Monday, 14 December 2009

No time to feel guilty!

I had intended to regularly blog progress on the play -a discipline that has evaded me so far. To say I have been busy and distracted seem in this day and age to be an almost hackneyed excuse -Every ones busy! -hopefully too busy to notice.....but before it's too late I have un folding news the story so far is this:The play now has a title (it's 5th) as it really is a sort of hybrid mongrel of a thing that has evolved more than my original concept of simply writing a story with some singing parts. Where has evolved after many ideas have been thrown into the pot - and nearly all of them incorporated (sorry Guy I just can't get my head around "clap" & "boo" signs for the audience....) anyway the title is "ive had another idea..and other stories" as this has been a running theme and catch phrase from the very beginning of POOT - and reflects the creative process that has roller coasted us to this moment in time.
Using some of the "folk-lore" picked up during the course of my photography sessions, including the story of "The Boar in the Barrow" - and taking references from babies born in lay-by's to what happens when someone telephones a house and asks to speak to George - when every generation that lives there has someone called George in it....there are references to raking dogs and illicit stills, old men of the woods and principally The Muckle Spate poem which has given me a running theme.

What I had not anticipated was how central the chorus would become! - The first plan was to take a series of stories and string them together with a few songs -thus allowing us to rehearse the little scenes separately and prevent lots of folk from having to hang around. However, following the open casting we really did grow like topsy -and now have a marvellous chorus of 47 ranging in age from 5 to...well I couldn't possibly say - but a few energetic retired thesps! - a great many more bodies that we imagined -so now linking the musical numbers are a cast of around 25 spoken parts - and in ADDITION to that we have one scene with 60 children!! -actually now I think of it - the reason I dont write all this down....makes me want to go and lie down in a darkened room. Thankfully supporting all this activity and chattering children is a supporting cast of another 40 or so good people who have pledged to help in many ways from sewing costumes, knitting fish, building and painting scenery and generally making things run smoothly. They range from the seasoned campaigners to the green but keen to help, the important thing is actually finding jobs for everyone! - harder than it sounds with such a lot to do - but my memory being almost full to bursting - forgive me if you approached me in the co-op and I made you a rash promise to call you if I needed you!

We have presented the cast with some well known songs....but we've changed lots of the words! -and some well know songs that I now realise are harder than they would appear - since when I tried them out - (belting them out in the sealed and secure privacy of my car....can't you just imagine it!)transfer that to 50 voices - of a song that is meant for a solo and I'm giving the Jolly band another headache! - No point in worrying about it - the main thing is that hopefully everyone is having fun. We have worked out that the hall is not big enough to "store" 60 excited children and so our lovely new head teacher has offered to open up the school for after the performances....the next thought is - with so many folk already performing - have we left enough folk to make up the audience?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Here is another (professional) theatre company doing something similar to us!

Mixing historical fact, fiction, myth and invention 'Playing a round with Shakespeare' embarks on a comical journey that takes in the history of golf, witchcraft, ancestry and the story of Macbeth - with a drop of whisky thrown in for good measure.
James VI of Scotland is now James I of England. As a true Scot he introduces the game of golf - a Scottish invention - to England. William Shakespeare is at the peak of his popularity and a favourite with the king. In order to keep on the right side of his king, Shakespeare reluctantly agrees to accompany James, who has a keen interest in ancestry and witches, on a homecoming golfing trip to Forres.

Shakespeare hates the game and as he struggled through the wind and rain Shakespeare's mind starts to turn to evil thoughts, plotting to kill his king with a blow to the head from a five iron. But, realising which side his bannock is buttered, Shakespeare finds an outlet for his frustration and misery in a new play, set in Scotland in which a lord murders his king in order to claim the throne and fulfill his destiny at the same time. Perhaps with a suitable ending showing James's lineage the play will take the King's mind off golf!

Touring to:
Royal British Legion, Buckie - Wednesday 11th November - 7.30pm
New Deer Public Hall - Friday 13th November - 7.30pm
Edinvillie Community Hall, nr Aberlour - Saturday 14th November - 7.30pm *PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE IN VENUE*
Warehouse Theatre, Lossiemouth - Wednesday 18th November - 8.00pm

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

THE CURSE OF THE DEMETER from Visible Fictions -starring Jack and Sandra Holt's son Jonathon Holt
A spine tingling journey of suspense, suspicion and spooky sightings.

Visible Fictions presents the chilling and thrilling tale of the ill fated ship, the Demeter, and her ghostly cargo.

Inspired by Bram Stoker's Dracula, this new play will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat as things go bump in the night on board the jinxed ship. For thrill seekers over 11 yrs.

Woodend Barn, Banchory - Sunday 1st November - 3.00pm -That's THIS SUNDAY

Tickets from the Woodend Barn now

Casting days.........feeling musical? -or helpful

Want to get involved? -
We are holding two sessions on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th November in the Finzean Hall at 4pm to gather the team for the Community Play.
So far we have appointed a Producer -Guy Haslam, Writer & Director - Mel Shand, Musical Director -Louise Counsell, Voice coach,assistant writer & musical director -Alison Bell, Backstage manager - Phill Bonnamy,Assistant backstage - Marie Shaw, Set designer - Frankie Collier,Lighting -Francis Stevenson, Front of House manager -Jane Winton, Production Advisor Peter Young and holding the purse strings -Wendy Hector.

