Stories of Land and Water

01 Mar 2021

By Mira Waligora

This was the first of a series of events curated by Malachy Tallack under the title A Place For Hope.

It was a beautiful and organic conversation between three artists, the admiration and excitement about each other's work was palpable.

Patrick Laurie, a farmer, writer and conservationist spoke about his book Native. In it he talks about becoming a farmer in his home of Galloway. A place he describes as “unheard of” with people usually not really knowing where that is, thinking it’s maybe in Ireland. He says it is a beautiful place but not quite right for photographers with “contours that don’t match”, simply not being easy on the eye.

Kapka Kassabova, a multi award winning writer talks here about her book To The Lake. Her books are described as being about “the alchemy between people and places”. To the Lake is about lakes lying across national borders in the South west Balkans. She tells us that there are many definitions of the Balkans “depends how you describe the Balkans”, she further explores the definitions and histories of places and spaces and the ambiguities of these places and descriptions of places.

The conversation centred around the relationship that people have with places and the stories and histories those places hold.

I’m fascinated by the independence of all the areas in Scotland. I must admit before coming here I had no idea about the rich and varied island community. I’ve now visited Skye and the Orkney islands and time and time again I hear “oh but we are so different from the rest of Scotland.” “Histories are often complicated” tells us Kapka.

Patrick discussed on a current and pressing topic of rural places and their populations. In a lot of rural places there isn’t much “on” especially when compared with big cities like London, Edinburgh or Glasgow. He said it often can’t be helped to measure your hometown against the big cities. Local councils also fall short here by creating initiatives to help young people stay that are not based in the uniqueness and fundamental difference of what rural places have to offer. He says those rural places are just as interesting, and instead of presenting them as smaller versions of the big cities their individual strengths and identity need to be recognised and promoted.

The artists touched upon the way people relate to their sense of place, and I wish I could speak to the other people who attended this event. How do they relate to their sense of place? Where is home? Where would “your soul rest”? I find this question fascinating for anyone who has travelled or moved homes. My family stays in Finland and I’ve not been able to go back since Christmas 2019. My heart really yearns for the forests and the lakes. Just as strongly though I feel a connection with Scotland, with the mountains and the glens. There’s something insurmountably moving about being in nature. And that’s been one of the hardest things about this past year, the inability to freely explore and be in nature.

When asked by the audience about the changes a writer goes through during the writing process Patrick beautifully described “creative arts” as “generally is bottomless thrilling, endlessly exciting, and just the best and most rewarding area of the world to be involved in” he said he “can’t overstate the elation I had for days”. Kapka said that “of course, sometimes the most valuable changes a writer goes through are off the page.”

What transformations are we all going to go through for our radical new future? Kapka said that in urban places people often don’t know what their immediate surroundings are and Patrick talked about the specificity in farming not only in Galloway, but in his little corner of the area of Galloway he stays in. Listening to these authors talk about their love and exploration of places and the relationships between people and places, I wonder: where will we live in the future? Will city planning put a greater importance on green spaces and the alchemy of people and nature?

With remote and flexible working now a norm, how will cities change. Where will home be?

If you missed Kapka Kassabova and Patrick Laurie: Stories of Land and Water you can watch again with this link until 26th March. Patrick and Kapka's books are available here to purchase