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Arran’s McLellan Festival returned to its roots this year when the traditional opening event of the 10-day extravaganza, the prizewinners’ reading for the McLellan poetry prize, was held back in Corrie.
The village hall provided the perfect setting for a warm and inspirational reading of this year’s crop of winning poems chosen by acclaimed poet Maura Dooley.
The competition attracts entries from far and wide and, as has often been the case, several of the prizewinners made long journeys to Arran specially to read their poems. At Maura’s suggestion this year each poem was read twice, and this, coupled with her lucid explanation of why she had chosen
them, worked brilliantly, giving the audience a real opportunity to absorb the subtleties of some fine poems.
The overall winner of the £1,000 prize was Louise Greig from Aberdeen whose witty and tender poem ‘Mrs Miniver was a fool about inanimate objects’ wowed the audience. It describes the sustaining benefits we distil from the familiar things around us, in this case a much-loved house: ‘I
walk from room to room. The walls are/papered in contentment. The doors are like old elephants, heavy with/memory.’
Louise, who only started to write seriously a few years ago, also creates
books for children and was thrilled to be able to meet Arran’s own Alison Prince, creator of ‘Trumpton’.
Other poems were of an almost equally high standard. Doreen Gurrey travelled from York to share her wonderful sonnet ‘Sortie’ and Sally Davis came up from Portsmouth to read her poem ‘This is all I know’. As well as writing poems, Sally who in her biographical note describes herself as a
‘writer and rocket scientist’, was involved with the design of parts of the Rosetta satellite that achieved the amazing feat of rendezvousing with a comet.
After a lovely musical interlude with Heather Macleod and Stuart Farrar’s Arran Dawn, Maura read some of her own poems, sparse, haunting but immediately accessible: ‘what makes this home ,/ wide light, a weaver’s window, each stone in that wall. // This is the heart’s small change, / a little silver saved against the rain.’
A memorable evening was followed by her sell-out poetry workshop
the next day. On Sunday Maura’s husband, David Hunter, gave a very entertaining talk to a capacity crowd at Brodick library. David is an executive producer of drama for BBC Radio 4 and under the title
‘More Than Just The Archers’ he enthused about the potential of radio as a medium for drama. His talk included tantalising clips from BBC plays over the last 40 years. As more than one person observed it was a reminder of the very special pleasures of listening to radio communally. We went
out again into the rain with our heads full of sounds and ideas.
This was Maura and David’s first ever visit to Arran and, on the basis of the wonderful weekend’s entertainment they provided it is to be hoped it won’t be the last.