George Gunn grew up in the far north of Scotland in the village of Dunnet, Caithness, and now lives in Thurso. He has written over fifty productions for stage and radio and has produced several series for BBC Radio Scotland and Radio 4. He has published several poetry collections, a book about Caithness and a novel. He was Artistic Director and co-founder of the Thurso-based Grey Coast Theatre Company, producing new plays by Highland writers and working on schools and community projects. His essays appear in a range of online and print newspapers and he has a regular column ‘From the Province of the Cat’ in the Scottish nationalist online newspaper Bella Caledonia. George is an advocate of poetry as a universal every day language of expression and has run many community writing projects across the Highlands. He is currently the Caithness Makar, and is working with the Lyth Arts Centre on a film and poetry portrait of Caithness called Words on the Wind, which will include poems performed by local people. George has also worked on fishing trawlers and on offshore oil rigs in the North Sea.
George’s first poetry collection Explaining to Joni was published in 1979 and several more collections followed up to A Northerly Land in 2013. The Province of the Cat, a lyrical book about Caithness, was published in 2015. His first novel The Great Edge (2017) explores the impact of the Dounreay nuclear power station on the local community; a theme also explored in his play Atomic City. After the Rain: New and Selected Poems 1991-2016 was published in 2018 and his newest poetry collection Chronicles of the First Light was published in 2021.
George’s first play Roughneck was written in 1984. Atomic City and Egil were published in 2010 while 3,000 Trees was produced by Grey Coast Theatre Company for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2014. In 2018 he was commissioned by the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh to write Call Me Mister Bullfinch and in 2019 he won and Open Space award for his play The Fallen Angels of the Moine.
George’s work is steeped in the bardic cultures of both Gaelic and Nordic folklore from the north of Scotland, and his poetry frequently references local history, geology and mythology, within the landscape and communities of Caithness and the North Sea. John Glenday said of A Northerly Land (2013) that Gunn ‘reminds us we are a part of this frail, cold, vicious, beautiful world’. The depiction of the remote beauty of northern Scotland is brought together with important contemporary political concerns; George opposes parochialism and places the rural settings of his poems as the centre of community and culture, and he explores the historical and social effects that centralized control has on rural areas. Province of the Cat (2015) is described as ‘an epic story of human achievement, struggle, tragedy and survival told.’ George described his most recent poetry collection Chronicles of the First Light (2021) as ‘a distillation of life – not just mine, but the life of everyone’. A review of this collection concludes that ‘Gunn’s poetry sweeps through time, offering intimate portraits of present day Thurso … the enduring beauty of Caithness, and millennia of the county’s history and lore’ (Bella Caledonia).