Margaret Tait 100 announces end of celebration activities

Margaret Tait 100 is pleased to announce details of four events scheduled on 11 November 2019 which bring a year of activity to a close.

The poet and filmmaker’s 101st birthday will be celebrated with a reimagining of the Rose Street Film Festival which Tait organised in the 1950s, on the same street. At the National Galleries of Scotland, BAFTA-winning actor Gerda Stevenson will give a talk on her memories of working with Tait on the 1992 feature Blue Black Permanent. To conclude the day, Blue Black Permanent will screen at Filmhouse, Edinburgh, followed by a conversation with Stevenson and its composer, John Gray.

In Inverness and Orkney, the centenary’s conclusion will be marked with special screenings of new film commissions celebrating the life, legacy, attitude and approach of Tait. Taking place at Inverness Film Festival (9 November) and the Pier Arts Centre (16 November), the programme features work by nine filmmakers including artist Luke Fowler, author Ali Smith with Sarah Wood, and director Mark Cousins.

The Rose Street Reading Group

Dr Elsa Richardson leads an informal reading group focusing on the poetry and prose of Margaret Tait. Attendees will be invited to read from a selection of Tait’s writing.

(Monday 11 November 2019, 1.30–2.30pm; The Melting Pot, 5 Rose Street, Edinburgh)

The Rose Street Film Festival

Margaret Tait’s films returns to her native Rose Street. The Edinburgh studio of Tait’s Ancona Films was based at 91 Rose Street and from here she produced work throughout the 1950s and 60s which often took the place and its people as its subject. In the 1950s, Tait organised the eponymous Rose Street Film Festival showing work by Fernando Birri, Peter Hollander and herself.

Located above The Abbotsford Bar, a key meeting place for the Rose Street poets, of which Hugh MacDiarmid was a leading figure, this screening includes key 16mm works made on and around Rose Street—Hugh MacDiarmid: A Portrait (1964); On the Mountain (1974)—alongside her final film, Garden Pieces (1998), and These Walls (1974) in a newly discovered version which includes a full soundtrack, only recently digitised as part of artist and filmmaker Luke Fowler’s ongoing research into a new feature length work on Tait, commissioned for Edinburgh Art Festival 2020.

Tait never considered herself a part of the Rose Street poetry scene, remarking in her diary:

“All very nice and Milne’s Bar-ish and Abbotsfordish. But I’m not up to it at present, not equal to it” (14 Oct 1965). This reimagined 2019 Rose Street Film Festival seeks to challenge that idea, remembering Tait’s legacy in the place it was forged.

Following the screening, composer for Garden Pieces and Tait’s feature length film, Blue Black Permanent (1992), John Gray will be in conversation with filmmaker and curator, Peter Todd.

(Monday 11 November 2019, 3–5pm; The Melting Pot, 5 Rose Street, Edinburgh)

Quiet Defiance: Gerda Stevenson on Margaret Tait

Writer, actor, director Gerda Stevenson will give a talk on Tait’s multifaceted and uniquely distinctive creativity. Stevenson won a BAFTA award for her role in Tait’s only feature film, Blue Black Permanent (1992), and will reflect on this collaboration, considering also Tait’s influence on the younger generation. Stevenson’s talk includes readings from Tait’s poetry and prose, and excerpts from her remarkable films.

(Monday 11 November 2019, 6–7pm; Hawthornden Lecture Theatre, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh)

Blue Black Permanent

To mark the end of the centenary, Blue Black Permanent (1992) comes home. Tait’s masterpiece and the first feature film directed by a Scottish woman, screens at Filmhouse, Edinburgh. Blue Black Permanent tells the story of Barbara (Celia Imrie), a woman coming to terms with the death of her mother (Gerda Stevenson). Told through a labyrinthine structure, traversing backwards and forwards across several decades, and in between various locations in Edinburgh and Orkney, the film develops many of the same themes preoccupying Tait’s shorter films and poetry, such as the endurance of places and people over time and across generations.

The film will be introduced by Gerda Stevenson and followed by a post screening discussion with Stevenson, John Gray (composer), and Sarah Neely (Director of Margaret Tait 100).

(Monday 11 November 2019, 8.45pm; Filmhouse, Edinburgh)

Margaret Tait 100 Film Commissions on Tour

Nine new film commissions are being shown in Inverness and Orkney to mark the end of the centenary. After launching over two sold out screenings in Glasgow, the films will make their festival debut at Inverness Film Festival 2019 before touring.

The programme includes four new short works by multi-award-winning director and critic Mark Cousins; Turner Prize nominee, artist, filmmaker and musician Luke Fowler; author Ali Smith CBE FRSL with filmmaker Sarah Wood; and curator and filmmaker Peter Todd.

Five more films drawn from a competitive national open call process were commissioned from artists and filmmakers Alexander Storey Gordon; Matt Hulse; Wendy Kirkup with composer Richy Carey; Morag McKinnon; and Catherine Street.

The films are now available for booking in venues internationally via LUX.

(Saturday 9 November 2019, 2.30pm; Eden Court, Inverness; and Saturday 16 November 2019, 3pm; Pier Arts Centre, Stromness)

Editor's Notes

Margaret Tait was born in Kirkwall on Orkney on Armistice Day, 1918, and died on Orkney in 1999. She attended boarding school in Edinburgh, before studying Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. During the Second World War, she served at home and abroad with the Royal Army Medical Corps. Post-war visits to France and Italy culminated in full-time study at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome. After studying film in Italy, Tait returned to Scotland and established her film studio, Ancona Films, on Edinburgh’s Rose Street.

Tait’s first film was made in 1951 and her last completed in 1998. She also published three books of poetry and two of short stories between 1959 and 1960. In the 1960s, Tait moved back to Orkney where over the following decades she made a series of films inspired by the Orcadian landscape and culture. Following Tait’s death in 1999, her thirty-two completed films were deposited with National Library Scotland’s Moving Image Archive in Glasgow, who undertook the necessary restoration and digitisation work on the films.

Margaret Tait 100 is a year-long centenary celebration of the work of Scotland’s pioneering filmmaker and poet, Margaret Tait. The programme officially launched in November 2018 on the occasion of Tait’s birthday, and includes screenings, exhibitions, workshops, readings, new publishing, and commissioning opportunities for artists working with film.

The Margaret Tait 100 programme is run in partnership with LUX Scotland, University of Glasgow, University of Stirling, Pier Arts Centre and a number of event partners. Supported by Creative Scotland.

Further information on MT100 is available on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and at margarettait100.com.