with thanks to Louis MacNeice and Liz Lochhead It’s all go the boarding pass, it’s all go the ‘international stage’ it’s a folk band crammed in the back of a van on the low road to Mallaig. It’s Medea in the village hall, Black Watch in Cambuslang, it’s a lad rehearsing his couplets for the high school poetry slam, for art’s the breath of human life, we are, therefore we create - though we manage it all on a shoestring, or a three-way share of the gate. We never rhyme for the bottom line, we don’t sing from a balance sheet we’re here for that sob in the pibroch that wad gar a grown man greet, we’re here for the gym hall aria, for the couthy fireside story, for the Screen Machine showing Duthchas on the pier in Tobermory, for art’s the breath of human life, we are, therefore we create - though we manage it all on a shoestring, or a six-way share of the gate. ‘Come aa ye’ said Hamish Henderson, as founded the Embra Fringe - let’s reach to global arts and airts saying ‘Welcome, come awa ben!’ (But it’s no go the Filmhouse, it’s no go Modern 2 the “nailed and boarded window” ’s back in the heart of our Festival Toun.) But art’s the breath of human life, we are, therefore we create - though we try to survive on a shoestring, or ten-way share of the gate. There’s words that ding in a’bdy’s lugs fi a novel set in a scheme, - but the whaups are gone from Gibbon’s Mearns, the speugs from Glasgow Green, so the windswept shores and snow-capped bens that inspire film or ballet need us think again what we’re daein - we need art to heal the planet, coz art’s the breath of human life, we are, therefore we create - though we try to survive on a shoestring, or a sixeenth share of the gate. So gie’s a haun, ma trusty fiere, be ye Auld Scots, or First Generation – it’s oor turn for a turn at the dizzy reel where experiment birls wi tradition, where a culture raised this side the Tweed - a nation within a state- dances across its boundaries, says what needs to be said: that art’s the breath of human life, we’re alive! therefore we create. We do it for the love of it, and a wee bit share of the gate.
About this poem
This poem was written in response to the Arts and Cultural Assets Research Report: To See Ourselves; As Others Us. The report was commissioned by British Council (Scotland) and Creative Scotland.
The poem was first read in public by Kathleen Jamie at the Scotland’s Culture Sector Showcase event at Scotland House in London on 16 November 2022.