for all the stories! Michael moved to the North east of Scotland direct from Poland 13 years ago. Back then he had not a word of English, but taught himself and now spiks the Doric jist fine! I say this all the time, but people who immigrate here in search of a better life make all of our lives richer, and I certainly found that yesterday :-)

Now owned and run by the council as a community project, the place has a fascinating history. The barony of Aden (pronounced Aa-den) was given to Robery Keith, the Earl of Marischal, in 1324 as a reward for his services in the Wars of Independence. It remained in the Keith family for 400 years before it was bought - along with the nearby village of Old Deer - by a Banffshire laird called Alexander Russell in 1758. Russell had been bitten by the bug of improvement farming, and set about re-structuring the tenant farms, building woods for shelter, and building a house for himself and his family which would later become extended into a mansion known on the estate as 'the Big Hoose'. By the mid-nineteenth century, the house was a beautiful example of neo-classical splendour, and by late Victorian times the house and estate were served by a huge army of staff. Like Downton Abbey, but probably chillier ;-) They even had their own laundry building, ice house and gas-works, and so life was probably not too shabby for the laird and his family :-)

One brilliant testament to the Russells' endeavours is the Home Farm building. A bigger and grander version of the old fairm-toun structure, it's a long curved building over 3 levels, and housed much of what kept the estate going - the stables, grain stores, lodgings for the Head Horseman, Grieve, and familes, the chaumer (sleeping quarters for unmarried farm servants), and Doocot up abeen :-)

From inside 'the chaumer'

The lives of servants on the estate was difficult. Whether working 14 hour days as a maid in the big hoose, or labouring on one of the estate's farms, survival was a sair fecht, and servants would be lucky if they had a half-day off per week. That being said, the Russell family seems to have been looked on kindly by their workers, as described in the testimony recorded in local accounts and songs. In the early 20th century one tenant, in great difficulty due to falling prices, approached the laird for a reduction in his rent, stating that he had not had a new suit since he was married some 25 years before. In a spirit of compassion, the Laird agreed.

Feeing market at Turriff, where farm servants looked for a 'new fee'...

Unfortunately, after the First World War, these falling prices translated to unsustainable loss of farm income. Combined with rising maintenance costs, the Russells could not keep up, and in 1937 the 8th and last laird of Aden sold the estate, including its 52 farms and most of Old Deer.

After the sale, the estate was sorely neglected and fell into disrepair.

Wandering around the grounds of the old mansion, now a ruin, is very sad. Though of course I know it represents an era of huge inequality - sadly not unlike the kind we're living in now - its walls nevertheless ring out with the echoes of a family who cared deeply about this place and wanted to make the best of a system which made their tenants' largely dependent on them. Their efforts to improve and build it up over 400 years were undone in 40 through the carelessness of their successors. In what you might see as the kind of plundering land-owning greed which scourged much of rural Scotland even in the 20th century, they used it for shooting and hunting, and cared for little else besides.

In 1974 the estate was purchased by Banff and Buchan District Council, and the following year they designated it a country park. Over the past 40 years, it has gone from strength to strength, undergoing a huge renovation project to restore the Home Farm to its former glory. It now houses a brilliant farming museum, probably the best I've seen, a lovely café, and much more besides. The place is really so impressive. 

My favourite part of the day was visiting The Horseman's House. The last man to be head horseman here was Jimmy Thompson, and he was hired for the position in 1919. He and his family moved into this cottage, which was 2 rooms at one end of the farm steading, or 'home farm', built in the early 19th century. His daughter, Miss Mary Thompson, was extremely generous in helping with the presentation of her former home as a museum, and also donated many of their original furnishings. In some old photos, you can see her showing school children around in the 1980s! As a family of 4, living in a 2-roomed cottage like this was relatively grand for a horseman, and they seem to have had a happy time there. The place is full of photographs, rugs made by Jimmy himself, their own furniture, and just gallons of memories and magic. Entranced and quite alone in the place, I tarried there for some time.... :-)

 Traditional cooking range in the Horseman's House

Original implements, The Horseman's House

Also featured at Aden is the Book of Deer - one of Scotland's most important manuscripts - which alaas I had to save for another day. But, I was fortunate enough to visit the North East Folklore Archives, now in the old laundry building along with a purpose-built recording studio. Thanks to the foresight and talents of musician and archivist Gavin Sutherland and the team there, they've been working with digital technology for storing archival material since the mid-90s, way ahead of the curve. Back then the digital recorder was something still confined to Tomorrow's World, but these guys - a wealth of experience in music, recording, and science between them - got themselves one of the first, taught themselves programming, and got these materials online and into the public domain before people were even dreaming we'd all have a computer! As Gavin said:

"Back then people were saying things like, 'There will come a time when there will be a computer in every city"

 I really take my hat off to them! Huge thank you to Gavin for the lovely chat, hospitality and books. I'm sure I'll be back!

