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Artists bring new perspectives to the life and work of Edwin Morgan

In the year of Edwin Morgan’s centenary, the Edwin Morgan Trust is celebrating the poet and LGBTQ+ activist with a programme of activity that invites artists to bring new and diverse perspectives to his life and work.

Edwin Morgan

A portrait image of Edwin MorganEdwin Morgan (1920 – 2010) was a poet and translator, widely recognised as one of the leading Scottish poets of the twentieth century. Morgan was appointed OBE in 1982 and became the inaugural Scots Makar in 2004.

Identity and love formed a significant element of his poetry, and his writing about gay and queer experiences had a profound impact on social and cultural attitudes in Scotland, as well as influencing political change.

As a gay man at a time when homosexuality was a criminal offence, Morgan lived most of his life at risk of censure and imprisonment.

“The centenary provides a really exciting opportunity to open conversation around queerness, love, self-expression and creativity in relation to Edwin Morgan's life”, commented Siân McIntyre, centenary project manager.

“Morgan didn't come out until he was 70 - and when he did, he became quite outspoken - writing the poem for the opening of the Glasgow Gay and Lesbian Centre (GGLC) in 1995 and breaking out with his poetry and interviews.”

Centenary celebrations

Now, as part of the centenary celebrations, Scottish-based video artists are being commissioned to create a series of unique, short videos, which will be released on the 27th of each month via the Trust’s video channel, Hold Hands Among the Atoms.

These videos invite contributors to consider themes such as identity, collaboration and queerness, bringing together voices, images and perspectives which may not have been able to gather in the same physical space.

The most recent video in the series, launched in June to coincide with Pride Month 2020, was a collaboration between the National Poetry Library and the Edwin Morgan Trust featuring new work from poets Chris Beckett Caroline Bergvall, Keith Jarrett and Richard Scott.

These commissioned poems, written in response to Morgan’s concrete poetry, celebrate the poet’s sexuality, exploring the new depths of reading that can be reached through this lens.

The Second Life

A portrait image of Edwin MorganThe centenary programme also encompasses an artist grant scheme funded by Creative Scotland, The Second Life. Offering grants to sixteen artists, writers, curators, actors, playwrights, musicians and other creatives to give Morgan’s work a ‘second life’ by creating original responses to his work, the scheme aims to reach people from a range of creative backgrounds and diverse working lives.

The first round of recipients, selected by a cultural advisory panel, are Ink Asher Hemp, Clementine E Burnley, Vlad Butucea, Ray Camara Taylor, Sekai Machache, Ishbel McFarlane, Nazia Mohammad and duo Sara Shaarawi and Henry Bell.

On being awarded a grant, visual artist and curator Sekai Machache said: “I am particularly humbled to have been nominated to respond to Edwin Morgan's work because it's incredibly important in terms of Scottish heritage and identity. As an artist of colour whose work interrogates the notion of self and belonging, it is refreshing to be invited to engage with the work of a celebrated Scottish writer whose work paints a beautiful and dynamic portrait of the country that I call home but that rarely claims me as its own.”

The Second Life open call invited applications for one of eight £750 grants, funded by Creative Scotland.

The call was open to Scottish community groups, writing collectives, artists, curators, writers, actors, playwrights, musicians and creatives who propose to give Morgan’s work a ‘second life’. This will create opportunities to generate new responses, which will then be showcased during this centenary year, both digitally and (in the future) physically.

The Edwin Morgan Trust Centenary is being marked from 27 April 2020 – April 2021. You can find out more about Edwin Morgan, and the centenary celebrations, on the Edwin Morgan Trust Edwin Morgan Trust website.

All images courtesy of the Edwin Morgan Trust

This article was published on 18 Jul 2020