Celebrating island identities The Orkney Island Games write and response project

The detail

Orkney Arts, Museums and Heritage are taking over the baton from Guernsey Arts who showcased a range of cultural events during Guernsey 2023 Island Games.

‘As Scrivener for Orkney 2025 Island games I seek to explore the theme of identity and develop creative engagement where individuals develop conversations within and between communities. I aim to encourage reflection on positive aspects of community support and engagement as well as the experience of isolation and its impact on mental and physical wellbeing. 

The project also hopes to incorporate responses that reflect different identities as a means to developing broader understanding of diversity.’

– Gaby Barnby

The Scrivener - Gabrielle Barnby

Gabrielle Barnby lives in Kirkwall and writes short stories, poetry and full-length fiction. She has run writing workshops for many years, encouraging young writers and supporting creative discovery. She is the author of four books and her work has been included in anthologies and magazines, she also has a particular interest in writing for well-being.

Gabrielle has years of experience in community arts engagement and events. She has been successfully funded by Creative Scotland and has worked with individuals living with dementia, long term mental and physical health conditions as well as young people. More information about her creative work can be found at: gabriellebarnby.com


Additional Prompt Information

‘The essence of Orkney’s magic is silence, loneliness, and the deep marvellous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light.’ George Mackay Brown

This quote is taken from Come to Lovely Orkney a piece included in the collection Letters from Hamnavoe. These articles and musings on island life were originally published in The Orcadian newspaper beginning in 1971. George Mackay Brown wrote many collections of poetry, prose and drama and his weekly columns were regarded with warm affection. The pieces show insight and humour during a period of substantial change in the islands and continued to be written until the poet’s death in 1996. His words have brought people to Orkney from across the world

Letters from Hamnavoe, Steve Savage Publishers, 1975

Further writing ideas:



Are there three or four words that capture the ‘essence’ of your island?

Do dialect or local worlds that have special meanings for you?

How do you feel about your language and voice?



What rhythms structure your everyday life?

How does the year flow around your community?

Have you new insight into an ordinary happening?



How do opposites combine in your environment?

Is there anything unusual or unique about the way things are brought together?

What is ‘deep and marvellous’ about where you are?

‘Keep on birlan wae the wather.’ Issy Grieve


This prompt is a a line taken from the poem Birlan Wae th’ Wather which is featured in gousters, glims and veerie-orrams – Writeen fae Orkney Voices a collection of poetry that brings together material from the Orkney Voices Writer’s group formed in 2018 and led by Alison Miller. The poem takes the weather in hand and swings it roond, turning whose in control on its head. The poet Issy Grieve hails from Birsay, and as well as a lifelong interest in culture and heritage, has written plays performed locally and in Scotland. There are wonderful readings from Orkney Voices group available through the Orkney Nature Festival


gousters, glims and veerie-orrams – Writeen fae Orkney Voices, The George Mackay Brown Fellowship, 2021


Further writing ideas:



What is the weather with you today?

How is your mood?

Do you feel in tune or at odds with the world around you?



What seasons or weather stand out vividly in your mind?

Is there a drama attached to the memory of weather?



What challenges are you facing?

What challenges has your community faced?

Where are the ways forward?

What keeps you going and moving on?

’Home: Where you claim from, where all seek to claim, where claims.’ Harry Josephine Giles

This prompt is part of Traveller’s Lexicon a long poem in the form of a phrasebook exploring travel, colonisation, connection and difference. The writer and performer Harry Josephine Giles researched language and settler-colonisation with particular reference to the role his home Orkney had in the colonisation of Manitoba as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival Outriders project. She describes her work as happening in ‘the crunchy places where performance and politics get muddled up’ and she has lived on four islands, each larger than the last.

Traveller’s Lexicon is available available to read as an interactive digital edition


Further writing ideas:



What places do you claim heritage from?

What delights about coming home?

How does memory call you to a place?



Are there places and people you have left behind?

What is leaving and arriving for you?

What goes into decisions to move on?



Have you shaken off the claims of others?

How does this feel?

How has this changed?

What happens next for you?

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