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Scottish Arts Council approves funding for Hamish Henderson biography


The Scottish Arts Council has given a grant of £8,000 to Timothy Neat, the well known documentary film maker, to produce two books on the life of Dr Hamish Henderson. The first book will be a biography that focuses on the extraordinary, multi-facetted life Henderson led as a poet, folklorist and political activist and the second book will look at Henderson’s love of folk music and his involvement in setting up the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

Neat will draw material for the biography from his 35 year friendship with Henderson as well as gain first-hand insights from Henderson’s wife, Katzel Henderson. He will include previously unseen photos from Henderson’s years at a London boy’s home, as well as excerpts from an unpublished notebook of 25 songs written by Henderson during the Second World War.

Neat intends to travel through Scotland, England, Rome and South Carolina to gather information from archives for the second book, titled `Poetry becomes the People’. Within this publication he will expand on the issue of how Jeannie Robertson was discovered as well as recall Henderson’s own explorations to gather information on the oral traditions of the travelling communities. The reader will also learn of Henderson’s involvement in the creation of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Timothy Neat commented, 'Hamish Henderson lived a life of epic scale, affirming and changing the character of his nation. He was a brilliant, many-faceted man but above all - a poet. 'Poetry', he believed, 'becomes People'. Henderson was an artist of great range and commitment but his best work was often highly personal and autobiographical and to understand it fully it is important to know the life. The biography will explore Henderson’s life, as a teacher and humanitarian; a visionary socialist, a fighter for Peace, father of the Folk-revival; the man who, above all others, kneaded Modern Scotland into being.'

The grant to Neat was one of 11 approved by the Scottish Arts Council Writers’ and Playwrights’ Bursaries Group. The grants rang from £3,000 to £12,000. One of the other projects to receive funding includes a grant to Rhiannon Tise to write a play. The play is set in a down-trodden and greatly deprived housing estates situated on the outskirts of a thriving Scottish city. The play tells the story of Kim and her boyfriend Richie. Richie is unemployed and fills his days by planning attacks on refugees who live in their area. Conflict comes to a peak when Kim’s uncle David gets arrested for illegally smuggling refugees into the country in the back of his lorry.

Mairi MacDonald from the Isle of Lewis also received a grant to write a book of English and Gaelic poems and illustrated short stories. The poems and short stories focus on recent events in the authors life as well as issues associated with living on an island. Mairi suffers from Parkinson’s Disease so therefore must rely on others to draft, revise and communicate her work. The grant will help her pay for a typist.

Jenny Attala, Literature Officer for the Scottish Arts Council commented, “These 11 bursaries testify to the vitality and diversity of writing in Scotland. They are an investment in the future of literature and I am sure, will continue to strengthen Scottish publishing.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Scottish Arts Council champions and sustains the arts for Scotland, investing £56 million from Scottish Executive and National Lottery funding to support and develop artistic excellence and creativity throughout Scotland. Further information is available at our website: www.scottisharts.org.uk.
  2. Successful applicants and a brief outline of their projects are listed below. Please telephone the Media Office for contact details of any of the organisations listed.
  • Julie Bertagna
    - received £9,000 to produce the novel, `The Opposite of Chocolate’. The novel is intended for an audience of young adults and tells the story of a 14 year old girl who falls pregnant. The story is set in Scotland and explores the difficult choices the girl has to face including the responses of her family and friends and the church.
  • Margaret Fulton Cook
    - received £4,000 to complete a volume of poetry, which will investigate the culture and attitudes existing in Scotland today and how this links with the countries history.
  • Cheryl Follon
    - received £4,000 to research, study and create her first book-length collection of poetry. The poems build on her first publication, ‘Tales From a Small Island’ which primarily deal with the myth and history attached to the Ayrshire and Arran areas.
  • Keith Gray
    - received £5,000 to produce the novel `The Mourn’ – a book for teenagers and young adults based on the themes of faith and the maintaining of tradition in the face of hostility.
  • Helen Lamb
    - received £8,000 towards the completion of her first novel – Polygon. The novel is centred on two characters who are on the cusp between childhood and adolescence. The novel explores the girls’ dawning awareness of their own sexuality and the confusing world of the adults around them.
  • Mairi H MacDonald
    - received £5,000 to write a book of poetry and short stories that will appear both in English and Gaelic.
  • Carl MacDougall
    - received £12,000 to write the story of David Black, a fictitious character who gets involved in a confusing world of debt collection and purchasing scams. The book is set over five days and the reader moves through the storyline via readings from a digital clock.
  • Lynn Mercer
    - received £3,000 for the development of a picture book for children. The book is set in Iceland where every autumn, thousands of young puffins leave their nests and head out to sea for the first two years of their lives. Most make their way back by instinct but many mistakenly confuse the village lights as stars and end up crash-landing in the streets below. The book tells the story of the children who organise themselves into groups and venture out to save the young birds.
  • Timothy Neat
    - received £8,000 to produce two books on the life of Dr Hamish Henderson. The books will draw on academic research and will relate Henderson’s multifaceted life to his literary and cultural achievements and will be constructed largely from firsthand sources.
  • Rhiannon Tise
    - received £4,000 towards the production of a script for a play. The play is set in a Scottish housing estate and focusing on the issues of love, betrayal and the conflicts between opposing communities and the fear of being different.
  • Jayne Wilding
    - received £3,000 to create a collection of poems around the theme of the city and wild places. Jayne will work in collaboration with a photographer to illustrate the book. Some of the poems will be recorded onto a CD.

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Issued by: Scottish Arts Council

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