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0101Iona2016091920180813 (R3)Poet Kenneth Steven reflects on Scottish island life.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

Poet Kenneth Steven has a special relationship with the small Hebridean island of Iona, set in the Atlantic off the west coast of Scotland. It was the place of learning and worship in the 6th century, when St Columba brought Christianity from Ireland and set up a monastery, and today it still has a spiritual quality for many of its visitors. Kenneth has visited since he was a child and collected stones polished by the sea along its beaches. Today he reflects on Iona's place as a 'meeting of the sea roads, which has had such a profound impact on so many, and has done for longer than we can ever know'.

'..That is why
I keep returning, thirsty, to this place
That is older than my understanding,
Younger than my broken spirit.'.

0102Hoy20160920Kenneth Steven explores Hoy, the only place of cliffs and mountains in the Orkney islands.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

0103Rum2016092120180814 (R3)Poet Kenneth Steven reflects on on Scottish island life.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

Kenneth Steven looks at Rum, a wild and windswept Hebridean island, and responds to its landscape in poetry. Rum is the largest of a group making up the 'Small Isles', Rum, Muck, Eigg and Canna, lying west of the fishing port of Mallaig in the Scottish Highlands. 'I don't know a Hebridean island more beautiful to approach. Every time I do I think of it again as a treasure island.'

Its remote and rugged beauty attracted an eccentric Victorian industrialist, who bought it and attempted to transform it into his own vision of an island home, complete with a castle. 'The castle itself was built of red sandstone and shaped from the Isle of Arran. Greenhouses were brought for the growing of peaches, grapes and nectarines. There were heated pools for turtles and alligators; an aviary was constructed for birds of paradise and humming birds.'
It was not to last, and Kenneth looks at what's left of the island fantasy today, leaving him with a profound sense of sadness.

0104Raasay20160922Kenneth Steven on Raasay, an island close to Skye and once home to poet Sorley MacLean.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

0105St Kilda2016092320180815 (R3)Poet Kenneth Steven on the Scottish islands.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

Poet Kenneth Steven writes on the remote islands of St Kilda, where the community is only a distant memory echoed in the sound of seabirds. This is an island far out in the ocean. 'To make the sea crossing to St Kilda a boat is heading into the full fury of the North Atlantic; west of here lies nothing more than Rockall - and then America.'
Once a thriving community lived on the island known as Hirta. 'Not only was there life on St Kilda, there was joy in life. The reports written by early visitors make that abundantly clear: the people made music and danced, they were singers of songs and tellers of tales. They faced hardship together and even death on a daily basis, but this little society held together in happiness.'

But by 1930 the British Government wanted an end to the expense of supporting this remote colony, and the community were forced to take the decision to evacuate. Now there are only the empty shells of houses and the endless cries of seabirds.

'In all the cobbles, concrete years to come
Their islands promises to lie at the bottom of a glass,
Or silent forever in their eyes, a story frozen
Like a fly in the amber of time.'

Producer Mark Rickards.

0201Mingulay20200601Kenneth Steven visits another island and responds to its landscape in poetry and prose.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

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