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Gael Gals celebrate George Mackay Brown this June

This year marks 20 years since the passing of George Mackay Brown, patron of the Scottish Storytelling Centre. As part of the Centre’s 10th birthday celebrations, we’re holding a number of events honouring the Orcadian poet and author, including Women Beside the Ocean of Time, an all-female performance produced by Gael Gals. Co-founder Martine Robertson tells us more about the company and how the show came about.

Tell us a bit about Gael Gals.

Gael Gals is wee production company of two, myself and Hannah Wood. We met when we were on the Celtic Studies course at Newbattle Abbey, where we became quite passionate about the links there with George Mackay Brown. This led to our first production: an exhibition and evening dedicated to his time at Newbattle. It was a great success and we were hooked.

We have complementary skills: Hannah has great experience in event organizing and ‘big ideas,’ Martine in presenting arts projects, particularly within community settings, and in finding ways to make the big ideas real. We are interested in Scottish Culture across the board, specializing in small gems that illuminate some aspect of culture that has inspired our interest.  We would love to support other groups who are putting together small pieces which would benefit from a producer or director’s input.

How did the Women Beside the Ocean of Time collaboration come about?

We knew this was an anniversary year for George, and thought we should do something. Speaking to people in our circle was a revelation; so many have been inspired in one way or another by George and his work. It was really quite an organic ‘happening’, if you like; people wanted to be part of celebrating his life within Gael Gals’ vision, and we felt honoured.  When we had had conversation with some artists whose work we really admired, we realised that they – we – were all women. This has caused us a gentle laugh, as George is not noted in particular for his links with women.

What can the audience expect to see or hear on the night?

Hopefully a magical gem of an evening! We have brought together some very special performers, and we’ll hear them sing, play fiddle, tell stories, and bring us the reminiscences of friends, with live performances and filmed aspects. Our vision is to take our tone from the gentle flow and strength of GMB’s own work.  

Do you have any personal favourite works of George Mackay Brown’s?

Oh yes, I’ve read a few, but my favourite is An Orkney Tapestry. I hitch hiked up to Orkney when I was seventeen and fell in love with it. I even had George pointed out to me in the street as “the famous writer who won a big prize to travel and went to Ireland”… I wanted to find out more about the islands, so I chose An Orkney Tapestry to read. I loved it – I still remember my first time there from re-reading even one passage, pure magic.

What other projects do Gael Gals have coming up?

We are getting very enthusiastic about a project around women in Scotland writing during and about the First World War, both on the domestic front and in published form. Our idea is to have an event and set it on Crammond Island; the installations there are from the Second World War, but they suit the nature of the work. We are also looking to bring culture to a police box near you!

Women Beside the Ocean of Time - A Celebration of George Mackay Brown takes place at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Wed 8 Jun. Book tickets.