Orcadian films to be shown at the Shetland Museum

AN ARCHIVE of short films by Orcadian film maker Margaret Tait is to be screened at the Shetland Museum on Saturday, 29th November.

The films, which are housed in the Pier Arts Centre in Orkney, will be introduced by Andrew Parkinson, exhibitions officer at the centre.

He said: “Margaret was an incredibly influential filmmaker and her work is beginning to receive the recognition it deserves both here and abroad. Over the last few years we have steadily built the Margaret Tait Film Archive here at the Pier and have recently presented screenings of her films in the gallery and venues around Orkney. “I am greatly looking forward to bringing this selection of Margaret’s films to the Shetland Museum and hope that all will enjoy seeing her work in its original 16mm format, which will give the screening something of the atmosphere of the travelling cinema of 50 or more years ago.”

Margaret Tait was born in Kirkwall in 1918 and qualified in medicine at Edinburgh University in 1941. From 1950 to 1952 she studied film at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome and produced several films in Italy.

Returning to Scotland she established Ancona Films in Edinburgh’s Rose Street. In the 1960’s Tait moved back to Orkney where over the following decades she made a series of films inspired by Orcadian landscape and culture. All but three of her 32 films were self-financed. She also wrote poetry and stories and produced several books. Tait’s only feature length film Blue Black Permanent (1992), produced by British Film Institute, Channel Four and Viz Productions, opened the Edinburgh International Film Festival that year and her final film Garden Pieces was completed in 1998. She died in Kirkwall in 1999.

Shetland Museum lifelong learning officer Kirsty Kennedy said: “We are delighted to be working with the Pier Arts Centre to bring these films to Shetland and hope this is the start of a closer relationship between our two organisations. Many Shetlanders have Orkney connections and I’m sure these films will generate a lot of interest.”

Five or six of her key films will be screened including Portrait of Ga (1952, a study of the artist’s mother), Happy Bees (1955, a celebration of childhood) and Colour Poems (1974, several film poems fused together). The films range in length from four to 17 minutes.

The Pier Arts Centre was also involved in publishing a book, Subjects and Sequences: A Margaret Tait Reader, and a DVD, Margaret Tait Selected Films 1952-1976. These will be available for purchase at the Shetland Museum on the day of the film screening.

The films will be shown in the auditorium, entry is free and no booking is required.


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