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Q&A: Ishbel McFarlane - O is for Hoolet

Who owns language? Who governs it, and why? On at the Storytelling Centre from Fri 12 – Mon 29 Aug (not 15, 22) Ishbel McFarlane's O is for Hoolet is a fascinating exploration of Scots. Here we find out more about the show, what inspired it, and what she thinks the future holds for the language. Scroll down to read this interview in Scots. 

ENGLISH

How did O is for Hoolet come about?

The show has had a good few start points - one was when I started rejecting my parents' use of Scots when I was a wee girl. One was when I was working in the School of Scottish Studies as a student and found a recording of my mum singing. One was when I first tried to write in Scots in spring 2014 and I was totally frozen by fear. The big practical start for the show was winning the 'Platform 18 Award' and The Arches in Glasgow (RIP The Arches). It was through that that I really made the show.

Which Scots writers, poets or storytellers inspire you?

So many! In particular, I grew up with Scots poetry all around me - in my ears and in my mouth and in my heart. From the age of six until my early twenties I did competition festivals with my mum, learning the likes of JK Annand or William Soutar by heart to recite. Burns was huge presence in our lives, but also Robert Ferguson, Norman McCaig, Robert Garioch, Edwin Morgan. In the last few years John Burnside and Kathleen Jamie have been a cool, calm drink of poetry water too. Liz Lochhead has been a constant presence in my reading - theatre and poetry. O is for Hoolet is the second show I have done where I use one of her poems! For storytellers, my favourite recent experiences have been primarily through storytelling theatre by the likes of Keiran Hurley, Gary McNair or AJ Taudevin.

What do you think is the future for the Scots language?

There are a few answers to this, but I am going to tell you the optimistic reality in which I try to live. I think that though Scots speaking might be declining, Scots is being written more and more. The internet is not subedited. In the past people were held back from writing Scots by the pressure to write 'correct English' and the pressure to write 'correct Scots'. I think the new Scots Language Award will grow in popularity in schools as teachers gain confidence. I think it will be offered as a course you can take as an adult. I think Scots will grow in visibility. In fact, we are going to be recording as much visible Scots at the Fringe as we can this year, and sharing them on twitter with the hashtag: #ScotsAtTheFringe. On cafe blackboards, on posters, in show names - making Scots visible in the public sphere helps give it reality, to make it a shared possession, and not owned by the few.

Is this your first time performing at the Fringe? If so, what are you most looking to? If not, what are your favourite Fringe memories from previous years?

I became a theatre professional because of the Fringe! I was brought to the Fringe to see shows from a very young age by my mum. In fact, one of my very earliest theatre memories is of a kids' show in the Netherbow Theatre! As a performer and director, I've done seven Fringe shows before. I was in a show called Eight with some university friends which was written by my pal, Ella Hickson, in 2008. It won a Fringe First and the Carol Tambor Award, which took us to perform it in New York, and later in London's West End! It was an incredible experience.

Which Fringe shows are on your must-see list for 2016?

I've heard really great things about the physical piece, Bird, by Sita Pieraccini which is at Dance Base. Bird won a Made in Scotland award, and everything on the Made in Scotland list is worth seeing, even if you know nothing about it. I am also excited to see Greater Belfast by Matt Regan at the Traverse. I've already seen it in preview, but it's such a detailed blend of spoken word, poetry and music and it needs more than one watch.

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SCOTS

How did O is for Hoolet come about?

The shaw's hid a guid mony sterts – yin wis rejectin ma mither an faither's ain Scots leid fir Inglis whan A wis a bairn. Yin wis whan A wis studyin at the Scuil o Scottish Studies an fun a recordin o ma mither singin. Yin wis whan A tried Scots screivin fir the first time in spring 2014 an wis fair feart. The muckle practical stert fir the shaw wis winnin the 'Platform 18 Award' frae The Arches in Glasgow (RIP the Arches). It wis through thon I made the shaw.

Which Scots writers, poets or storytellers inspire you?

A muckle load! In particular, A grew up wi Scots poetry aw aroon – in ma lugs an in ma moo an in ma hairt. From whan A wis six-year-auld til ma early twenties A did competition festivals wi ma mither, learnin the likes o JK Annand or William Soutar bi hairt tae recite. Burns wis a muckle pairt o oor lifes, bit fowk the likes o Robert Ferguson, Norman McCaig, Robert Garioch or Edwin Morgan an aw. In the last wee bit, John Burnside an Kathleen Jamie his bin a cool, douse o watter. Liz Lochhead his aye bin a constant presence in ma reading – theatre an poetry baith. O is for Hoolet is the second shaw A've din yaisin yin o her poems! Fir storytellers, ma best recent experiences his bin maistly through storytellin theatre, the likes o Keiran Hurley, Gary McNair o AJ Taudevin.

What do you think is the future for the Scots language?

Thir's a few ainsers fir that, bit A'll gie ye the optimistic reality -whaur A try an lie ma life. A think that though Scots speakin micht decline, Scots is bein scrievit mair an mair. The internet isnae subedited. In the past, fowk wis held back frae yaisin scrievit Scots bi the pressure fir tae write 'correct Inglis' an 'correct Scots' baith. A think the new Scots Language Award will grow in scuils as the teachers fin thir confidence. A jalouse it'll be offered is a course ye can tak as an adult. A think Scots will get mair visible. In fact, we're gonnae be recordin as mony examples o visible Scots at the Fringe as we can this year, an sharin them on Twitter wi the hashtag: #ScotsAtTheFringe. Yous cin aw jyne in! Oan cafe blackboards, oan posters, in shaw names – makin Scots visible in public gies it a reality fir fowk, maks it a shared possession, an no a diein thing owned bi the few. Because it's no

Is this your first time performing at the Fringe? If so, what are you most looking to? If not, what are your favourite Fringe memories from previous years?

A became a theatre professional because o the Fringe! Ma mither brocht me fir tae see shaws frae a bairn. In fact, yin o ma first memories is o a kids' shaw at the Netherbow Theatre! As a performer an director, A've din seiven Fringe shaws afore. In 2008 A wis in a shaw cried Eight wi some pals from university. The ploy wis scrievit bi ma pal, Ella Hickson, an it won a Fringe First an the Carol Tambor Award. We performed it in New York, an later in Lunnon's West End! It was a richt braw experience.

Which Fringe shows are on your must-see list for 2016?

A've bin telt awfie guid things aboot the physical piece, Bird, bi Sita Pieraccini that's at Dance Base. Bird won a Made in Scotland award, an aw oan the Made in Scotland list is weil warth a luik, een if ye've nae idea whit it's aboot. A'm also gey excitit tae see Greater Belfast bi Matt Regan at the Traverse. A seen it awriddy in preview, bit it's that intricate a thing – wi spoken word, poetry and music – it needs mair thin the yin watch. 

Book tickets See our full Fringe programme