GMB Centenary 2021

In 2021 events took place all over Scotland to celebrate the centenary of the birth in 1921 of George Mackay Brown who has received international acclaim as a poet and writer, his work translated into many languages.

Here in Orkney, the place of his birth, the George Mackay Brown Fellowship developed a programme of events, working at times with other organisations – Orkney Library and Archive, Orkney Camerata, Radio Orkney and the St Magnus Players – to celebrate the centenary, draw new readers to the writer’s work, and to support and encourage new writing.

You can see our programme below, beginning with Seven Books, our collaboration with Orkney Library & Archive launched in April 2021.

Other Centenary Events in Orkney . . .

You can also see some of the events organised by the St Magnus International Festival, The Pier Arts Centre, Orkney Museums and Heritage, and Orkney Arts Society below . . .

Seven Books

Between April and October the GMB Fellowship has run seven online book group sessions on Zoom in association with Orkney Library and Archive.

Each session featured a book by George Mackay Brown introduced by a guest writer/editor. The sessions were attended by people in Orkney, Scotland, England, several European countries, Canada and the United States. For videos of the sessions, click the link below:

More . . .

A hat for George!

To celebrate the George Mackay Brown Centenary 2021, Orkney Library & Archive and the GMB Fellowship organised the Knit a Hat for George project. The hats that came in from all over Orkney and the world are amazing! Beautifully intricate, quirky and funny, plain and practical – a huge variety. We received 111 in all and auctioned them on 18 & 19 October 2021. Once we’ve received all the money from the successful bids, the proceeds will go to two local charities. Information about how we chose the charities can be found by clicking the link below:

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Words into Music: Continuity and Change

During the Centenary of the birth of George Mackay Brown an exciting collaboration is being developed between the GMB Fellowship and Orkney Camerata. We are inviting people to think about continuity and change – ideas which can be seen throughout the work of George Mackay Brown, and which may have a particular resonance for us now.

We invite the creation of new writing and new music inspired by these themes.

To read more and to find out how to take part in this project, click below.

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Chasing ‘The Storm’

In the centenary of the birth of George Mackay Brown in 1921, the GMB Fellowship and BBC Radio Orkney launched a joint project to trace as many copies as possible of the writer’s first collection, The Storm and other poems, published in 1954. The radio station broadcast a special programme on 15 November 2021, to mark the centenary of GMB’s birth. 

As well as finding where copies have reached – in Orkney, Scotland, the UK, the world! – we have loved receiving the stories their owners were willing to share of the books themselves. How they came to own them, what they know of their history, what they mean to them now. The stories form part of BBC Radio Orkney’s monthly Arts programme, Tullimentan, broadcast to mark the centenary. Click the link below to find the stories and a link to the November 2021 Tullimentan programme.

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The George Mackay Brown Memorial Lecture

The 2021 GMB Memorial Lecture was given in September by the acclaimed Scottish poet, writer and publisher James Robertson. His latest novel News of the Dead, was published by Penguin on 5 August and has at its core a concern with time, a theme that pervades the works of George Mackay Brown. Click on the link below to find your way to the video of the lecture.

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Centenary Publication

We are excited to be presenting a new publication of poetry and prose from Orkney writers this year. Edited by writer Alison Miller, it is called Gousters, Glims and Veerie-orums, and includes a broad variety of writing in Orcadian from the Orkney Voices Writing Group: Vera Butler, Lorraine Bruce, Sheila Garson, Ingrid Grieve, Issy Grieve, Barbara Johnston, Greer Norquoy – as well as previous members, Moyra Brown, Caroline Hume and Barbara West.

The book was launched on 16 October 2021 in Orkney Library & Archive. It costs £10 and is available to buy from the following places:

It will also be available from our website in due course.

While you’re waiting for the book, you can see some of the writing from group members by clicking on:

More . . .

Renga in Summer

We hope to be able to have a renga day in and around Stromness in the summer months. It will be led by writer Yvonne Gray in locations that have an association with George Mackay Brown or are significant in his writing. In the course of the day we will compose a 36-verse collaborative poem based on the traditional Japanese renku form.

How we organise this will depend on the easing of current restrictions and guidelines on social distancing later in the year.

If it becomes clear later in the year that it will not be possible to plan the renga in this way, an online renga will take its place.

More . . .

This short film of Maeshowe at the Winter Solstice touches on many of the themes of George Mackay Brown. It includes a poem, featuring GMB, written and read by Alison Miller.

With Sandra Miller, Tom Muir, Professor Colin Richards, Dr Raggie Ljosland.

Other Centenary Events

Featured image: photograph of George Mackay Brown (detail) by Gunnie Moberg courtesy Orkney Library and Archive

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