The Scotsman Sessions #4: Karine Polwart

For almost 20 years, Karine Polwart has been a key figure on the Scottish traditional music scene; award-winning songwriter, musician, storyteller, and even a published essayist. In 2016, though, she turned her hand to the creation of her first solo theatre show, co-produced with the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh for that year’s Edinburgh International Festival. Wind Resistance – which was scheduled to return to the Lyceum stage this week, before all performances were cancelled – is a magnificent cycle of songs co-written by Polwart with the composer and sound designer Pippa Murphy, and linked by a narrative that resonates with a series of linked themes so profound, and so vital to the times we live in, that it often brings audience members to tears.

Karine Polwart lives in the Midlothian village of Pathhead, and loves the local landscape – including Fala moor, where she once lived in an old farm cottage – with a rare combination of curiosity, passion and profound knowledge. Wind Resistance tells the story of Will and Roberta Syme, the long-dead parents of Polwart’s old Fala neighbour Molly Kristensen; a couple who married just after the First World War, when Will returned to Fala, and whose marriage ended less than a year later with Roberta’s tragic death in childbirth.

Around this spine of narrative, though, Polwart weaves a whole range of other themes and stories, ranging from the difficult birth of her own first child, to her constant reflection on the power and beauty of the moor’s natural environment and wildlife, mirrored in this short video. Her narrative and songs encompass thoughts about war and peace, pain and healing, disco-dancing and football, and the often untold stories of women’s reproductive lives; when Polwart took this show to the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2017, women queued to talk to her afterwards about mothers, aunts and sisters long since lost in childbirth, and often mourned only in hushed whispers, because of the circumstances of their deaths.

Time and again, though, the imagery of Wind Resistance returns to our increasingly precarious relationship with the natural world that still lies so close to us, in this case just 15 miles south of Scotland’s capital city; and in particular to the idea of the skein of geese flying over Polwart’s house, on their autumn return to Fala from the north. For Polwart, the almost miraculous co-ordinated power of their flight is a defining image of the interdependence that binds human beings together in community, and also binds us into the natural world. There is an irony in the cancellation of performances of Wind Resistance because of a crisis that will place such untold pressure on the National Health Service, to which Polwart knows she – and all of us – owe so much. Yet there’s also a rich fulfilment of this show’s purpose; to remind us that we cannot and do not live alone; and that the institutions which best reflect our deep connection to the rest of humanity, are the ones which will save our lives.

The album of the show, A Pocket Of Wind Resistance, is available for purchase online at Until the end of June 2020, all income from digital sales of the album will be used to support Midlothian Food Bank. Karine Polwart is also currently supporting the Help Musicians UK fund, at

Listen to Karine’s session at: The Scotsman Sessions #4: Karine Polwart


The Hobbledehoy love Karine Polwart’s music

Edinburgh festivals cancelled for 2020

Edinburgh’s August festivals have been scrapped for 2020, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent global cultural shutdown. The festivals – which bring hundreds of thousands of artists, performers and audience members to the city every August – have pulled the plug on this year’s events after weeks of speculation over whether or not they would go ahead.

In a statement on their website, the Edinburgh Fringe Society’s Shona McCarthy said: “Today’s decision that the Fringe will not go ahead as planned was not taken lightly. We have spent the past month listening to a broad cross-section of Fringe participants, as well as to government, healthcare professionals, residents and many more; however, in light of present circumstances it was unavoidable. Public health must and always will come first.”

Artists who have already applied to perform at the Fringe will receive a full refund of their registration fee or the option to roll it over for 2021. Ticket-holders who have purchased tickets for 2020 shows, many of which have been on sale for weeks, will be refunded. [ . . . ]

Source: The Skinny

Comfort and Joy – Meeting Mr. Bunny

If you are among the many Hobbledehoy who love Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero and Gregory’ Girl, we’d love to introduce you to a lesser-known classic from the Scot director, Comfort and Joy. Here’s a wee clip with Bill Patterson (as radio DJ Dicky Bird) and Clare Grogan, and Alex Norton.

Comfort and Joy is about a war between two Italian families, the Bernardis and the Rossis, over whose ice cream vans can sell where in Glasgow. It’s also about finding meaning in life.

Oh, and that cool music soundtrack with the vibes? Mark Knofler. -who also wrote the original music for Local Hero.

There was a real “Ice Cream War” in Glasgow in 1984, and it led to murders within the city. It was really a drug-land turf war by gangs who used ice cream vans as a front. Writers Douglas Skelton and Lisa Brownlie cover the story in their 1992 book “Frightener”. The deaths of van-driver Andrew Boyle (who had resisted being involved in drug dealing) and his family happened in April 1984, four months before “Comfort and Joy” was released, and as star Bill Paterson acknowledges, this had an impact on the film’s reception: “It wasn’t a great time to launch a light-hearted look at the ice-cream business in Glasgow.

Read more about Bill Forsyth