Treasures from Scotland’s film and folk music archives brought together for a new ‘immersive’ experience


Traditional songs, archival film footage, visual art and original folk tunes will all form part of an installation to be created in Edinburgh’s Old Town. Images of shepherds in Berneray, Outer Hebrides in the 1980s, the singing of a 1950s Newhaven Fishwomen’s Choir in Edinburgh and 1930s Shetland crofters fishing and working the land will be projected on screens made of veils, blankets and aprons recycled after being selected. from the film collections of the National Library of Scotland.

The footage will be streamed on a 12-minute loop at the French Institute, on a soundtrack of songs from the archives of the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, plus new material recorded by the duo. Edinburgh-based Dowally.

Songs in English, Scottish, Gaelic and Doric include recordings made by Hamish Henderson in the 1950s and performances of “I Ken Whaur I’m Gaun” by Jeannie Robertson and “A Pair of Nicky Tams” by Jimmy MacBeath. The Edinburgh-based film events company behind the project, also called ‘I Ken Whaur I’m Gaun’, says it has been designed to suit town halls, art galleries, libraries and community halls.

An archival recording of folk singer Jeannie Robertson will feature in the new immersive film installation ‘I Ken Whaur I’m Gaun’, which will premiere in Edinburgh later this month.

Creative producer Amanda Rogers said: “The idea was to create something that brought together creative artists working in Scotland today, alongside material collected from the past celebrating Scottish language and song.

“It’s wonderful to be in such a beautiful space right in the center of the old town.

“The images we unearthed are so powerful and moving. We hope this immersive experience will show that in new and inspiring ways. I think it will show the power of the material held in the National Archives.”

I Ken Whaur I’m Gaun, which is said to explore how folk songs have acted as a form of storytelling in Scotland over time, is part of a UK-wide program of special events Uni showing stock footage in unusual frames.

Dowally’s Rachel Walker and Dan Abrahams with visual artist filmmaker Yulia Kovanova, against a backdrop of singer Dolina McLennan, who features in the new film installation ‘Ken Whaur I’m Gaun’, which opens at the French Institute in Edinburgh later this month. Photo: Scott Barron

Visual artist and filmmaker Yulia Kovanova, editor Kieran Gosney and video projection designer Mettje Hunneman collaborated to create the free installation, which will be on view in the Jacques Tati room of the French Institute, at the corner of the bridge George IV and the Royal Mile, October 27-31.

Kovanova said: “The installation will combine archival film footage from different eras and different parts of Scotland, exploring the important cultural connections of people who have lived in tandem with the land all their lives.

“We think about language and earth and the fact that language is part of the soundscape of the earth.

“As human beings, we think of ourselves as separate – but we are part of the landscape and the language, and the music is the sound of the earth.”

Singing fishwives from Newhaven to Edinburgh will feature in the new film installation ‘I Ken Whaur I’m Gaun’.

Bothy Ballad singer Scott Gardiner, who helped organize the songs used, said: “It’s great to see material from the archives being used. There are about 10,000 hours of recordings from the 50s, 60s and 70s. It’s nice to find a new way to share them.

Dowally violinist Rachel Walker added: “The title ‘I Ken Whaur I’m Gaun’ is a line from a traditional Scottish song – so it’s from the past, but looking to the future.”


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