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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

07/12/23 - Creative Practitioners In Discussion

7TH December:

Creative Practitioners in Discussion: Non-fiction writing residents 2022



This entry is a small conversation reflecting briefly on an online event/symposium I have just been partaking in as an audience member. I wanted to witness this event due to the correlations it has with my research practice, especially around the ideas of intimacy, solitude, nature and writing. The event was presented by the Bothy Project, the project being 'a unique and independent charitable organisation operating in a set of rural contexts, providing creative residences in bespoke small-scale, off-grid creative residency spaces to explore creativity, landscape and living simply.' I was first introduced to the Bothy Project some time ago, when I was searching for bothies to visit for my own independent residencies. It is an organisation that I have not had any previous involvement with but I have kept an eye on with events, programmes and opportunities it promotes. Hopefully sometime in the near future an opportunity will arise where my research can migrate within the ethos of the BP.


This event was an online discussion which centred around the participants of the BP's non-writing residency which occurred throughout mid to late 2022. The residents involved were Gaar Adams, Anna Baum, Sophie Lau, Lisette Monroe, Eleanor McCullough and Natasha Ruwona. The residents were selected by panellist and writer Cal Flyn who also co-hosted the event, leading the first series of questions. The event promoted the first of a series of discussions the BP wished to disseminate to wider audiences across the globe, aiming for residents to share and discuss their research and outcomes. Each resident took up a week-long residency at Sweeney's Bothy on the Isle of Eigg in Scotland.


The residents discussed in turns their experiences at Sweeney's Bothy as well as introducing their writing practices, where they are in terms of their research, what their expectations were and as well, they shared their outcomes and/or extracts from the work they created. It was a light discussion, one far away from heavy academic institutional jargon. It presented itself as a place for all types of creative practitioners working within/around this theme of nature to be involved as an open community, welcoming the idea of shared dialogue. Each practitioner brought forward their own specific themes which ranged from queerness, family relations, solitude, sense of place, feminist values and much more. The conversations presented had their own unique stance of how they formulated themselves into this idea of landscape but more specifically how did the resident utilise the bothy to encourage an outcome(s).


The resident who stood out or I felt a research connection with was that of Anna Baum. Anna wonderfully shared an honest and personal account of her own self and why she felt the need to experience the bothy as a place of retreat and of creative escapism. Anna felt a need for loneliness, outlining her social anxieties and the pain it can cause her, and within her introductory statements I realised that my own discussions around social constraints are within the realm of her queries. She felt that she was constricted in her movements, she shared a pain with the Earth because of humanities presence and disregard for landscape. Her work was hand written either within a journal or on her phone and she stated that entries of text, although scrappy at time, were a collection of no bad ideas but elements of thought that could be pieced together and brought into a form of descriptive romanticism. I found that romanticism through the extract she showcased to the event audience. It was beautifully described, allowing for the audience to be a visual architect within their mind. Anna did present alongside her descriptive writing a short video that showcased her walks and experiences on the Isle of Eigg.


I wanted to discuss with Anna the issues she dwelt on about how difficult it was to escape humanity and the fears she has when reconnecting with beings and/or when she knew she had to return or come across an element of the human. I was seeing the concerns I have within my research and especially within this point in time as I look to refer my work to the university panel. I therefore took up the opportunity to ask Anna the following question in which she kindly replied.


RA - 'From your extract it is clear a form or longing for the romantic sublime landscape to exist is described in your work. With this there is an inclusion and need for solitude and some silence (a reminder of Sara Maitland) but you discuss these intimate concerns of interjecting with humanity. How do you navigate a landscape that still evidences elements of humanity. As I saw from the visuals there is human present (not directly) but through what is made. Roads, walkways, houses etc - Do you have an understanding or a recognition of the landscape as a non-pristine wilderness? How do you find and visualise that need for the non-human?'


AB - 'Pure wilderness was what I searched for, I wanted to separate myself, my artificial self and the artificial human. I felt there was a bodily response, maybe an otherness or even maybe a tension found that I wanted to belong to something, a landscape but it is difficult to discover. That is recognised from me with those human elements you ask about and to be honest I am still trying to figure out how to do so.'


Unfortunately I only got to ask one question but hopefully I will be able to explore Anna's research some more within the future and how exactly has it developed. I did very much so enjoy her honesty with struggling to figure out how she navigates the human and tension with her own self. It is profitable to be within a state of tension and entanglement, I often discuss this throughout my blog entries and it is refreshing to hear within a symposium that other practitioners are working to discover a means to represent ideas that I deem impactful.


For more information on the BP, please visit - https://www.bothyproject.com/

Image: Gaar Adams





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