“A Breath of Fresh Air”: The Story of the Orcadian Suffragists

It was just over a week ago that Orcadian artist Martin Laird strolled down the red carpet at the Glasgow School of Art accompanied by his wife Anna. Martin was in Glasgow to attend the Scottish Short Film Festival 2019 and to pick up an award for the animation, ‘A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm’.

Martin Laird with his wife, Anna

The animated story of the Orcadian Woman’s Suffrage Society, won the award in the category of Most Creative/Original and was hand painted, created and directed by Martin Laird. Produced by Laird Creations for The Orkney News, the film and the accompanying educational materials was made possible by the Scottish Government Centenary Fund.

Researched and written by Fiona Grahame it is a story that has mostly been  forgotten about the suffragists in Orkney.   The visuals are accompanied by a haunting original musical score composed by James Watson. Kim Foden provides the narration in a clear, well-spoken Orkney accent.

A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm - the animated story of the Orcadian Woman's Suffrage Society

Rosann Ferrier, one of the judges at the Scottish Short Film Festival, described ‘A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm’ as “a breath of fresh air.”

The awards ceremony took place on Saturday the 27th of July at the Art School on Scott Street in Glasgow.  Selected short films were screened for the audience and followed by a Q&A with the film-makers.  Martin Laird was there to answer questions and accept the award for Most Creative/Original on behalf of the team.

‘A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm’ was released to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8th 2019.  It premiered at the Phoenix Cinema in Kirkwall, where it was shown alongside a week of films featuring female leads or directors.  It has now been shown at several film festivals around the country, including XpoNorth in Inverness, and is free to watch online on YouTube.

The animation is part of an education pack copies of which can be found in the Orkney Library and Archive and Glasgow Women’s Library. Although schools in Orkney have shown no interest so far in the well researched resources anyone who wishes to have a copy can get one by contacting Fiona: fiona@theorkneynews.scot.  Fiona has also given a talk about the Orcadian Suffragists to the U3A and is available to any groups in Orkney who would like to hear about this wonderful local story.

The Scottish Short Film Festival has grown significantly since it’s inception, with the 2019 event screening thirty-six films over two days.  The selected films varied widely in style and subject matter, and it was encouraging that women were well represented both on screen and behind the camera.

What’s Next?

The team behind  ‘A Gude Cause Maks A Strong Erm’ are now engaged in pre-production work on another untold story from Orkney. Their forthcoming documentary will tell the story of the people who lost their lives aboard the Royal Navy Destroyer HMS Pheasant when it struck a mine off Rora Head, Hoy on 1st of March 1917 with no survivors.

An exhibition is already planned starting on 30th of November 2019, in the Northlight Gallery, Stromness as part of St Andrews Fair Saturday. A talk will take place the week before on 23rd of November in the McGillvray Room, Orkney Library, Kirkwall from 2 – 4pm. All are welcome to hear about the 89 men who lost their lives in the cold waters of Orkney on that fateful day in March.

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