Featured writer: Mark Russell

We are delighted to welcome Mark Russell, the fourth FWS member to be chosen for the My Timeproject,as our Featured Writer.Mark is a very talented up and coming poet whom some of us will have had the pleasure of listening to at Mirrorball. You can read below about his fruitful collaboration with the Performance Collective Stranraer Youth Theatre Company and the wonderfully luminous poem (deceptive in its simplicity) that came out of it.

Mark Russell’sfull collections are Spearmint & Rescue (Pindrop), and Shopping for Punks(Hesterglock). His chapbooks/pamphlets include(the book of moose)(Kattywompus)ا(the book of seals), and Saturday Morning Pictures(both with Red Ceilings). Most recently, other poems have appeared inShearsman, Blackbox Manifold, The Scores, Gutter,andThe Glasgow Review of Books.

 My Time: Visit to Performance Collective Stranraer

Performance Collective Stranraer (PCS) is one of two youth theatres in the town. They meet for workshops and rehearsals in the Ryan Centre, and as the older of the two groups, they deal with more mature and sophisticated material than their colleagues.

I was lucky enough to join them at a time when they were developing work that explored their town’s economic difficulties, particularly those related to the disappearance of the ferry service. Like many, I had taken the ferry on several occasions to visit family in Ireland. But shamefully, I was unaware that it had been axed several years ago and moved up to Cairnryan.

Theatre worker Drew Taylor had been hired to devise and lead this new, original piece of work. He is a dynamic force, and the group responded well to his ideas and sometimes very physical rehearsals.

My first experience with the group was as an audience member at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. They were performing an early, twenty-minute version of the piece,‘Remote Control’, for the Chrysalis 2017 showcase.Chrysalis is a platform for young theatre-makers to show, share, and discuss their work. The show was a joyous affair, finding warmth, humour, and empathy in the despair of isolation and abandonment.

Then, toward the end of January, I travelled down to Dumfries to attend a workshop and rehearsal. PCS was developing the work into an hour-long performance to take around the country. Drew and the cast teased out more personal histories, injected pace, comedy, music, and physicality into the play, and we all left exhausted but also strangely energised.

It was a great honour to be involved with PCS. I couldn’t have been given a more delightful and talented bunch of young theatre-makers to work with.My Time was run by Voluntary Arts Scotland and the Scottish Poetry Library, and funded by Creative Scotland.Projects like this are to be encouraged, applauded, and cherished.

We Love Fat Nose
for Performance Collective Stranraer

You ask us about our town

we’re deep-watered, perched on an inch of dirt

that parts the Rhins from the rest of Scotland

we lie in the basin of Loch Ryan

right there at the bottom, like dregs in beer

for a hundred and fifty years we watched

the ferries dock, the ferries sail, the ferries

connect us to part of something more

than a few cows, cliffs, and razorbills

You ask us to tell you what happened to the town

it became cold and quiet

it was sick and almost died

Go on, ask us how a town almost dies

people go away

and they don’t come back

we never moved from this spot

but we became exiles

You ask us why we do this

because when the town almost died

its story began to gather full stops

a story is like breath

full stops are its death

so we began to build a sentence

to keep us alive

you see, like gods,

stories need never die


Ask us what the sentence was

it would be better round here if

Ask us how the sentence grew

if the buses ran on time

if the people returned

if we could tell people how we feel

about our town

if we could show them how we love

our town


And now you know why we do this

because if we don’t

nobody else will


We know you’re dying to ask

it means ‘Stranraer’, of course

(at least, in one of the tales)

we have so many stories of Fat Nose

and we’ve made them just for you

to remind you we’re still here

so take a seat, enjoy the show

we hope you love it like we do

© Mark Russell 2018


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