Geopoetics Conference 2019

Wiston Lodge Conference venue 14-16 June 2019

Expressing the Earth in the Year of Indigenous Languages

Wiston Lodge 14-16 June 2019

 Conference Programme

Wiston Lodge is situated in beautiful old woods near Tinto Hill by Biggar and the weekend will feature an inspiring programme of outdoor and indoor workshops and talks, films, discussions and performances of poetry, prose and music. Free time is also provided to develop creative work emerging from the workshops and talks.

The conference starts on Friday 14 June 2019 at 11.30 am and ends on Sunday 16 June at 16.30. The £130 cost includes all conference sessions, 2 informal ceilidhs of music, poetry, prose and performances, 2 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 evening meals and 2 nights accommodation. Full information about Wiston Lodge is here:

Friday 14 June 

11.30 am Introduction by Norman Bissell, Director, and Mairi McFadyen, Assistant Director, Scottish Centre for Geopoetics

12 noon Lunch and informal networking

13.00 Presentations

13.00 Riverings and Riverisks Rachel Clive

Collaborative performance projects that share creative practice and nurture relationships with the River Clyde. Discussion around personal, poetic and political understandings of human-river connections in this time of intensifying climate crisis. 

13.40 The Synthesia of Gaelic Placenames Heather Clyne

What an understanding of placenames tells us about a location and about the people who named them.

14.20 TREE Sarah Tremlett Discovering Identity Through the Poetics of Ancestral Place

I am a poetry filmmaker, artist and writer, and I have been researching my family history for the last twenty-five years, whilst developing its current digital form since 2014. Poetry films are short films including poetry, and this project – Tree – (as an online geopoetic and mythopoetic ‘verse novel’ with poetry films), includes archive material, live footage for poetry films and onsite documentary prose and poetic response, as a form of haibun. The project originated as a creative means to understanding where I ‘come from’, and create a sense of belonging.
This presentation – The River We Worked – Devon is the project’s premiere, and will include a five- minute poetry film, alongside a read extract of documented facts and prose poetry, focusing on one aspect of the Edwardian era, and the River Culm near Exeter. /

15.00 Break and informal networking

15.30 Workshops


Haiku  Wee Steps Towards a (Geopoetic?) Awareness Ian McFadyen 

A short presentation outlining the origins of haiku, how it has made its way into English-language literary culture and the possibilities it offers + exercises that involve a wander in the woods in search of subject matter and inspiration.


Flash Fiction Jean Rafferty

This workshop will build and structure flash fiction and draw on many examples besides Rafferty’s own. The work of Edward S Curtis, the photographer and ethnographer who preserve da record of Native Americans, will be used as prompts and participants will have the chance to write flash fiction and share it with the group.


Perception Practices: Woodland Ways Claire Pencak

This workshop is a foray into how extending the ways we engage the senses can lead us towards a heightened sensitivity which unfolds and expands the experience of a place in multiple ways. There will be time to reflect on your experience through writing, drawing or moving. No previous movement experience is required.

17.00  Break

18.30 Evening Meal

20.00 Informal Ceilidh


Guitar Philip Tonner

A solo acoustic set 


Graft Annie Lord

A solo storytelling piece, written and performed by Annie Lord, exploring the art of grafting. Using 35mm slide projection and hand drawn illustrations, Graft weaves together several story lines including the birth and regeneration of Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens and the cultivation of the Bramley apple.

Guitar Philip Tonner

A solo acoustic set 

Come all ye


The Wiston Moon over Tinto: An evening workshop 

Dr Rebecca Crowther and Dr Margaret Kerr

With the moon as protagonist, performative, in this framed excursion we will explore how we relate to the moon and the darkness in this place, and will consider possibilities of a way of viewing, understanding and relating to the moon.

Saturday 15 June

8.30 Breakfast

9.15 Workshops


Revitalising the Commons / Recovering a Sense of World Mairi McFadyen

This workshop will explore the potential of revitalising the commons from a geopoetics perspective. We will discuss tangible real-world action for cultural renewal, thinking through how we might recover a sense of world together.


Maps, placenames and geology James Westland

This workshop will look at topography, the underlying geology and names on the map and how they are related. It will include Norse as well as Gaelic and will be very much a hands on practical approach inviting questions like what does this name mean, what does it tell us about this place?

10.45 Break

11.00 Presentations

11.00 Zen in the work of Neil Gunn, Alan Spence and Kenneth White Norman Bissell

This illustrated talk will outline how Zen Buddhism has influenced the work of these writers and in the process will reveal some of the elements of the theory-practice of geopoetics. 

Q & A and discussion.

11.40 ‘A Cargo of Centuries’: the Poetic Ballast of a Kayak Journey from Shetland to the Channel.David Gange

From the eighteenth-century Birlinn of Clanranald to Roseanne Watts’ Moder Dy (Polygon, 2019), poetry has been a key means for humans to situate themselves in relation to the North-East Atlantic. Ocean littorals have been the regions of Britain and Ireland most thickly inscribed with verse; yet political and economic developments of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries generated ideologies that sidelined these regions from constructions of state and nation. Today, when those ideologies are damaged beyond repair, it’s no surprise to find interest in Atlantic coastlines burgeoning. The work of poet/critics such as David Lloyd shows how Atlantic pasts can be the basis of constructive futures. 

In an attempt to explore the historical, literary and ecological dimensions of these shorelines, I spent a year kayaking from Shetland to the Channel, immersing myself in coastal archives along the way. But from Rob Donn to Christine Evans, poetry was the most powerful resource for interpreting oceanic experience. This talk explores the relationship between poetry and place in the book that is the outcome of the kayak journey: The Frayed Atlantic Edge: a Historian’s Journey from Shetland to the Channel (Harper Collins, 2019). 

