Expressing An Island, Patrick Corbett Geology Poetry Workshop July 2023, Film Still By Glenda Rome (1)

Expressing An Island | Norman Bissell

Expressing An Island | Norman Bissell

On Luing (and neighbouring Slate islands), writer and director of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics Norman Bissell led Expressing an Island along with Luing-based artist Lottie May and others, have delivered a series of monthly workshops in creative writing, arts, craft and geology with the aim of producing a legacy of continuing creative networks and outputs for print and exhibition. The outputs are framed around Geopoetics and explore the creative expression of the Earth, relating to the unique and inspirational location of the Slate Islands. The concept of Geopoetics was originated by internationally renowned Scottish poet Kenneth White and has an international following. 

Expressing an Island provided advice and inspiration for writers, artists and crafters on Luing, strengthening and nurturing networks for creatives on Luing and fostering active creative and community links with neighbouring islands Seil, Lismore and Kerrera, which would continue in the years to come.

Since the launch weekend in July 2023 at the Atlantic Islands Centre on Luing, 23 workshops have been delivered through the Expressing an Island project, engaging with 194 individuals and 7 community-based organisations, including on Seil, Lismore and Kerrera. Primarily led by Norrie (writing) and Lottie (arts and crafts). In addition, Emeritus Professor Patrick Corbett, Poet and Geologist, led two geology and poetry walks along the Luing shore, with the second walk focused on the potential development of a geology trail. Additonal workshops were also provided by artist Dugald MacInnes who hosted a weekend of slate mosaic workshops.

A key commission relating to this project was the production of a documentary film about Geopoetics, ‘Expressing the Earth’ shot and directed by Edinburgh-based filmmaker Glenda Rome. The sudden death of poet Kenneth White in August 2023 has lent a poignancy to this project and the film, which is now being developed as a feature film for release later in the year.  Sequences of the film were shot during the project workshops and features the islands.  

Writing and artwork produced during the workshops have been published in the Luing Newsletter, and a special printed issue of Stravaig and featured in the Oban Times, Crafting creativity and culture on Luing. A journal article is currently being reviewed for the journal of the Scottish Geopoetics Society, which will feature poems, prose and images developed through the workshops and project, showcasing the Slate Islands. Some work will be translated into Gaelic by Innes MacQueen, a local teacher and translator based on Luing.

The project has had a significant impact and produced economic and social benefits on Luing and neighbouring island communities. Artwork and craft products were sold at the Seil Craft Fair in December 2023 and are for sale in the Atlantic Islands Centre and Luing Stores. Ambitious ideas are being developed for the future, including a possible geology trail on Luing and future exhibitions. 

Another outcome is the development of a more robust, sustainable creative network of writers, artists and crafters involving Luing, Lismore, Seil/Easdale and Kerrera. An existing craft network on Luing ’12 Dancing Pigeons’ have been enlivened by the project, and new writing groups are being nurtured, including the ‘Slate Scribblers’.

In January 2024, there was a ‘Writers, Artists and Craftmakers Discussion on Next Steps’ on Luing. This evidenced the tremendous momentum that has built up around the project and the will to build on this with future activities. Further activity has included monthly creative walks on the different islands, sustaining connections and fostering inspiration and collaborative work. In March 2024, artists and makers began working collaboratively to hire village hall space for makers' days, to work alongside each other and realise larger, more ambitious work. There are also aspirations to develop songwriting workshops and source support for portable exhibition equipment.  The Scottish Centre for Geopoetics, which has its base on Luing and already has an international reach, has increased its profile and membership through this project and is establishing a physical base with a library of resources and accommodation on site. The aspiration is to open this resource out and to initiate creative residencies on the island. These future activities will happen through the commitment of those involved; some require additional support to be matched to ambitions, which include international aspirations.


‘The Botanical Printing workshop used the natural flora of the islands to create art, fostering a connection between the participants and their local natural environment. The Seaweed Cyanotype Workshop was held mainly outside, first gathering seaweed from Cullipool beach together and then exposing our images outside in the daylight. The stamp workshop focused on Luing as an island and drew inspiration from local landmarks and historical illustrative cartography. In these ways, each of these workshops has directly or indirectly used part of the islands as an actual physical art material or as inspiration for the artwork subject.

'Without fail, each group appreciates and supports one another’s work. Every time, there is a real sense of achievement within the whole group that comes with working together all day on a project. Therefore, despite the initial difficulty relating this workshop to ‘expressing an island’… it brought together every type and age of person that makes up an island community and gave them a common reason to gather together and share achievements in a way they wouldn’t normally have cause to - perhaps this is the real way to ‘express an island’!’ -  Lottie May

‘It’s been great, Thank you. It’s been so long since we’ve had creative learning offered here on Lismore - normally we would have to travel long distances for art workshops.’ - Workshop participant.

‘Having an informed and capable independent critique is often difficult to obtain as a writer, but essential for learning and advancing in one’s practice. This was my first exposure to writing in a group learning context. Norrie was able quickly to establish a relaxed and safe place in which to be vulnerable! Having an experienced and supportive practitioner of the art of word-craft within a small group is a privilege and gives a very welcome boost to one’s modest efforts. Many thanks are due to him and to those who funded this outreach work.’ - Workshop participant Lismore

‘I’ve found teaching these workshops enormously beneficial to myself and those attending. It is hard to quantify this feeling into concrete results, but I can tell you that we’re most definitely making a difference to people’s lives and local communities’ - Lottie May



Artist Interview

Scottish Centre for Geopoetics

Norman Bissell - Poet - Scottish Poetry Library

Expressing An Island


Coastal Cultures - Islands is funded by Creative Scotland and supported by The Scottish GovernmentArgyll and Bute Council and Bòrd na Gàidhlig. Coastal Cultures, Islands, supports the aims of the Argyll and Bute Economic Strategy, the National Plan for Scotland’s Islands and the Scottish Government's Gaelic Language Plan.