St Magnus Way: A Literary Pilgrimage

ST Magnus Way Swannay Bell

Swannay, St Magnus Way credit: Bell

We’ve featured the amazing St Magnus Way many times in The Orkney News. The ceremonies celebrating the opening up of each part, the App that you can now easily download and the request to support its funding application.

Walkers of the St Magnus Way over the next three months will notice that new posters and post boxes have appeared along the pilgrimage route. These are part of the Literary Pilgrimage project, a collaboration between St Magnus Way, Orkney College UHI and Book Week Scotland.

Dr Ragnhild Ljosland, lecturer at Orkney College UHI, explained:

“It is a bit like a treasure hunt for texts.

“At Orkney College UHI, we offer a degree in creative writing. We wanted to create some activities around this and got in contact with Book Week Scotland, who explained that of course all activities this year must have social distancing. It struck me that St Magnus Way offered the perfect solution.”

The St Magnus Way is a 55 mile pilgrimage route running across the Orkney Mainland and Egilsay, which opened in 2017 for the 900th anniversary of the death of Orkney’s patron saint.

The idea of the Literary Pilgrimage was born. The St Magnus Way was immediately on board, and organisation got under way with contacting writers and landowners for permission.

Ragnhild Ljosland, continued:

“There are so many wonderful writers in Orkney. Of course there are the local classics, such as Robert Rendall and Christina Costie, but also brilliant writers who are active today, such as Amy Liptrot, Yvonne Gray, Rosie Alexander, Luke Sutherland, Andrew Greig, John Aberdein – the list goes on!”

“In the Literary Pilgrimage project, we put out posters with texts by Orkney writers along the 55 mile pilgrimage route. The locations are chosen so that they fit with the text, and what you can see from there.

“Orkney writers, I think, have a special gift for rooting their writing deeply with the place, and physically putting them out in the landscape where they belong make text and landscape resonate with each other.

“Also, we have thought about the themes of each leg of the St Magnus Way route, and chosen texts that speak to these, for example “peace”, “loss,”, “growth”, “change”, “forgiveness” and “hospitality”. Hopefully, when people are out walking, they will find the texts and it will make their day extra special.”

Hoping that the encounter between people, texts and place will stir emotion and thoughts, there will also be post boxes at the end of each leg of the route where walkers can post notes with their own words in response.

Walkers are asked to use their own pen and paper when posting notes into the response boxes.

Sara Bailey, Programme Leader for Creative Writing at UHI and herself a published writer, said:

“This is a wonderful way of highlighting the creativity in Orkney and I hope this will inspire the next generation of writers thinking of Orkney College to develop their creative skills.”

All the notes left in the St Magnus Way post boxes will be collected at the end of October. Stromness poet, Yvonne Gray, Literary Pilgrimage Poet, will develop an original poem from the responses. This will be published  during Book Week, 16-22 November.

Yvonne Gray Stromness poetYvonne Gray said:

“During lockdown I’ve been writing renga – a Japanese form of collaborative poetry– by email with writers from around Orkney, so it’s something quite special to be asked to create this new work for the St Magnus Way. It feels like another collaboration, a piece inspired by and drawing together the varied voices of the people who walk these paths through Orkney.”

For those who would like to participate, see the St Magnus Way Facebook page for locations of the response boxes.

Link: St Magnus Way

For this project contact:

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