Edinburgh primary school pupils win Message from the Skies writing competition to see their words writ large across the city

15th January

Edinburgh primary school pupils win Message from the Skies writing competition to see their words writ large across the city  

Four young writers have won a creative writing competition as part of the Message from the Skies project and will see their own words projected on buildings across Edinburgh alongside those of some of Scotland’s most acclaimed authors. The winning writers all penned a letter about their hometown of Edinburgh and how they explore and encounter its coast and waterways as part of the competition.

Conor Sheridan (P4), Evie Munro (P4) from Pentland Primary School and Josie Maxwell (P5), Olivia Liddell (P6) from St Margaret's Primary School, South Queensferry will all see their own work projected onto four buildings in Edinburgh between 4pm and 5pm just ahead of Message from the Skies 2020 Shorelines which runs until 10pm each day until Burns Night on 25 January. Conor’s piece will be projected onto The Malmaison hotel in Leith, Evie’s will be projected by the Union Canal in Fountainbridge, Josie’s will be projected onto Edinburgh’s City Chambers and Olivia’s will be projected onto Northern Lighthouse Board building on George Street.

The creative writing competition was open to all under 18-year olds in Edinburgh and was developed in partnership with Arts & Creative Learning, City of Edinburgh Council.

Message from the Skies 2020 Shorelines which launched on 1st January marks the third edition of the innovative cross artform collaboration, delivered by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay producer Underbelly on behalf of the City of Edinburgh Council in partnership with The Edinburgh International Book Festival.   

Welcoming the beginning of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, the words of five celebrated writers: Charlotte Runcie, Irvine Welsh, Kathleen Jamie, Kayus Bankole and Robin Robertson – will illuminate and animate landmarks around the city, from Fountainbridge to Leith with a maritime theme this January. These are told through a series of dazzling projections created by artists, designers and filmmakers including; Bright Side Studios, Double Take Projections, Kate Charter, Norman Harman, Rianne White, and Thomas Moulson and feature original music by Alasdair Roberts, Kayus Bankole, Pippa Murphy, and Steve Mac.

Conor Sheridan (8) from Pentland Primary School said: "Waterways are important and needed. It was fun writing the letter to Edinburgh and I hope it teaches visitors about our city"

Evie Munro (8) from Pentland Primary School said: "We have to look after our water. We are lucky in Edinburgh because we have lots and lots and lots of water.”

Josie Maxwell (9) from St Margaret’s Primary School said: "I feel so happy and grateful that I won. I wrote about plastic because I do think this is a thing we NEED to solve now. It will be an amazing opportunity to meet Kayus Bankole!"

Olivia Liddell (10) from St Margaret's Primary School said: "I chose to write about Port Edgar because I feel most connected to it. I live in South Queensferry in Edinburgh so it's in my home-town. The first time I heard about the Message from the Skies competition I thought I had no chance of winning, but I felt ecstatic when my teacher told me I had been picked!"

Amanda Rogers, Producer for Message from the Skies 2020 said: “While the theme of Scotland’s coasts and waters certainly proved to be an incredibly rich inspiration for our five acclaimed authors commissioned for this year’s Message from the Skies, we also received a wonderful selection of entries from Edinburgh-based pupils about their experience with waterways in and around their hometown. There were many lovely and thoughtful responses to our School Competition call out, but what came out of all of the writings that were selected as winners was a heartfelt appreciation of Edinburgh as coastal city that possessed a wide array of waterways, from canals to beaches to reservoirs, as well a personal dedication that many of these pupils possess in taking care of one the city’s most valuable resources.”

For Message from the Skies 2020 Shorelines, each acclaimed author has penned words to Scotland, exploring how we regard ourselves as a coastal nation while considering how the world sees us across the seas, each told with a very different voice, often reflecting troubled waters past and present. Each is a living piece, animated and brought to life through a set of new collaborations with composers, visual artists and artists who have worked to realise each writer’s words in live animation to be projected across the city, creating a new trail of enlightenment which is free for all to discover in the dark winter nights.  

Charlotte Runcie – Kate Charter- Pippa Murphy (narration by Karine Polwart)- Northern Lighthouse Board, George Street

In “Lightkeepers,” Runcie writes about lighthouses, real and symbolic, and their connection to literature and hope. Using its location as inspiration, this piece looks at Scotland’s history of lighthouses including those built by engineering pioneer, Robert Stevenson, grandfather of the acclaimed Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson. 

Visuals designed by animator Kate Charter, music composed by Pippa Murphy, and narration and singing by Karine Polwart blend together onsite in a combined visual and musical experience that celebrates both Scotland’s literary and maritime heritage.

Irvine Welsh - Steve Mac - Norman Harman –Double Take Projections - Malmaison, Leith

In “The Sea”, Irvine Welsh recounts particular lessons and inspirations he received, as a boy, from a very well-travelled sailor he met growing up in Leith that ultimately made him who he is today. 

Edinburgh-based artist Norman Harman uses his digital disruptive style to create a surrealist sea landscape of fused archive film underneath Welsh’s words projected on the façade of the Malmaison Hotel, formerly a sailor’s mission itself, by Double Take Projections. The film is complemented by an industrial-inspired, mesmeric track composed by one of Welsh’s long-time musical collaborators, Steve Mac.

Kathleen Jamie – Thomas Moulson - Bright Side Studios - Union Canal, Fountainbridge

Kathleen Jamie’s poem, “Seascape with WEC,” captures her curiosity with new wave energy converters she witnessed being tested on the Orkney Islands. 

Thomas Moulson designed the visuals, using abstract elements, bold text, and a vibrantly colourful palette inspired by ideas of kinetic energy and symmetry to bring the poem to life while Bright Side Studios gently animates his work creating a playful reflection on the water above the Union Canal at Fountainbridge.

Kayus Bankole – Rianne White – Edinburgh City Chambers, High Street

Kayus Bankole’s “Sugar for Your Tea” reflects on the darker side of Scotland’s maritime history, bringing into focus those Scottish merchants and businessmen who profited off of the slave trade and whose names are still on streets and landmarks across our cities. Additionally, Bankole’s words and original soundscape share a personal reflection of his own identity as a Scotsman while also offering a memorial to his ancestors who had yet to be remembered properly. 

Bankole himself is filmed through water and light by choreographer and filmmaker, Rianne White, performing his written words as projected on top of Edinburgh’s City Chambers with the help of projection mapping designers, Double Take Projections.

Robin Robertson - Bright Side Studios - Alasdair Roberts – Nelson Monument, Calton Hill  

Robin Robertson’s “Ten Thousand Miles of Edge” takes us on a journey across Scotland’s vast island and coastal geography, incorporating personal reflections on what makes the country’s seaside landscape so integral to Scotland’s identity as an island nation. 

Robertson narrates his piece while composer Alasdair Roberts creates a fitting musical score inspired by strains of Scottish music both elegiac (piobiareachd) and sacred (Hebridean psalmody). Designers and filmmakers, Susanna Murphy and Cristina Spiteri of Bright Side Studios, bring it all together with powerful, expressive imagery, pulling out locations in time with the narration across the Nelson Monument, immersing the audience in the spoken word, the music, and the visuals.

A Message from the Skies App has been specifically designed to enhance the experience; for non-English speakers it translates the pieces into four different languages: Chinese, French, German and Spanish, as well as giving greater access for all with text and audio versions of the letters and maps for guidance built into the app as well as some audio commentary from the writers themselves.   

Message from the Skies is commissioned and presented by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay in partnership with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and produced by Underbelly in association with Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, and funded by Creative Scotland through the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals EXPO Fund.

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