Three young writers from Falkirk and Kirkcaldy win Message from the Skies creative writing competition.

16th January




Nathan (S2) from Balwearie High in Kirkcaldy, Louise (S3) and Arianna (S4) both from Braes High School in Falkirk have won a competition run by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay to write a love letter to Europe.

The three winners will have their work projected onto three buildings in Edinburgh between 4.30pm and 5pm just ahead of Message from the Skies which starts at 5pm and runs until 10pm each day until Burns Night on 25 January. Louise’s Dear Flachau will be projected onto the Tron Kirk, Arianna’s Dear France will be projected onto the Bongo Club at the Cowgate, and Nathan’s Paris will be projected onto the National Monument on Calton Hill.

The creative writing competition was open to all under 18-year olds in Edinburgh, the Lothians, Fife and Stirlingshire.

[The winning entries are at the foot of this release]

Message from the Skies is a unique cross artform collaboration with ten of Scotland’s best artists, designers and musicians and six Scottish or Scotland based writers who have penned a love letter to Europe as part of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay 19. Works by Chitra Ramaswamy, Kapka Kassabova, Louise Welsh, Stef Smith, William Dalrymple and William Letford are projected onto buildings in Scotland’s capital, the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, at the start of the year in which we may leave the European Union.

Message from the Skies is presented as part of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay 19 which leads with a passionate celebration of Scotland’s shared cultural, historic and social connections with Europe.


Nathan, age 12 from Balwearie High in Kirkcaldy said; “First of all, I’d like to thank my RME teacher, Miss Donnelly, for this amazing experience. Without her mentioning this competition to me, I wouldn’t be able to witness my story projected onto the National Monument on Calton Hill.”

“My poem first came to mind after thinking about some key themes, such as Love for Europe, and Peace. This little idea slowly grew into what I could call ‘my finished poem. The fact that I was chosen, out of all the other entries, made me feel extremely overjoyed! I’ve never felt so good. Message from the Skies has inspired me to keep writing.”

Louise, age 14 from Braes High School in Falkirk said; “It feels amazing to be part of such an interesting project. The idea of projecting the letters on to buildings was so incredible to me so I was very excited to enter. I wrote my letter after looking through pictures of a holiday and listening to music. It suddenly hit me that the pictures were like little frozen memories that I could base my letter around. Seeing my story on such a big space where people can see it, is a very proud moment for me, I never thought something like this would happen.”

Arianna, age 14 from Braes High School in Falkirk said; “I thoroughly enjoyed writing as a part of the Message from the Skies project though I had no idea I would win. I just wanted my letter to mean something, so I chose to highlight the importance of acceptance as well as the love that can be present even in the most difficult of times, which I think is incredibly important.”

Suzy Glass, Producer of Message from the Skies said, Suzy Glass, Producer for Underbelly said,“Arianna, Louise and Nathan’s winning entries will bring the voices of the young people of Scotland to the fore. Their powerful short pieces showcase and celebrate our personal, historical and cultural relationship with Europe. They will light up three major Scottish landmarks from now until Burns Night, standing side-by-side with Love Letters to Europe created by critically acclaimed writers Kapka Kassabova, Stef Smith and William Dalrymple.”

Working with Underbelly, each writer has collaborated with visual artists, projection artists and composers – a total of 16 creatives - to bring their letters to life and writ them large on the walls of Edinburgh.

Message from the Skies is free to attend and is supported by Creative Scotland through the Scottish Government’s Festivals EXPO Fund.

Underbelly for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and the Edinburgh International Book Festival have realised the vision of six writers across six sites. Working with Suzy Glass, each writer has collaborated with visual artists, projection artists and composers – a total of 16 creatives - to bring their letters to life and writ them large on the walls of Edinburgh.

Each writer’s letter marks Scotland’s shared historic, social and cultural connections with this family of nations in a creative response to the context of our times.


Chitra Ramaswamy – Emma Pollock – Daniel Warren – Custom House, Leith

Guardian columnist and author, Chitra writes a comment piece about her childhood in London, holidaying in Spain, moving to Edinburgh as an adult, discussing her identity as a second-generation immigrant in the UK and in Europe.

Daniel Warren works with archive and live action footage to tell Chitra’s story; the film has an accompanying track composed and performed by Emma Pollock.


Kapka Kassabova – Bright Side Studios – Pippa Murphy - The Scottish Monument, Calton Hill

Bulgarian born, Highland based writer and poet Kapka writes about the origins of Europa, touching on deep time, mythology and legend. She explores how Europe is more permanent and enduring than detailed political ideas that dominate our everyday world.

