Runrig’s music and songs inspire new island-set Scottish stage musical

The music and songs of the groundbreaking Scottish rock band Runrig are to get a new lease of life in a major new stage musical.

Runrig bowed out in 2018 with two farewell concerts in Stirling, 45 years after the group was formed on the Isle of Skye. Picture: Matt Liengie
Runrig bowed out in 2018 with two farewell concerts in Stirling, 45 years after the group was formed on the Isle of Skye. Picture: Matt Liengie

A host of the band’s best-known anthems will feature in the score for a show set in a Scottish island community, which will premiere in the Highlands next year.

The band's songwriters, brothers Calum and Rory MacDonald, have given their blessing to The Stamping Ground, which is being created by playwright Morna Young and writer and composer John Kielty.

The musical is being co-produced by Eden Court and Glasgow-based theatre company Raw Material.

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    Rory Macdonald, Calum Macdonald, Malcolm Jones and Donnie Munro in an early incarnation of Runrig.

    Plans for the The Stamping Ground musical, which shares its name with Runrig’s 2001 album and its title track, have been announced more than three years after the band bowed out with two sold-out farewell concerts at City Park in Stirling.

    The shows were staged 45 years after the formation of Runrig, who would go on to significantly raise the profile of the Gaelic language, on the Isle of Skye.

    The Stamping Ground will tell the story of a couple who return to their community to find it filled with more tourists than residents and fears rising about its future.

    The musical, which arts agency Creative Scotland is supporting with £292,000 in funding, will be launched at Eden Court in Inverness in July before a nationwide tour in 2023.

    The Stamping Ground will be premiered at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness in July.

    Young told The Scotsman: “The Stamping Ground is a story of love, life and the land, inspired by Runrig’s incredible tapestry of themes explored within their music.

    "I’ve always been a huge fan of the band, drawn in by the gorgeous melodies and poetic lyrics, but writing The Stamping Ground has allowed me to dive even deeper into the rich and expressive ideas portrayed throughout their incredible recording career.

    "Runrig have something to say about the world and I wanted to stay true to the ideas of people, place and identity, whilst asking questions about the future of the Highlands.

    "There is a creative curiosity within Runrig’s work and I wanted to approach the story in this same spirit.

    Runrig in action during their farewell shows at Stirling's City Park in 2018. Picture: John Devlin

    “This is a family story and an ensemble piece, exploring ideas of identity and belonging.

    "I think every Highlander who has left home has a similar story inside, and I wanted to capture the feeling of returning home once another life has been lived.

    "At the centre of this, is the land – the spirituality, the mythology, the politics of place – and I wanted to draw on Runrig’s motifs of big skies, sweeping seas and a landscape dominated by mountains.

    "Most of all, I wanted to capture the joy that I experience whilst listening to their music: the breadth and depth of a story that’s ever evolving.”

    Runrig pictured before a big top gig in Portree, on the Isle of Skye, in 2001.

    Susannah Armitage, senior producer at Eden Court, said: “The Stamping Ground is a story of home and community, rooted in contemporary Highland experience and is underpinned by Runrig’s beautiful, evocative and well-loved songs, which provide the rhythmic and lyrical backbone to the musical.

    “It is fitting that we are creating this production in the Highlands and that this ambitious, exciting and warm-hearted new musical marks Eden Court’s renewed commitment to creating more producing opportunities for Highland artists and Highland audiences.”

    Raw Material founders Margaret-Anne O’Donnell and Gillian Garrity said: “We’re thrilled to be working in a co-producing partnership with Eden Court on this new large-scale musical, The Stamping Ground, featuring the songs of seminal Scottish band Runrig.

    “It’s a privilege to work with the rich creative legacy of writers Calum and Rory MacDonald and to empower some of our best theatre artists to create work at scale with a story and musical production that we’re sure will delight and entertain audiences across Scotland.

    "As independent producers we are acutely aware of the need for high quality Scottish productions that

    can perform on some of our largest stages and reach audiences that love live theatre.

    Morna Young has written the new stage musical The Stamping Ground which will feature the music and songs of Runrig.

    "The past few years have been challenging across all parts of our sector and we look forward to heralding the return of our creative artists to venues and stages and sharing this new play with theatre and musical

    audiences.”

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