Hi friends! As you might’ve seen me mention on twitter the other day, I’m going to be leading a series of online writing workshops over the next couple of months, as part of my stint as Historic Environment Scotland’s writer-in-residence. These workshops are completely free (although you will need to book yourself a ticket through HES’ site), and will feature a variety of discussions and writing exercises designed to be accessible for everyone, whether you’re a master wordsmith or have never picked up a pen before. I mean, if you’ve literally never picked up a pen before then one of these workshops seems like an odd place to start, but go for it. What I’m saying is that experienced poets and non-poets are equally welcome. You get me.
The workshops – of which there will be five in total – are part of HES’ Celebrating Columba project. 2021 marks the fifteen-hundredth anniversary of the birth of St. Columba, a 6th-century holy man who held a great deal of religious, social, and political influence in Scotland during his time as abbot of the monastery on Iona. You can learn a little more about St. Columba from this article I wrote for the HES blog back in March, but the gist is that he is, amongst other things, a patron saint of poets; it seems appropriate for us, then, to celebrate his life and legacy through poetry-centric events such as these workshops. Each workshop will explore and respond to a different aspect of Columba’s life, and while you are welcome to sign up to more than one, each workshop will be treated as standalone – you don’t have to attend all of them to understand and enjoy any one of them.
Below I’ve included the details, including links to book tickets, for the five forthcoming workshops. Note that all of the workshops will be run through Zoom, from 6:30pm to 8pm, and that participants will require something to write with (either pen and paper or a phone / computer will work fine).
St. Columba, the Exile
Thursday 20th May 2021
Born to a powerful Irish family, Columba fled his homeland in the company of twelve men and sailed for Scotland, where he would find one of the country’s most influential monasteries. In this workshop, poet in residence Alex Aldred will lead discussions and writing exercises exploring different perspectives on St. Columba’s exile.
St. Columba, the Cleric
Thursday 3rd June 2021
Whether he was spreading gospel amongst the Picts, or debating theology with the wider Christian community, Columba undeniably had a profound impact on 6th-century Scottish religion. In this workshop, poet in residence Alex Aldred invites you to engage in hagiographic writing – the chronicling of a holy man’s life.
St. Columba, the Diplomat
Thursday 17th June 2021
A scholar and preacher, Columba made his voice heard – or spoke up on behalf of others – in everything from minor disputes in local communities, to grand conventions of kings. In this workshop, poet in residence Alex Aldred will engage with depictions of St. Columba as messenger, both of his people and of the divine.
St. Columba, the Bard
Thursday 1st July 2021
The patron saint of poetry, Columba is remembered as a teacher of literacy, a defender of bards, a transcriber of manuscripts – and a hero immortalised in the words of others. In this workshop, poet in residence Alex Aldred will lead discussions and writing exercises responding to St. Columba’s poetic legacy.
St. Columba, the Legend
Thursday 15th July 2021
Between his religious work, his political influence, and his intellectual endeavours, it’s no surprise that tales and traditions concerning Columba’s life are still abound in Scotland today. But how much of the legend of St. Columba is really true – and how much does that truth matter? Poet in residence Alex Aldred invites you to find out.
If any of those take your fancy, sign up, and come join me for some writing-related hijinks. It’ll be a good time! The poetry portfolio I’ve been putting together as part of this project will also be launching soon, but I’ll share more with you about that a little closer to the time. For now, fare thee well, sweet traveller. Take yourself back out into the night.