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I’ve spent the last week in edit struggling to tell a complicated story in a simple way. I have a maxim that I try to apply to all my TV work, which is ‘simple stories well told’; it’s difficult to achieve sometimes.
I’d always thought this motto applies more to producing and directing films, because the process of making a coherent, entertaining story that works for a broadcaster’s audience is inherently complex.
But when I looked at the still photograph of Drew and Tiree, I see the maxim at work again. I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures that are contre jour. When colour and texture are removed, the essential is isolated without the detail.
The Feis movement was founded in the early eighties in response to a resurgence of interest in traditional music. At that time I worked as a freelance photographer and film maker in the Highlands and Islands. Then it was impossible not to be drawn to what was happening at the various Feisean that were springing up all over Scotland.
The first Feis I went to was in Barra in the summer of 1988. As I wandered from class to class in Castlebay school, it was clear that there was something fundamental happening to traditional music. Fiddles screeched, drums beat, children danced – an energy I’d never witnessed before was being unleashed.
It wasn’t just at the children’s Feis, but all around, amongst the tutors and those attending adult Feisean and events: there was a real feeling of optimism.
Over the years since then, a hard core of dedicated enthusiasts from all walks of life around Scotland have ensured that many of the wee ones of the Feis movement have become the big names of the traditional music scene in Scotland and much further afield. The Feis movement is a shining example of people working togther in communities to produce something far larger than the sum of the parts.
I’m watching Boys and Girls Alone on Channel 4. It’s about a hand picked gangle of 8 -11 year old kids, forced to live on their own in a Sussex reversion of ‘Lord of the Flies’ – but with girls, for god’s sake.
It made me laugh and occasionally made good comment on our younger generation, and their very confused parents.
But it also made me think how lucky these kids are compared with some children of the same age I met in Afghanistan. The child above has polio, and those below have had their legs blown off by landmines.
It’s often said of the Hebrides that it’s a great place to bring up children. The area has the highest number of graduates per head of population in the country.
But after finishing school many young people leave the islands for further education.
The lure of jobs and urban entertainment stops many returning, except for holidays.
This picture of Duncan Maynard was taken on Mangersta beach on the far west coast of Lewis in 1983.
These children are playing at a Gaelic medium school in Carnish, North Uist, which lies in the middle of the Hebrides.
Although there are some schools where Gaelic is taught like Carnish, it is not compulsory in Scotland to teach children the language. There are many who see Gaelic as the native language of Scotland, but it hasn’t got the same official status as either Irish or Welsh have in there own countries.
Many parents of children in the Gaelic medium schools that do exist in Scotland are not Gaelic speakers themselves, but prefer that their children learn the language.