Now all we need are a cast and backstage crew!!

The performances will be 29th - 31st January -including a Sunday Matinee, tickets will go on sale after Christmas.

We are planning puppet making, singing and dance workshops in the next 14 weeks........Look forward to seeing you there.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Buy the book

If you would like to buy a portrait of our time book
they cost £10 each and are available from
Jane Winton, Mel Shand or Guy Haslam.
Send us an email and we can organize it!

Thursday, 8 October 2009


The Poot competitions attracted a lot of entries and voting during the exhibition -we decided on a purely democratic method of judging - everyone got to vote!
In the end the winners of the adult photography competition were Lynn Allen with her wonderful sheepy snowy tee, and 2nd was Gary Grant with his alpine view of Clach na Ben. In the poetry stakes, the overall winner was Doreen Christie with her poem - Where I live - we were all so impressed with it when we received the entry it was also published in the book - well done Doreen - that's what happens when you're organised and get your entry in early!
2nd was Pat Lawson's entertaining tale of a Finzean burns Supper!. Poetry must run in the Christie Clan as Doreen's grandson 10 year old Kieran Strachan won the children's poetry competition!-Finzean sisters Evie and Robyn Falvey coming 2nd & 3rd respectively.
First in the children's photography was Amy Christie's beautiful rainbow taken outside her frontdoor in Finzean, 2nd was Zoe Paul's view up into a tree in her garden in Birse and 3rd Jemma Christie's Finzean road sign.
The drawing prizes went to Richard Davidson for his very good drawing of Birse Church and Calum Kitching's lovely drawing of his own front door in Birse. 3rd prize went to Cara Blackhall from Ballogie with her excellent map of Finzean and a special prize went to 6year old Stuart Patterson for his incredibly mature drawing of Clach na Ben!
Well done to all - pictured wearing their Lottery t-shirts are the prize winners who attend Finzean school.

Village Hall heritage talks

During the course of the 2 weeks we put talks on in Ballogie, Strachan and Finzean Village Halls on the topics of The Innes Family of Birse, The Robert Burns connection, Birds of the area, the life cycle of the Atlantic Salmon and a year in the life of the Finzean Gamekeeper.
Over the course of these talks we welcomed nearly 300 visitors.

The POOT Map!

Last day!

Just some of the committee at the end of a long week and nearly 900 visitors!
Rick, Helen, Mel, Jane, Guy and Wendy - team shot!

Teacher caught writing on wall!

Mrs Helen Todd tells us what she thinks!

Finzean school comes to vist

I like my picture!

The Sun and the Moon and the Boy called River

86 adults and children enjoyed the stunning performance from WeeStories when they came to visit.

Strachan Schools visit to the exhibition.

Farewell! Richard the Postie

Around 100 folk came to say goodbye to Richard Fowlie at a fly cup to say thank you and present him with his electric golf trolley, a map of the area and a cheque.

This picture is the one I love! -Pat & Emma Lawson's feelings.

What Mr Neil Christie thought.......

Hamish and Mo Vernal at the opening -"this has touched our hearts!"

This is Simon Grieg who is brilliant -he and the good folk at Compass printed our book, all the photographs and hung the exhibition - if you cant read what his comment says its: "i'm too tierd to think!" this was after the hanging of the epic 2 days!

Friday, 11 September 2009

The day has dawned!

I can't believe the day has finally arrived for the opening of the show! -It's been jolly hard work this week - Compass built us a five start exhibition space in the BEAUTIFUL Birse & Feughside Parish Church and Jane and I have spent more time on our knees in the last three days which surely should stand us in good stead somewhere!
The pictures look great - it really has all come together -the entries for the competitions are up and we invite you to "Pick your favourite /poem/picture/ photograph from the children's and open section. Prizes will be handed out at the end of the show.
We have an amazing selection of images from other photographers too, some of them over 100 years old, as Eileen Baley from Birse Community Trust has put together a fascinating collection depicting people and their homes from the immediate area complete with working horses and sombre dress. Ness Morrison from Strachan has lent us some of her collection of stunning landscape photographs which make up a rolling slide show that will go on throughout the exhibition, and a small and varied selection by Strachan photographer Ian Stutter's lovely work which are up in the small hall. We hope you have time to make it along over the next 9 days and be sure to let us know what you think.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

POOT Events & talks

Events and TalksSaturday 12th - Walk from Banchory to Corsedarder - arranged by Active Aboyne for details & booking.

