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Caithness film could be seen at venues in Edinburgh after Lyth premiere on Friday

By Gordon Calder

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A FILM about Caithness, its people and landscape gets its premiere at Lyth Arts Centre later this week but there are plans to show it four other local venues as well as at the Edinburgh Folk Film Festival and the Scottish Poetry Library.

Words On The Wind, developed and produced by Caithness writer, George Gunn,focuses on a series of poems about specific places, performed by local people and recorded at the locations which inspired them. It is described as "one big film-poem of Caithness."

Gunn, who comes from Dunnet and lives in Thurso, said: "The relationship between the land and the people is a perennial theme in Caithness. Ownership, management, land use, renewable and human energy, as well as the landscape and seascape are the main themes addressed in the film."

He wants Friday night's premiere to be "a celebration of creativity and poetry and music and of Caithness itself " as the county faces economic and cultural challenges. Gunn said: "I often describe art as people in a landscape and this is exactly what Words On The Wind is – Caithness people in the landscape they love telling us their story through poetry and memory and the general joyous craic of life."

George Gunn developed and produced Words On The Wind
George Gunn developed and produced Words On The Wind

Gunn, who is 67, said the project has three functions.

"The first is to show Caithness off to the people who live here and who perhaps take the place for granted or are not aware of certain aspects of the county. I want them to see their place as they have never seen it before.

"The second is to show Caithness and her people to an audience who do not even know where Caithness is. Too often Caithness is overlooked either as on the way to Orkney or as part of the amorphous Highlands and Islands. Caithness is not a secret. It is alive with a long history, an ancient human culture, a stunning landscape and seascape and a vibrant, resourceful and imaginative population. I want the film to bring people to Caithness.

"Thirdly, I want all of that to happen through the filter of poetry, a poetry from people who have a passion and a talent but who are essentially ordinary people, because it is the people who make a place and to show that art is not elitist but democratic, in as much as it is participatory, not exclusive. Caithness itself is a strong voice in the film by the virtue of being so big and beautiful. We also have a stunning musical score written by Gordon Gunn of which I am extremely proud, " he said.

Lyth Arts Centre will be the venue for the film premiere
Lyth Arts Centre will be the venue for the film premiere

Asked what happens once the film is shown at Lyth, Gunn replied: "We plan to show it in at least four venues around Caithness so that as many people can see it as possible. After that we have plans to show it at the Edinburgh Folk Film Festival and at the Scottish Poetry Library. Films gather momentum the more they are seen so the ambition is to get the film into as many film festivals as we can. It’s not easy but we will persevere."

Looking to the future, Gunn has a new book of poems called Raven with a publisher although he is unsure when it will be printed and the same is true of his second novel entitled The Vinegar Wind. "It takes place in 1848 and will be the only novel in the history of Scottish literature to be set entirely on Dunnet Beach, "he said.

He also has just finished writing a quartet of plays entitled The Wet Desert. "Two are set in Caithness and two in an imagined Saudi Arabia I call the Najd. The first play Land Rich, Cash Poor, was done by Dogstar last year at the ERI Peatlands Conference in Thurso. The fourth play, The Land Beyond, will also be done by Dogstar at Eden Court in Inverness as a moved reading," added Gunn.

In addition, he has some poems coming out in a publication called Poetry East, which is one of the big poetry

magazines in America. "That’s a first for me," he said.

The premiere of Words On The Wind will be held at Lyth Arts Centre at 7pm on Friday, November 10. Gunn hopes

all the participants in the film will be there.

He worked on the project during his time as a CAIR (Caithness Artists in Residence) artist at Lyth with local film maker Steven Gunn.

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