Message from the Skies lights up Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrates Edinburgh’s and Scotland’s rich literary heritage and its young people with the launch of the innovative and collaborative new project Message from the Skies.

Message in the SkiesIt has been co-commissioned with the Edinburgh International Book Festival -  a story told chapter by chapter on 12 buildings and landmarks across Edinburgh.

Message from the Skies opens on 1 January at dusk and runs until 25 January, with one Scotland’s greatest contemporary novelists, Val McDermid, leading a collaboration of Scottish artists.

Val McDermid reveals she will bring Edinburgh’s 19th Century novelist Susan Ferrier back to life in New Year’s Resurrection.

In this unique collaboration, McDermid is joined by leading artists from across both Scotland and a multitude of art forms including: Philip Howard of Pearlfisher, Edinburgh based projection company Double Take Projections, some of Scotland’s finest soundscape artists; Michael John McCarthy, RJ McConnell and Pippa Murphy, graffiti artist Elph and actors Sandy McDade and Phyllis Logan.

Marking the Year of Young People 2018 the project includes short stories by three young writers who won a short story competition and which will be projected onto three buildings from 4pm – 5pm each day from 2 January.

Launching at dusk on New Year’s Day 2018, Message from the Skies runs until Burns Night on 25 January.

Inspired by a line from Robert Burns’ poem Sketch New Year’s Day. To Mrs Dunlop (1790), Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and the Edinburgh International Book Festival have commissioned Val McDermid to write a short story, New Year’s Resurrection, which will be told in a series of chapters through projections and other art onto buildings and landmarks around Edinburgh.

Val McDermid collaborates with director and dramaturg Philip Howard of emergent theatre company Pearlfisher, Edinburgh based architectural projection mapping specialists Double Take Projections, and three of Scotland’s finest composers and sound designers; Michael John McCarthy, Pippa Murphy and RJ McConnell, graffiti artist Elph and actors Sandy McDade and Phyllis Logan to bring the story to life.   

Val McDermid has revealed that in New Year’s Resurrection she will resurrect Susan Ferrier an Edinburgh born and bred novelist in the nineteenth century.

“The most remarkable thing about the nineteenth century Scottish novelist Susan Edmonstone Ferrier is that she has all but disappeared from our consciousness. In her lifetime, her novels were wildly popular, earning her significantly more substantial publisher’s advances than Jane Austen. And yet now almost nobody knows her name. Susan Ferrier deserves better than this.” said Val McDermid.

Message from the Skies encourages residents and visitors to explore Edinburgh’s iconic locations in a new light: streets and buildings which have inspired some of the world’s finest authors over the centuries - from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson to J K Rowling and Muriel Spark, and the streets and buildings which McDermid and her other collaborators have been inspired by and to which all the artists respond in this unique piece of work, made especially for Edinburgh.

The project is inspired by the nineteenth century tradition of publishing novels chapter by chapter: readers must go from location to location to read the whole story, simultaneously exploring both this piece of new work and the city.

The starting point and the site of the first chapter is Parliament Square, off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town. From there, readers can navigate by using the app or following the signage leading to the next instalment.

The app is filled with additional content about the story and locations, and will translate Val’s story into seven languages – French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Polish and Spanish, making the project equally accessible to visitors to Edinburgh. The app will also read the text in English to visually impaired audiences.

Virago re-publish Ferrier’s first novel Marriage on 28 December to coincide with this project, with a new forward by McDermid.

Three talented young local writers have also won the opportunity to see their works projected nightly on buildings across Edinburgh’s city centre in a competition which saw over 200 entries sifted through by the expert judging panel of Ali Bowden, Director, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, Janet Smyth, Children & Education Programme Director, Edinburgh International Book Festival, and Boogie and Arlene from Forth 1’s Breakfast Show. The writing competition was developed with the support of Creative Arts and Learning of the City of Edinburgh Council.

Primary school winner: Lucy Hutcheon, age 11: ‘I’m so happy! I can’t believe my story was chosen.  It feels great to know that people enjoy what I write.’ Davidsons Mains Primary School.

S1-S3 Winner: Maisie Dalton, age 12: ‘I’m in shock, I never expected to win. I can’t stop shaking with excitement!’ Balerno High School.

S4-S6 Winner: Jemma Glover, age 16: ‘I am delighted, it means a lot that other people will be able to read my writing. I hope I have made my city, my home proud.’ Balerno High School.

Message from the Skies is commissioned and presented by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and the Edinburgh International Book Festival, produced by Underbelly and Pearlfisher, in partnership with Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust and is developed with support from Creative Scotland through the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund.

Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Message from the Skies is a great addition to the spectacular Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme and is a unique opportunity for our young people to be part of it. The city has such a rich literary heritage I am delighted that budding young writers have been inspired to rise the challenge and grabbed the chance to have their works lighting up the city’s buildings.

“This year Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrates its 25th birthday so it’s fitting that it will be the biggest party ever staged in Scotland’s great capital city. The fireworks display is being extended with new events like Bairns Afore and Message from the Skies plus favourites such as the Torchlight Procession and Loony Dook. There will be something for everyone not just to see but to take part in. Come along and experience what Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is really about!”

Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam said: “Message from the Skies is the moment of contemplation in Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, running through to Burns Night on 25 January and celebrating Edinburgh’s and Scotland’s literary heritage and a powerful collaboration of some of Scotland’s most exciting artists. We’re looking forward to the new year resurrection of Susan Ferrier.”

Director Philip Howard said: “Message from the Skies celebrates Edinburgh’s built environment and its status as Unesco World City of Literature. It is a story and a walking tour but also a quasi-theatrical experience and we have quite a few tricks up our sleeves. Susan Ferrier’s is a remarkable story, and Val asks some very topical questions about why as a female Scottish writer Ferrier has been excised from the literary history of the nation.

“It’s a beautiful piece of storytelling but Val has had a lot of fun with it as well. We’re treading a course between honouring Susan’s legacy and restoring her voice and having a little bit of a crime caper along the way.”

Download the Message from the Skies project video here.

 

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