Lastly, I want to mention Hareshowe Farm - this project is amazing! It's a typical Buchan farm of the 1890s, bought and moved in its entirety from near New Deer, to its new location at Aden. In 1990 it was bought by the Aden project. They photographed, catalogued, and labelled every single brick, shed, tea towel and dresser, and rebuilt it exactly as it had been - and it hadn't been re-decorated since 1950 so as one of the last example of the old ways of farming - ie horses not tractors etc - it is incredibly precious. But I won't go on and on - this page can tell you all about it.

Awaiting a bus at Turriff on my way back, I took a stroll around the old Kirkyard. Some might say a fascination with graveyards is slightly morbid, but as I read the headstones, I find myself pulled through the stone into the lives of these families, many of which were tragically short. Especially in the 19th century North East, so many parents buried child after child under 20 - disease and near starvation being the cause. How lucky we are today to live with modern medicine, and I really think we can learn a lot from the resourcefulness, self-care, and neighbourly generosity of our forebears. And how horrific and shameful that in this time of plentiful resources, after 200 years of admirable progress as a country, so many people should be living on the bread-line once more. Time for change indeed.

The 'Aul Kirkyard' at Turriff

There's so much more I could say about Aden, and how invaluable this visit was as I go deeper and deeper into farm-town life in the North East. For now, I highly recommend a visit!

Next week I'm off to Aberdeen for a chat with Sheena Blackhall and a visit to the Elphinstone Institute, then out to Kemnay and Alford - really looking forward to hearing the voices of those places again. I want to thank the Tom McGrath Trust for supporting this trip, and this time to write - it makes all the difference to the development of a voice in your writing, if you have time and space to absorb and reflect on the voices of past and present all around us.'

 Sunset in Portsoy

Stay tuned for more tales from Elspeth's adventures!

And don't forget, tickets for SPECTRETOWN are now on sale. Just click HERE!

Stoirm Òg xo

Wednesday 13 May 2015

SPECTRETOWN set for Edinburgh Fringe!

Click HERE to buy tickets!

Stoirm Òg in co-production
with Cumbernauld Theatre presents

A new play by Elspeth Turner

Directed by Matthew Lenton

             Your dignity – I’ve been trying to save
             your hypocrisy – I’ve been trying to conceal
               to right your wrongs
             and sing the songs of managing strife
             but life
             is no horse-taming
             system-blaming picnic.
             And I’m the Heidbummer today.’

Inspired by the bothy ballads of Scotland’s North East, playwright Elspeth Turner (The Idiot at the Wall, 2012) and acclaimed director Matthew Lenton (Vanishing Point) explore the fraying boundaries between past, present, and future. Weaving poetry, Doric, wild horses, and song, this courageous new play deftly wrestles with tradition, power, and the loneliness of modern life.

Cast - Elspeth Turner, Bridget McCann and Mark Wood
Music and Sound Design - Matt Regan
Design - Richard Evans
Lighting Design - Kai Fischer
Assistant Director - Rob Jones
Producer - Aiyana D'Arcangelo
Production Manager - Susan Martin


Presented by Stoirm Òg
in co-production with Cumbernauld Theatre

31st July - 1st August, 7pm
Cumbernauld Theatre
To book click here

6th-31st August, 1.30pm 
Assembly Hall (Rainy Hall)
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
(NOT 12th, 17th, 24th)
To book click here

2nd - 20th September, Scottish Tour.

Generously supported by Creative Scotland, Aberdeen City Council,
North East Arts Touring, and the Tom McGrath Trust.

With thanks to The School of Scottish Studies.

Stay tuned here for news and updates!

Friday 20 March 2015

Are you an emerging director?

We are currently inviting notes of interest from emerging directors to assist our director on SPECTRETOWN.

Click here for more info!