Hidden Door

Former Poet Laureate Ron Butlin on Hidden Door

Hidden Door was utterly delighted to welcome former Edinburgh Makar (Poet Laureate) Ron Butlin to Hidden Door 2016. Taking one of his poems as our inspiration for the “Electric City” theme, it was a joy to hear his wonderful words echo around our secret courtyard. We recently caught up with Ron for a chat about his experience of being involved.Ron Butlin

What was your involvement with Hidden Door this year – how did it come about?

I understand that David Martin, the festival director, came across my poem ‘The Electric City of Heck’ (in my collection The Magicians of Scotland, Polygon) and made it the inspiration of this year’s festival. I felt truly honoured.

ron-butlinHow did you find working with the team?

A joy from start to finish. Without exception everyone was both very friendly and extremely efficient, a rare combination!

The collaboration with Tinderbox Orchestra blew us all away – how was it for you?

This collaboration was one of the high points of my year. It was a genuinely creative collaboration. The enthusiasm, the lively rehearsals, the discussions with Jack Nissan and the muscians about how the text might be set helped reveal to me aspects of my poem that I hadn’t known before.

The event in a packed hall was high-octane stuff. The musicians gave it their all – total heart and soul. It was such a lift! Charged with the roar of a thirty-piece orchestra – brass, strings, guitars, percussion, electrics and the rest all blasting it out – my poem took on a new life and soared! The 400+ audience loved it. What could be better.

Did you get a chance to wander around and enjoy the rest of the festival?

Yes. I was made very welcome, and so was my wife Regi and our dog. We toured round the art exhibits and installations, often chatting with the artists, like Sarah Calmus. The work was incredibly varied, imaginative and often challenging in the best possible way. I caught some fine theatre and enjoyed excellent craic with various artists, organisers and visitors in the bar. The setting was a splendid cross of piazza-type open air and brought-back-to-life buildings. Utterly unique, and inspiring.

What would you say to anyone thinking of getting involved with the festival?

Stop thinking – and just do it! It will be a great experience and one you will definitely remember. Whether you’re collaborating or performing solo you will have the best organisation to support you and the best audience ever to share your work with.

And in case you missed it, here’s just a tiny glimpse of what the wonderful Tinderbox collaboration sounded like…