The poet, writer, educator, and folklore researcher Sheena Blackhall’s outstanding contribution to Scottish culture will be celebrated at an event in Banchory later this month.
‘Celebratin Sheena’ features specially commissioned new work, and a dramatic staging of some of Sheena best work alongside favourites collected from the tradition.
The event is organised by the Elphinstone Institute at the University of Aberdeen, with support from Aberdeenshire Council.
The night will see the debut of a selection of new ballads, written by Sheena and inspired by great, good, bad, and evil characters of North-east lore, kenspeckle figures such as Indian Peter, the young loon kidnapped by the city and sold into slavery. Lesser-known figures such as Warlock Laird o Skene and Lorna Moon, the Aberdeenshire quine who went on to be a scriptwriter in the 1930s Hollywood are also immortalised.
The night will also feature the cream of North-east performing talent. Simon Gall, from internationally feted folk-fusion band Salsa Celtica and Scots Singer of the Year nominee, will perform some of Sheena’s latest works, along with noted St Cyrus singer and composer Rory Comerford. Actors Adam Coutts of critically acclaimed theatre outfit 10 feet tall, and Kim Templeton will perform monologues drawn from Sheena’s plays. Mearns-based Pict Digital will provide specially commissioned visuals to take Sheena’s work into a new medium.
Dr Tom Mckean, director of the Elphinstone Institute emphasised Blackhall’s importance. “Sheena is unique. She can compose a topical ballad in minutes, or just as easily bring you to tears with a sharply observed turn of phrase. Without fail, she brings our language’s rich and inimitable world view to bear on the human condition, wherever she finds it.
“Over several decades Sheena has produced a trove of regionally, nationally, and internationally recognised and acclaimed work. With quiet ease, she shows that Doric/North-east Scots can tackle difficult and thorny subjects, and brings this rich language to new audiences in the Scottish literary and linguistic landscape. She has published over 150 poetry chapbooks in both Scots and English, and translated a range of classic literature into North-east Scots, including, most recently, Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.
“For all her high art, Sheena has never lost touch with the earthier side of the tradition. For the event she will present some of the favoured jewels drawn from the rich North-east tradition of bawdy and humorous songs. The audience will be treated to an assortment of classics such as ‘Farting Tam’, ‘The Dog in the Midden’, and ‘Oor Cat’s Deid’.”
Celebratin Sheena takes place at the Barn in Banchory on March 23.