Founded by Susanna Murphy and Cristina Spiteri, Bright Side Studios has created images from Kapka’s writing which come into focus before dissolving into nothing. Pippa Murphy brings together a soundtrack which fuses her music with found audio inspired by Bulgarian polyphonic music, Mesopotamian and Gaelic female chanting.


Louise Welsh – Emlyn Firth – Tech Cube, Summerhall

Glasgow-based author of short stories and psychological thrillers, Louise has developed a poetic statement about our shared origins and culture, accompanied by a series of words translated between Scots and European mainland languages which demonstrates that though our dialects are different we can still be understood. 

Emlyn Firth uses a typographic approach to illustrate Louise’s work, playing with themes of language and communication.


Stef Smith – MJ McCarthy – Eleanor Meredith – Bongo Club, Cowgate

Stef is one of Scotland’s most exciting young playwrighting talents, here she writes a poetic letter that charts the decline of a relationship, an emotion-laden narrative where celebration and excess collide.

MJ McCarthy’s sweeping ambient score and Eleanor Meredith’s saturated watercolours come together to bring Stef’s letter to life.


William Dalrymple – RJ McConnell – Double Take Projections – Tron Kirk

One of the world’s leading historical writers, William considers the Scots’ historical relationship with mainland Europe, highlighting significant archeological discoveries both at home and further afield to demonstrate the deep and long bonds that connect us.

Composer RJ McConnell has created a jigsaw of musical voices reflecting the different places and eras Dalrymple covers in his writing, while Double Take Projections is bringing William’s story to life through timelapse.


William Letford – James Houston – Leith Library

Scottish poet Billy writes a lyrical letter full of nostalgia and humour to a past love with whom he explored Italy as a younger man.

Billy's piece has been brought to life by James Houston, who has developed a typographical approach that responds to the rhythm and pace of Billy's writing.


Message from the Skies is free to attend, and each piece can be enjoyed individually. It runs from dusk till 10pm nightly from 1 January until 25 January 2019 and is developed in partnership with Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature and supported by Creative Scotland through the Scottish Government’s Festivals EXPO Fund.

A free app, developed by Edinburgh based Odd Panda, accompanies Message from the Skies, containing the letters in their written form, audio versions for visually impaired and foreign language versions of each work in Chinese, Spanish, German and French.

Ed Bartlam & Charlie Wood, directors of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, said: “Over two hundred years ago, Burns penned the poem to Mrs Dunlop that inspired this project and wrote that “something in us never dies, on [our] frail uncertain state, hang matters of eternal weight”. So it’s wonderful at the start of 2019 to invite these amazing artists to Hogmanay and ask them to collaborate with other artists and respond to this “matter” and explore our ties to Europe by writing, animating and composing a love letter. These letters celebrate our deep, eternal and passionate connections with Europe and it’s exciting to be able to share them with Scotland and the world as they come to celebrate Hogmanay in our capital city.” 

On announcing the exciting artists and locations of Message from the Skies,

Minister of Europe, Migration and International Development, Ben Macpherson, responsible for the Winter Festivals, said: “Edinburgh is one of the world’s best known cities for bringing in the New Year. Few places celebrate quite like Scotland – the home of the world-renowned Hogmanay celebrations.

“Scotland’s ties with our European friends and neighbours stretch back many centuries. This initiative reflects those ties of friendship, business, culture and commerce – strong ties that the Scottish Government is determined to see endure, whatever the New Year holds in terms of the Brexit process.

“The Scottish Government is a long-time supporter of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, having provided £180,000 for this year’s festivities via our Expo fund, to enhance this festival and make sure it continues to have the same massive international reach – and so that Hogmanay continues to demonstrate Scotland’s values of fairness, diversity and openness, as well as our unique and inclusive culture.

“A range of events are on offer this year, continuing Edinburgh’s reputation as one of the best cities in the world in which to start the New Year.”

Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, said: "We have thoroughly enjoyed working with Edinburgh's Hogmanay to select these six authors, all of whom will bring something different to this excellent project.  Following on from the success of the project last year, Message from the Skies once again brings the city to life in the dark days of January."

Ali Bowden - Director, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, said: “Message from the Skies is a bold and dazzling project that brings literature to the streets of our capital, for the world to see. These superb artists and writers are speaking to us all, opening up a conversation with us about one of the most important issues of our time.” 

Latest Social