The Caithness poet and playwright, George Gunn, has often ploughed a lone furrow in the far north of Scotland. Despite critical acclaim for his many plays and collections of poetry, his work isn’t as widely known outside the Highlands as it should be. This says more about central belt prejudices and ignorance than the work itself.
Gunn’s involvement in the theatre goes beyond writing. He was instrumental in setting up Grey Coast Theatre but like so many independent theatre companies in the Highlands Grey Coast folded earlier this year. It must have been a last straw. Quite clearly it was with a heavy heart that Gunn has penned the essay published today in Scottish Review.
Gunn’s essay could be described as an artistic suicide note, in as much as avenues for future theatre funding will be slammed shut in his face. He’ll no doubt have made a few enemies in high places. This takes courage. Bella Caledonia salutes any writer with the bollocks to tell truth to power when it hits them personally in the pocket.
We would urge our readers to read the article and think seriously about what Gunn has to say. In the essay Gunn rejects the prevailing notion at work in Scotland whereby arts funding bodies seem to exist primarily to brand themselves, and he has written a fierce critique which amounts to nothing less than a radical manifesto for theatre and the arts in Scotland. It’s incendiary stuff.
We are reduced to the role of silent poets, frozen in time
by George Gunn
The state of Highland theatre continues to worsen. To date both Tosg, the national Gaelic language theatre company, and Grey Coast, my own company in Caithness, have folded. The demise of both was greeted with complacency by the funders and indifference by the media. (The full essay can be found here at Scottish Review)