12.20 Waterlight James Murray-White
A film in collaboration with a poet & an anthropologist on a 13 mile chalk stream connecting two south Cambridgeshire villages – using poetry, film, music, and sound: this project explores the history and life of an important waterway. More info:

13.00 Lunch

14.00 Workshops


Opening Our Eyes Artist workshop Susannah Rosenfeld-King 

This workshop will be conducted online by Zoom and will explore the formal elements of the environment of Wiston Lodge by connecting to line, shape, colour and texture through writing word as drawing tasks. These can be drawn via both conventional tools such as pencil, charcoal, ink, frottage on paper with landscape materials, air-actions and collaborations.


What about the Geology in Geopoetics? Patrick Corbett and Dorrik Stow Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh 

This workshop aims to explore the earth and ocean images we use in poetry  ours, yours, and samples from some of our favourite poets. Taking a Geddesian approach to this intersectional opportunity, we wish to promote sympathy for geology, whilst harnessing a natural synergy with poets. 

15.30 Break and informal networking

15.45 Presentations

15.45 Silent Gestures: Joseph Beuys and Martina Kolb Martina Kolb

A visit to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2013 is the starting point for an autobiographically infused presentation. Works by Joseph Beuys will include multiples Silence (1973) rooted in the culture of the semi-nomadic Tatars, Celtic culture and Native American culture. It concludes with reflections on another gallery visit to the Beuys collection in the Lenbachhaus in Munich.

16.25 The Melting Pot Megan Hollingsworth

My participation in the conference will be online by Zoom. In a poem I will read there is reference to glossolalia or xenolalia and the process of Pancha Karma (an Ayurvedic treatment in which the individual is ‘melted down’ inside to be made anew). These personal references play with the present heating of the oceans and changing life zones.

17.05 One Body, One World: Arctic Cracking Georgia Rose Murray

I use the language of painting to explore the mystical reality of Northern landscapes. Driven by a yearning to understand light and darkness, my research has led me to Iceland during a period of Polar Night, and to Svalbard to witness both the Midnight Sun and a period of Twilight.
Contributing to the language of painting via honest and visceral reactions to natural light and landscapes is fundamental to my research. Working amid the sacred Arctic landscape has inspired holistic processes and alchemical experiments, involving grinding rocks to create ecologically sound pigments, which have been the elixir to significant paintings. Collaborating with Polar scientists during periods of Arctic research has also become central to my work and crucial to my awareness of geological and biological shifts within landscapes due to climate change.
Last Autumn I spent three weeks sailing around the Svalbard Archipelago as a member of The Arctic Circle Residency. I flew up to Longyearbyen after living in China for eight months and found the reality of transitioning between the two locations to be otherworldly. In China I felt compelled to share my first-hand experience of the Polar North with an audience who is 4,000 miles from the source.

17.45 Break and informal networking 

18.30 Evening Meal

20.00 Informal Ceilidh 


Barnhill Norman Bissell

Readings of extracts from his newly published novel Barnhill about the last years in the life of George Orwell on the Isle of Jura and elsewhere. Some humorous, some serious – as in his desperate struggle to finish Nineteen Eighty-Four – all containing fresh insights into the complex man who tried to live self-sufficiently on Jura and whose work is becoming more and more relevant. Q&A and discussion.


20.30 The Tone Poets Alan Gay

The quintet comprises mandolins, mandola and guitar. Poetry speaks to the heart through the use of language. Tone Poets aim to capture this experience through music and its many moods and harmonies. The repertoire is eclectic: traditional, light classical, baroque, pop, Latin, Greek.


21.00 The Mother Country Helen Moore

A poetry reading from her forthcoming poetry collection, The Mother Country including words in Dharug, an indigenous language native to the Sydney region of Australia. It will explore legacies of the British Empire in Australia and Scotland, alongside personal, social and ecological dispossession.

21.30 The Tone Poets

22.00 Come all ye

Sunday 16 June

9.00 Breakfast

Free time to explore and be creative

11.30 Workshops


Plants that draw themselves Tina Scopa

The purpose of this workshop is to discover delight, surprise and wonder in the forms and pigments of plants we call weeds. It will begin with a walk to collect the plants, noticing how and where they grow, which we will use to make very simple prints on to paper where the plants will draw themselves, so no drawing or art skills are required.


Touching the Earth / Voicing the Land Helen Boden

This workshop will involve close listening to ambient sounds  running water, wind, birdsong . . . in a playful attempt to catch, vocalise and transcribe their sonic signature. Well also work with our own bodily rhythms  breath, footfall to produce some performance and text art incorporating any unfolding themes during the conference.


Perception Practices: Stone Ways Claire Pencak 

This workshop explores our relationship to stone and ground through embodied practice. We will work in the company of stones through a series of structured movement improvisations to allow stone ways to shape our moving and our mind and to discover what we can learn from stone about ourselves. No previous movement experience is required. 

13.00 Lunch and informal networking

14.00 Plenary Session: Feedback from Workshops and Presentations

+ The Ecological and Climate Emergency – what actions are needed and what can Geopoetics contribute?

15.00 Presentation

Scotland 2040: An Outline of a Future Gerry Hassan 

Scotland and the wider world face enormous questions about the future and sustainability of humanity and planet earth. Scotland 2040 will examine the terrain of the present and change we have gone through, and look at the drivers and dynamics which will shape the future. It will pose that what is required is a mass imagination which engages in futures literacy by bringing to the foreground peoples capacity to think about and imagine the future.

15.40 Plenary Session: Follow Up and Future Plans

Questions, Answers and full Discussion.

16.30 Close