Write by the Sea

Hiya. Sam here.

Towards the middle of this month, in what was our last public outing for a while, four of Team KDD spent a few days in a beautiful corner out west – known as Argyll’s Secret Coast.

The inaugural Write by the Sea Festival, founded by the hard-working and ever-creative Fiona McPhail and a close-knit creative community, celebrated writing and writers exploring themes connected with the sea, food, coast, nature, place and suspected murder!

In an effort to ensure the festival made a positive impact for as many local businesses as possible, events took place in a variety of lovely venues spread across the Cowal Peninsula, including The Kames Hotel, The Royal Hotel and Botanica at the Barn – maybe when the coast is clear you might consider visiting these places.

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Now, Jane and I know this part of the west coast pretty well. You may remember that Jane responded to the quiet beauty of the area for a year while making art for her 2018 exhibition – Hush – hosted at Tighnabruaich Gallery.

During those visits we had spotted this tiny stone-built cottage hunkered down beside the pier at Kames, so we were pretty chuffed to find that it was available (and affordable) for this weekend.


In fact, the view from that pier inspired this piece:

Sightlines – Jane Hunter (2018)

The only problem was that, after buying provisions for the weekend, we realised the cottage did not have an oven – the lasagne we had been looking forward to would have to stay at home!

Meanwhile, Kate & Tom stayed in the more “lasagne-friendly” lodges at Carry Farm.

If you’re interested to find out who the creative contributors were take a wee keek at the beautifully designed Write by the Sea website.

We had a great weekend, heard from some fascinating writers, met some interesting people, listened to sea shanties, walked along the shore and enjoyed a brilliant dinner at Kames Hotel with my wonderful cousin, whom I hadn’t seen for a few years. We’ll need to dine out on the memories of this experience for a while to come.

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Now I’ll tell you a bit about a couple of the things that will likely be of interest to you.Tom-Barr-Tig-Gallery

The weekend kicked-off with the opening of Light by the Sea – Tom’s extraordinary audio and visual art exhibition at Tighnabruaich Gallery. It was a really well attended opening night, with locals and visitors alike enjoying the painterly images and fresh sounds Tom had created, leading to some interesting conversations about Tom’s practise and how people experience coastal landscapes.


I saw the staggering amount of work Tom put into this project, get a flavour of it over on his website.



I imagine it would have come as a wee bit of a surprise to many in the audience, that when it was Kate’s turn to talk she read a series of poems. In fact, it was a surprise to Kate that in preparing to present new work at the festival her words fell into the shape of poetry. It’s not that Kate isn’t poetic, far from it, it’s just that her writing more often takes the form of prose and, in particular, essays.

It was with gentle charm, wit and self-deprecating humour Kate presented to us this series of poems that touch on the materiality of found objects and her favourite coat, of a human’s place within landscape, and of finding a language which speaks to and for a wonky, walking body.

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In our era of climate crisis and global pandemic, I believe our relationship to nature, how we interact and connect with nature and how land is used is going to become increasingly important. As these conversations progress, it is vital we hear from a diversity of voices. This is something the Nan Shepherd Prize is working on right now, as they award a new literary prize for underrepresented voices in nature writing. And so, I found Kate’s writing on disability in nature incredibly powerful, honest and timely.

I had a lump in my throat throughout.

Over the next few weeks, hopefully Kate will share some of this new poetry with us all here on the blog.


12 Stravaigin No2
Stravaigin No 2, Tom Barr (2020)

One final point. The Scottish Highlands, Islands and West Coast are peppered with small, rural towns and villages like these. There is beauty in the seclusion and as tempting as it is to remove oneself from heavily populated areas as Covid-19 spreads – please don’t risk the possibility of taking infection to these fragile communities.

Take care of yourself and those around you.


Sam Kilday.