Musician and film-maker Gruff Rhys will start his autumn tour with a concert and screening of his new film in Mareel – thanks to a scribbled note.
Rhys found fame with Super Furry Animals in the 1990s, as well as later performing with Neon Neon and pursuing a successful solo career.
His visit to the isles will culminate with a musical show in the main auditorium, prior to which the film American Interior will be screened as part of Screenplay 2014. He will also give a question and answer session following the screening on Thursday, 4th September.
He was invited here by Screenplay curator Kathy Hubbard, who saw him perform three years ago and knew she wanted to bring him to Shetland.
She said: “In February 2011 I went to see Gruff doing a solo gig at Oran Mor – he was so good, and the audience adored him. I had some Shetland Arts headed notepaper with me as I was down there to work, so I wrote a note to Gruff telling him how we were currently building Mareel and inviting him to play there.
“I then stuck this in an envelope and gave it to the young man who was minding the concessions stall and told him very solemnly that this was an important document that he must place directly into Gruff’s hands.
“No sooner had I returned to my hotel than Gruff had e-mailed saying that he would love to come to Shetland and giving me his agent’s contact details. Opening Mareel took longer than we thought, but Gruff performing here has never been far from my mind.
“When he brought out his second film, American Interior, along with a new album, Screenplay was the obvious destination… I made contact again, and enticed him with the fact that ours is probably the only dressing room in Britain where you could fish for mackerel outside the window. (I haven’t told him that the window doesn’t open yet. Let’s get him here first).”
American Interior – an album and complementary film – has been described as Rhys’s most fully-realised character study yet. A warm and moving study of a true outsider life, it tells a story so far-fetched, it could only ever be true.
It follows the tale of John Evans, a North Walian who set off on a quest to find the Madogwys – a legendary tribe of light skinned, Welsh speaking native Americans. An untrained cartographer, the map Evans made of his journey went beyond the known borders of the United States and ended up becoming the guide for Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition (1804 – 1806).
Rhys’s exploration of Evans’ life took him from a Native American sagebrush ceremony in an arts centre in Canton, Cardiff to the heart of Mandan country in North Dakota. Along the way, he undertook an “investigative concert tour” that wound its way from Yale University to Memphis.