For the last year I have been selling my things THINGS THAT HAPPEN EVERY YEAR IN A CYCLE at gigs and online. They have been really warmly received and I'm pleased to say that I have another batch ready to go if anyone is interested in purchasing one.
The idea of these almanacs is that you can hang them up and add to them organically as you notice things that repeat in the year. For example, I note down what is flowering my garden, what I have harvested, wildlife or plants that I've noticed, friends birthdays, anniversaries or important markers of grief. I also use it to keep track of traditional celebrations and activities. I don't make myself do all these… there wouldn't be enough time. But I find knowing when everything is happening helps me feel in touch with the seasons as they pass.
“I gifted a couple to friends and one has asked where I got it as so many people have commented on it and she wants to send them as gifts We love ours too!”
A little about the history of the planner
In 2020 I was preparing a performance piece for Counterflows based on studies I had made of archival material held in the School Scottish Studies. Heading down wormholes, I had expanded my knowledge and exposure to different types of Scottish song. Building on my interest in the singing of Lizzie Higgins, I began to bring together song and piping traditions.
Lockdown came into place just before the festival, and I was left with a kind of unfinished unperformed idea. I wasn’t sure how exactly to move forward with it or whether to shelf it. I was in that weird limbo state of the first lockdown, shielding and living on my own. So singing felt pointless really, I was very much alone. One night I was in the bath listening to a discussion with Anna Roberts-Gevalt (An American contemporary folk singer and sound artist) and she was talking about using singers as vessels for the archive. The song is found, processed, and embodied. I liked this idea of embodiment, I could relate to that. The process is complete when the song lives within the body and can be summoned at any moment.
But it was so quiet and there was less space for the embodied song to be shared. With no opportunity to share the muscle memory of a song with people, I started to think about them in a different way. The singing is a way that I express quite a specific part of my sense of identity, so I wondered how it would feel to not have the opportunity to express that. But what I found is that it came out in other ways. I saw how the rhythm of my year supports how I make work. The years are always different, but there is a rhythm in other aspects of my own cultural tradition. Gathering and weaving willow, watching the trees change, the garden, in food, working with the horse and her seasonal rhythms. These skills are also ones which are learnt by the body- not just theory or ideas- and root you in a place. This really brought home to me the importance of the cultural context of the songs. And a sense that as artifacts, the songs themselves are not the only aspects of culture worth saving.
I started to collect over the year, things that felt relevant for each month. Traditions, stories, images, poems. I did this quite unconsciously in fits and bursts. In a kind of frustrated grab at trying to make something of the year, or get my head around the passing of the seasons without the usual marking points. I wanted to explore how folk culture and practices influence me even when I am not singing. Its an almanac with space for you to observe your own traditions, rhythms and important dates.
Initially published as a wee book in 2021, I wanted to try the almanac in a new format that would allow it to be on display rather than tucked away in a bookshelf somewhere.