A year of inspirational writing about life and nature in the Cairngorms National Park has been captured in a new book, which is being launched today (Thursday 21 November).
Shared Stories – A Year in the Cairngorms is an anthology exploring how people and nature thrive together. The works have been compiled by the Cairngorms National Park’s first ever Writer in Residence, Merryn Glover and project manager Anna Fleming, whose own observations are included in the book along with writings from residents young and old as well as established writers such as Linda Cracknell and Alec Finlay.
From the outset of the 12 month project, Merryn enthusiastically encouraged anyone and everyone to put pen to paper to share their love of nature in the Cairngorms National Park and their relationship with it.
Writing workshops were held all over the Park during 2019, including at the Cairngorms Nature Big Weekend, Forest Fest and the Rural Skills Day, as well as in local schools, and there were also special workshops for rangers and land based workers.
Merryn Glover, Writer in Residence explained: ‘We set out to encourage people to write creatively about how we and nature thrive together and as the first Writer in Residence for the Cairngorms National Park, my role was to facilitate this work through a varied programme of activities taking me all over the Park. For me, it has been a year of gifts – I have learnt so much from my experience doing this and I am very proud to see the launch of Shared Stories: A Year in the Cairngorms.
‘The book captures the range of voices and experiences that have responded to the project and the work contained within it spans young children to a woman in her 80s; academics to farmers; ‘locals’ to visitors. There are works commissioned from four professional authors and anonymous pieces found amongst papers at the end of drop-in workshops; there are poems and prose pieces; serious reflections and comic encounters; enduring memories and luminous visions. We hope people enjoy it for years to come.’
Linda Cracknell added: ‘This book is a marker of a special project – I can sense the buzz it’s created. People who live around or love the National Park area have been lit up by the opportunity to write about it. Given the tools and encouragement, people are often surprised by their own creativity and this is a great way to connect people, through words, ever closer to a place, its people and the unique experiences and insights offered. It could be a great model for other organisations wanting heartfelt public engagement.’
Grant Moir, chief executive of the Cairngorms National Park Authority – who also has a piece of work published in the book – said: ‘I thought a writer-in-residence would be a great idea but the day I saw 20 kids sitting at Loch Morlich as part of the Rural Skills Day all silently writing Cairngorms lyrics was when I knew this project was something special. The stories written throughout the year really get to the heart of the Cairngorms. Everyone who has been involved has got something out of it and a lot of that is down to Merryn.’
Alan Smith, outdoor learning officer at the CNPA agreed: ‘This project came about because we all know that the well-being of the natural environment and the people of the Park are inter-dependent. Through this project we have been able to delve deeper into that relationship through creative writing and story-telling activities with participants creating pieces of writing that inspire and give insights into our relationship with the landscape and wildlife. And now that we have the published anthology we can relay those outdoor experiences to a much wider audience for them to enjoy.’
Shared Stories: A Year in the Cairngorms has been organised and part funded by the CNPA with a funding award of £8,000 from Creative Scotland and £10,000 from the Woodland Trust. Copies of the anthology will be available locally in the Park for a donation to The Cairngorms Trust, visit www.cairngorms.co.uk for details.