Tuesday 15th - Finzean Hall - 7pm: £7, Conc: £5, family of 4 - £20
Sun and the Moon and the Boy called River.
Wee Stories Theatre Group, suitable for all age groups, this is the first time we have brought live touring theatre to Finzean in association with North East Arts Touring, BOOK EARLY to avoid disappointment (there are limited seating numbers due to production staging) Tickets must be purchased in advance from Mel: 01330 850674 email

Thursday 17th - Finzean Hall -7pm: Donations to UNICEF
Touched by Robert Burns by Andy Hall & Angus Farquharson Former Finzean school teacher and published author and photographer Andy Hall will present a collection of insights from well-known people, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Dr. Maya Angelou and Eddi Reader, on how the life and poems of Robert Burns have touched their lives. He will also share his collection of beautiful photographic images to accompany the lines of Burns' poetry that resonate with him. Followed by a short talk by Angus Farquharson on Burns connection’s to Finzean folk.

Tuesday 22nd - Ballogie Hall - 7pm: FREE
The Innes Family of Ballogie: a Jacobite window to the world by Bryan Miler When not escaping the guillotine in revolutionary Paris, running away from a seminary to make a small fortune in Russia, attending the Stuart court in exile or repelling redcoats with charm and guile, the Innes family were quite content to be at home in Ballogie. An illustrated talk on some of the colourful characters that made up the Innes family in the 18th and 19th century, one time lairds of Balnacraig, Ballogie and Midstrath.

Friday 25th - Finzean Hall - 7pm: FREE
Birds in Birse and Feughside by Paul ChapmanAn illustrated tour of the varied habitats of Birse and Feughside, looking at some of the more interesting birds that are found in them, highlighting some of the changes in our birdlife in the past and predicting some changes that we may see in the future. This talk will last about 45 minutes.

Sunday 27th - Finzean Hall - 7pm: Donations to Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society
A year in the life of the Finzean gamekeeper by Allan (Hedge) Shand The life cycle of the Salmon and the bicycling ghillie by Robert Harper Hedge will give an informative talk and slideshow on what goes on during his working day throughout the seasons –and what he’s up to when you see strange lights in the fields at night! Robert will talk a little about the Dee Salmon and his work as a ghillie, and his latest adventure when he proposes to cycle 250 miles through the Jordan Valley to raise funds for the Nazereth Hospital.

Invite to POOT show

You are invited to the POOT exhibition of photographs taken during 2008-2009 from 12th – 20th September 2009 At the Birse & Feughside Parish Church in Finzean.

Saturday 12th 10am – 5pm

Sunday 13th 1pm – 5pm

Monday 14th 10am – 4pm

Tuesday 15th 10am – 4pm

Wednesday 16th 10am – 8pm

Thursday 17th 10am – 4pm

Friday 18th 10am -4pm

Saturday 19th 10am – 5pm

Sunday 20th 1pm – 4pm

Mel will lead a tour of the pictures at 2pmThere will be excerpts from the interviews and film making projects.Pictures will be available for order at the exhibitionLook forward to seeing you there!

For the Full invite with more information, please download the pdf from here

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Welcome Our To Community

Thursday morning well spent re launching POOT at Finzean Primary School. For the last six months both schools have been without permanent head teachers and we felt they had enough to do without embracing our poetry, drawing and photography competition. However an opportunity arose so I Whizzed in to tell the children about the project and on the way decided we could combine a welcome to Mrs Julie Hughson -our new head teacher - with a little bit of art work, a press release and something nice for the exhibition. Gave each child in the upper stages class room a seemingly random letter to draw and decorate which with a bit of re-jiggling spells out "Welcome our to Community"" -somebody might have pointed it out! -I felt enough like Joyce Grenfield as it was!
The letter will now be laminated and strung together to hang in the church for the exhibition.
Strachan school will have a similar visit on Monday.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Party Pieces!

On Thursday 13th and Sunday 23rd of August we threw opened the doors of Finzean Hall and invited everyone and anyone in to "give us a tune" - the purpose being to record for posterity a variety of skills and talents from a range of musicians and individuals willing to take to the stage.
Alison Bell and I sound recorded and videoed 22 artists in total who bashed, tootled, tinkled, strummed, fiddled and bowed for all they were worth. The end result will hopefully be edited in time play as a backdrop to the NEOS Exhibition in the church from the 12 - 20th September.(with apologies to Archie and Wendy - who some how managed to miss out on being snapped for inclusion in the montage above!)

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

POOT Catalogue signed off at last!

This morning was a bit of a landmark as we passed the exhibition catalogue over to Compass Print in Aberdeen. It has taken a great deal of work to get it to this point -infact the "twiddling" over the last 2 weeks has been extreem! -I'm not a perfectionist, -at least I didn't think so until now!

Anyway we are on track for production to be ready for display during NEOS - and if you have not already done so - go to for opening times, for our Portrait of Our Time, and many other wonderful artists throughout Grampian.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Ballogie, Birse, Finzean, Strachan

Mel Shand has been exploring the life and people of the area covering Ballogie, Birse, Finzean, Strachan in the North East of Scotland (Aberdeenshire).

She will be showcasing an exhibition during the north east open studios (NEOS). More information to follow soon.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Portrait of our time website started!

We have started to build the POOT (Portrait of our time) portal. At the moment, this is a holding page - but you can already bookmark :

We aim to have the website up and running before the end of August - but will always be working on it. If you have any suggestions or comments about the site, please send us an email to :