Stand and Stare

Stand And Stare, a unique marriage of literature, music and art, premiered at Celtic Connections Festival 2017. Taking as its starting point one of the world's best-loved poems, Leisure, by Welsh writer, W.H.Davies, which asks, 'What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?' The poem goes on to exhort the reader to take time to stop and look; to marvel at and appreciate the beauties and wonders of the natural world, the small things and creatures which go unnoticed in our hurried lives.

Although the poem was written over one hundred years ago, it is possibly more pertinent than ever; in an urban age of over-saturation of imagery, all-pervading noise and musak, constant connection to electronic gadgetry and short attention spans, we perhaps require to be reminded of the need - for our souls as well as our mental well-being - to slow down from our hectic, high-tech lives, and contemplate, and reconnect with, nature.

In the selfie era of instant posting of every random thought and moment of our lives to social media platforms, we are losing touch with how to be in the moment and simply connect with what we see, hear, feel and smell. Leisure has struck a chord with readers across the generations and its message resonates strongly in today’s Britain, where we work longer hours than in many other European countries, leaving far less free time to unwind, be outdoors, go out into the countryside to enjoy nature and what remains of our wild landscape.

W.H.Davies was prolific in his output, and as well as gaining acclaim during his lifetime, enjoyed some colourful adventures. After a somewhat troubled youth, he left his native Wales to seek his fortune in the USA, spending a number of years as a wandering hobo, before heading to the Klondyke goldrush in the late 1890s. Attempting to jump a train with his drinking buddy, Three Fingered Jack, his leg was crushed and had to be amputated. This was, in a way, the making of him, as he returned to England and began writing; his work quickly came to the attention of George Bernard Shaw, who championed him and brought him to public attention. Davies wrote extensively thereafter, one of his most famous works being his memoir, Autobiography Of A Supertramp, which decades later inspired the eponymous supergroup’s name.

Three eminent, award-winning writers were invited to offer a contemporary response to the poem, reading and performing their own poetry, prose and monologue, and each chose to write new work for the project. The team were honoured to have a prestigious Welsh connection in the form of Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales 2008 – 2016, who, as well as being one of our foremost contemporary poets, has a personal link to Davies in that a distant relative of hers tramped with the poet in his hobo days. In the show Gillian presents Leisure, elaborates on her own connection to Davies, and reads her own work.

Donald S Murray, acclaimed Lewis writer and poet now resident in Shetland, and author of As The Women Lay Dreaming, The Dark Stuff (Bloomsbury), The Guga Hunters (Birlinn) and Herring Tales (Bloomsbury), offers a distinctly Hebridean take on the concepts of leisure, work, nature and roots, in the form of Ship Of Fools, dramatic monologues presented by himself, David Walker (actor and writer), Kathleen MacInnes (Gaelic singer, actor, and presenter) and Eileen Scott (actor). Artist and illustrator, Doug Robertson, who had previously collaborated with Donald on a number of book projects, created unique drawings for Ship Of Fools which are projected as overhead visuals.

Nature poet, photographer, and writer, Gerry Cambridge, author of Nothing but Heather! (Luath Press), The Shell House (Scottish Cultural Press), Brownsbank Writing Fellow 1997 - 1999 and editor of The Dark Horse literary journal, takes us on a detailed exploration of startling forms and images to be found in nature and life. The beauty and fine construct of the smallest organisms and creatures, when viewed close-up, can offer us a different perspective on our own place in the world. Gerry’s photographic images feature in key use of overhead projections, the aim of which is to draw the audience gaze to the stillness of the visual image, and let the music or words settle, allowing listeners to reflect, focus and contemplate.

A house band of accomplished musicians plays new, specially-composed instrumental music and provide a soundscape to the spoken word, featuring: award-winning fiddler and composer, Charlie McKerron of Capercaillie and Session A9; Canadian cellist, Christine Hanson, creator and composer of the acclaimed show, The Cremation Of Sam McGee, and cellist of choice for many Scottish artistes; Kathleen MacInnes, one of Scotland’s best-loved Gaelic singers; Alasdair Taylor, guitarist and mandolin player with The Trads award-winning young band, The Elephant Sessions; Liza Mulholland, singer/songwriter and musician, award-winning TV producer and accordionist with female band, Dorec-a-belle

In rehearsal...members of Stand And Stare ensemble

Stand And Stare offers diverse creativity in response to W.H.Davies' poem, resulting in a show of cross-artform collaboration that is illuminating, beautiful and thought-provoking – perhaps a timely reminder and evocation of the natural beauty all around us, at a point when land, environment, and ecological balance are becoming issues of supreme importance.

It is hoped to tour the show, produced by Liza Mulholland, at a future date. For further information, interviews or images, please use the Contact page here.

Copyright Liza Mulholland 2018

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