“Every force evolves a form”: the mediatization of Scotland’s bardic tradition with reference to Sorley Maclean and Hamish Henderson

Kathryn Burnett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentationpeer-review


This contribution from the Scottish Centre for Island Studies offers an invitation to engage with Scotland, and more specifically the Highlands and Islands, as a site of both mediated and increasingly mediatized global storytelling from a consciously localised, situated context. With reference to film this paper will invite a critical appreciation of the documenting of bards as both performers and brokers of island culture and history through song, prose and story. Referencing in the title MacDiarmid’s line from his poem ‘Island Funeral’ this paper seeks to reassess the nature and potentiality of media for song and storytelling today. With particular reference to two key Scottish poetic and political figures - Sorley Maclean and Hamish Henderson – screening extracts each illustrate their immense, complex and intense legacies of influence on song, story and verse. Their work is emblematic of how a nation’s culture, identity and political narrative is both professed to be ‘known’ and not known. With particular reference to the role film has played in the cultural practice of meditating and evolving song and story for artists and audiences, individuals and communities, this paper invites both appreciation and examination of digital opportunities that make available film and screen media to contemporary artists, practitioners and performers today. Questions are posed in respect of the nature of mediatized legacies of cultural and political figures such as MacLean and Henderson for current creative practice and the cultural economies of regions and nations that continue to both experience and to counter ‘peripheralisation’.


ConferenceSinging Storytellers: The Lives, Music and Verbal Artistry of Bards in our World
Internet address


  • island studies
  • Media Representation
  • Hebrides
  • heritage
  • cultural transmission


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