When my friend (the intrepid Cornish travel writer!) Tim Hannigan suggested I give a presentation at Leicester Travel Talks, I was a little bit nervous! Were they looking for tales of rugged adventure or glamour in far flung places? In fact, the monthly event covers a diverse range of travel-related topics and ‘is open to anyone with an interest in the world we live in who wants to learn more about it by sharing the experiences of another traveller – the speaker’. Following my second research visit to Orkney (and after attending Tim’s talk on Cornwall, given earlier in the year), I pitched a talk on ‘Exploring Orkney’s Cultural and Literary Heritage’ to organiser Tricia Lessells, linking literary works, traditional stories and geographic places framed within my personal travelogue. On 30th November, I made my way to Leicester clutching my Powerpoint presentation on a USB memory stick. With a turnout of around 35 people from all walks of life, the atmosphere was welcoming, friendly and relaxed and the morning flew by. People seemed really interested in the subject and we enjoyed a lively Q&A/discussion afterwards.
Orkney has a rich cultural and literary heritage and I hope my talk encourages people not only to visit and/or discover more about the islands, but also to check out some of the writers we discussed for themselves, including Amy Liptrot (The Outrun) and Duncan Mclean who publishes (through Abersee Press) fiercely contemporary anthologies of poems and prose by Orcadian writers ‘utilizing the traditional Orcadian tongue to engage with modern Orcadian concerns.’ Orkney’s literary tradition includes works by George Mackay Brown, Edwin Muir, Eric Linklater, Christina M. Costie, Walter Traill Dennison, and more. Top of my list (as well as Liptrot and Abersee Press) is wonderful storyteller and writer Tom Muir, who you can hear telling the story of ‘Assipattle and the The Mester Stoorworm’ here, and the fascinating 13th Century (Norse) Orkneyinga Saga. My talk was delivered from the point of view of an outsider to Orkney, but I felt it was a real privilege to visit such an interesting place and wanted to share the experience as widely as possible.
Tricia has kindly invited me back to give a talk on 12 April 2019: Hikers, Hippies and Horrible Histories – The Intriguing Island of La Gomera (Canary Islands) and From Tito to Tourism: Komiža –
The Croatian town where people really burn their boats! on 20th Sept 2019. The Travel Talks programme takes place on Friday mornings from mid-September to May at the Satta Hashem Hall, Leicester Adult Education College, 54 Belvoir Street, LE1 6HL. 10:15am – 12 noon (Price per session £4:50). You can check out the online diary and website here.