Traditional songs, archive film footage, visual art and original folk tunes will all be part of an installation that will be premiered in Edinburgh’s Old Town. Footage of shepherds in Berneray, in the Outer Hebrides in the 1980s, the singing of a Newhaven fishwives choir in 1950s Edinburgh, and 1930s Shetland crofters fishing and working the land will be projected onto screens made of recycled sails, blankets and aprons after being selected from the National Library of Scotland’s film collections.
The footage will run continuously on a 12-minute loop at the French Institute, to a soundtrack of songs drawn from the archives of the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University, as well as new tunes recorded by Edinburgh-based duo Dowally.
The songs in English, Scots, Gaelic and Doric include recordings made by Hamish Henderson in the 1950s and performances “I Ken Whaur I’m Gaun” by Jeannie Robertson and “A Pair of Nicky Tams” by Jimmy MacBeath. The Edinburgh-based film events company behind the project, which is also called “I Ken Whaur I’m Gaun”, says it has been designed to be suitable for town halls, art galleries, libraries and community halls.
Creative producer Amanda Rogers said: “The idea was to create something which brought together creative artists working today in Scotland, along with material gathered in the past celebrating Scottish language and song.
“It’s wonderful to be in such a gorgeous space right in the centre of the Old Town.
"The footage we’ve unearthed is so powerful and emotional. We hope this immersive experience will show it in new and inspiring ways. I think it’ll show the power of material held in the national archives."
I Ken Whaur I’m Gaun, which is said to explore how folk songs have acted as a form of storytelling in Scotland over time, is part of a UK-wide programme of special events showing archive films in unusual settings.
Visual artist and filmmaker Yulia Kovanova, film editor Kieran Gosney and video projection designer Mettje Hunneman have collaborated to create the free installation, which will be available to view at the Jacques Tati Room at French Institute, on the corner of George IV Bridge and the Royal Mile, from October 27-31.
Kovanova said: “The installation will combine archival film footage from various eras and different parts of Scotland, exploring the important cultural connections of people who have lived in tandem with the land all their lives.
“We’re thinking about the language and the land and that the language is part of the soundscape of the land.
"As humans, we think of ourselves as separate – but we’re part of the landscape and language, and music is the sound of the land.”
Bothy Ballad singer Scott Gardiner, who helped curate the songs used, said: “It’s great to see stuff from the archives being used. There are about 10,000 hours of recordings from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s good to find a new way to share them.”
Dowally fiddler Rachel Walker added: “The title ‘I Ken Whaur I’m Gaun’ is a line from a traditional Scots song – so it’s from the past, but looking towards the future.”