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Mary Smith - Author, Poet and Journalist

Projects

I have been privileged to work on several collaborative and community projects.

Cairnsmore: The Big Hill

I worked with sculptor Matt Baker on ‘Cairnsmore: The Big Hill’ project, commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage and Dumfries & Galloway Arts Association. This was based in and around Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve, between Creetown and Gatehouse of Fleet in Galloway.

Matt created five site specific sculptures, which can be found in the nature reserve, and five of my poems accompanying the sculptures were published in a leaflet, distributed to the residents of Gatehouse of Fleet and Creetown, two small Stewartry towns considered to be the gatekeepers to the reserve and its amazing wilderness landscape. The poems can also be heard on a podcast in the Cairnsmore Visitor Centre where there are also postcards giving cryptic clues to the locations of the sculptures.

One of the poems can be found here.
An article with more information on this project can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cairnsmore: The Big Hill

 

Voices from Glentrool and Merrick

I teamed up with visual artist and print maker Silvana MacLean for the ‘Voices from Glentrool and Merrick’ project, again funded by Scottish Natural Heritage and Dumfries and Galloway Arts Association.

We interviewed people in the area, collecting stories and memories. Silvana created five striking, unique prints which were included in a beautifully produced portfolio along with five of my poems. These portfolios can be seen in a number of venues around the region such as Glentrool and Cairnsmore visitor centres and libraries – including the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh. The poems and prints are also reproduced in a pamphlet.  

These were wonderful projects on which to work, providing an opportunity to explore the incredible landscape around Cairnsmore and Glentrool and interview people – shepherds, farmers, forestry workers, walkers and hill climbers – for whom this land has special meaning.

One of the poems can be found here.

 

 

 

Voices from Glentrool and Merrick

 

Putting Women in the Picture

I was appointed co-ordinator for this project by Dumfries and Galloway’s Women’s Forum who proposed the initial idea for Putting Women in the Picture, securing funding for the project through Local History Initiative Scotland and Scottish Adult Learning Partnership.

Putting Women in the Picture is an exhibition incorporating text, visual images and audio to provide a fascinating glimpse into Wigtownshire women’s lives. The exhibition was the culmination of an oral history project in which women of the Machars district of Wigtownshire recorded their memories of childhood, working lives, health and social activities.

The women who feature in the exhibition have memories which reach back to the latter part of the 19th century as they recall stories their mothers and grandmothers told them.

Putting Women in the Picture recognises the value of women's work and experiences and is a historical celebration of unsung heroines in their own words, pictures and stories. 

Quotes from Putting Women in the Picture:

  • ‘Measles, whooping cough – scarlet fever was quite a thing then (1940s). They never bothered very much with coughs and colds, that type of thing you know, you got your chest rubbed with camphorated oil and a good scarf round your neck.’ (May Anderson, Kirkcowan)
  • ‘I left school at 12 and became housekeeper to my father and uncle – doing the cooking on a great big open fire, all the housework and the washing. The hens were my responsibility…I paid for the groceries with the eggs and got to keep what was left over. Sometimes it was 2/-.’ (May Walker, Whauphill)
  • ‘In my day if you went a message for somebody it was a scone you got as your payment, a homemade scone. There was nae money in these days. It was whatever they’d baked…that was what you got for goin the messages.’ (Margaret McGuigan, Wigtown)

 

 

 

 



Putting WOmen in the picture

 

 

National Theatre of Scotland ‘Home’ Project

I was commissioned to carry out oral history research by the National Theatre of Scotland for Home, its first ever production. The theatre launched with 10 totally different productions taking place simultaneously in 10 venues.

I was delighted to work alongside Graham Eatough, artistic director of Suspect Culture Theatre Company.  My task was to interview people (ages from 69 to 100) in and around Dumfries, many living in residential homes. Graham, along with actors Pauline Lockhart and Callum Cuthbertson used the interview material to create a production inspired by Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs and the stories and memories people shared.

 

 

 

National Theatre of Scotland ‘Home’ Project Programme Cover

 

No Picnic

No Picnic was a touring exhibition of images, poems and photographs, illustrating what it is like to live in poverty in Scotland.

This Poverty Alliance project gathered together groups of writers and photographers in Glasgow and Dumfries to explore in words and pictures issues of poverty in 21st century Scotland.

I facilitated a series of 10 writing workshops in Dumfries and the project gave people with personal experience of social exclusion the opportunity to find ways of expressing their thoughts and feelings. No Picnic launched at Glasgow’s Tramway, where some of the participants performed their work. The exhibition toured various venues including the Edinburgh Arts centre, the Scottish Parliament, Elgin, Dundee and Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries.

 


no picnic

 

Phil McMenemy
I was delighted when photographer Phil McMenemy contacted me recently to suggest we collaborate on a project involving his pictures and my words. Phil is an amazing photographer, with a studio in Laurieston near Castle Douglas in south west Scotland. His work captures the glorious landscape of the region and he also produces fine art work.

We’ve already had a couple of meetings and lots of emails have been flying back and forth as we exchange ideas. I don’t want to give too much away yet – it involves islands – but watch this space.