Monday, 15 October 2012

Spaekan Orcadian

We've enjoyed a fantastic few days here in Orkney at Kirkwall Library with the Orcrime Festival featuring Lin Anderson, Ann Cleeves, Paul Harrison, Denise Mina and Tom Muir. All the author events were either sold out or pretty close. It was a treat to hear Ann, Denise, Lin, Paul and Tom speak about their work and their methods.  

Tom tells his wonderfully rich stories in the Orkney dialect and everyone sits on the edge of their seats to listen.  

But when it came to the Q&A from the audience at the end, there was a distinct absence of Orkney voices. Why is that? 

This is in no way an anti-incomer question; it was good that people were prepared to speak up and ask questions of the writers and storytellers. You could see that some of those who did had to screw their courage to the sticking place to raise their hand. But - apart from mine, modified by years sooth, and one or two library staff - not a single Orcadian voice could be heard asking questions of the writers. What is that about?

It's not an anti-Orcadian question either. Just a puzzle. Maybe by the end of my time here I'll have worked it out ...

Readers' Comments

"If I'm waiting to meet somebody or I'm early for an appointment, I'll come into the library, pick a book off the shelf, snuggle down and read a couple of chapters. This is the best library I've ever been to - and I've been all around."

"I read a lot. If I don't have a book on the go, I feel desperate. I get panicky."
Linda Shearer

Louise's Favourite Book

Louise is Assistant Librarian here. Her favourite book is The Gentle Art of Domesticity by Jane Brocket: She's borrowed it ten times with four renewals in the last two years. It covers many different domestic arts Louise wishes she had time to pursue. "I do wonder if I put it under my pillow, if I would learn it all by osmosis." It's available for anyone with a library card to borrow too - if you can wrest it from Louise's hands!

Recording Writers

I managed to make audio recordings of three of the writers who appeared at Orcrime, talking about reading, libraries, books. Two more to go. I'll be turning these into blogs when my tecnological expertise catches up with my good intentions ...

Leaving Comments

Please leave comments at the end about anything to do with reading, books, libraries.



  1. You know I think there are more folk from sooth here,now, and they are more...noisy! I was there and thought about speaking, but didna. Maybe we need a different forum

    1. Sorry, Morag, I didn't see this till last night. Not quite got the hang of it yet!

      In relation to your post, does it really explain why Orkney folk don't want to raise their voices in public to talk about books and reading? Given that loads of folk born and raised locally take part in the SCDA plays, local operas and the St Magnus Festival, and you hear plenty Orkney accents among those talking about farming and fishing, renewable energy, council matters and other important community issues, what is it about reading books that renders these voices silent?

      As I said, this is emphatically not anti-incomer. I've been an incomer myself in Glasgow for many years and now, returning to Orkney, I am a strange mixture of native and incomer. And incidentally, Reader, I married an incomer! Maybe my time in Glasgow has blunted my memory of northern reticence. My first experience of organising adult education classes was in Aberdeen. People there were pretty reticent too. When I came to work in Glasgow, I found that people wouldn't shut up! It is a much more vocal and voluble culture.

      I appreciate the folk who do ask questions at events. And so did the writers who attended Orcrime, who commented on how friendly and up for discussion the audiences were. I could also tell that some of those who did speak weren't all that confident. Speaking up in public settings has never been particularly comfortable for me either. Have I also picked up sensitivities among those who do contribute, an awareness that they might have the 'wrong' accent to be making points? If so that's not a good thing either. But I'm not sure I've learned to 'read' all the signs accurately yet.

      You may be right about having a different forum. Does one already exist?


Tell me your stories about reading; share your experiences of Orkney Libraries; let me know your favourite books and tell me why you like them.