Discovery Film Festival at DCA – Review

discovery-film-festivalLast Saturday my family and I headed along to the Discovery Film Festival at Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) with my family in tow for a bit of a cultural morning! I’d heard great things about the festival over the years and decided it was high time that we went along to experience it for ourselves!

Scotland’s international film festival for young audiences is aimed at kids of all ages with collections aimed at wee ones, middle ones as well as films chosen for a teenage audience. With my own little audience ranging from 4 to 7, we decided to attend both shorts for wee ones and shorts for middle ones, so that we could pack in as much culture into the morning as possible!

Having sat through both the shorts for wee ones and shorts for middle ones with my own little critics, I can tell you that both collections are just amazing and I’d thoroughly recommend watching them. Some of them had all four of us hooting with laughter while others had us oohing and ahhing in our seats whilst considering the true meaning of love and friendship. My favourite film from the shorts for middle ones collection, Rice Balls, even had this 37 year old critic moved to “happy” tears!

Both collections lasted around an hour and held our attention throughout. For me, the best part of the experience was knowing that my kids had been exposed to new ideas and different cultures from around the world – and you know what – they loved it!

The Discovery Film Festival at DCA runs until the 6th of November. For more information and to book tickets, visit: www.dca.org.uk

Beneath The Skin #BlogTour – Why Taxidermy Both Horrifies and Fascinates

I’m delighted to be taking part in a blog tour today to celebrate the release of Sandra Ireland’s gothic thriller Beneath The Skin. Set in Edinburgh, the novel centres on damaged ex-soldier Walt whose life becomes unexpectedly tangled with a cruel, calculating taxidermist named Alys. Today, Sandra shares her thoughts on why taxidermy still horrifies and fascinates us…

Why Taxidermy Both Horrifies and Fascinates by Sandra Ireland, author of Beneath the Skin

beneath-the-skinTaxidermy is all a bit marmite. The mere mention of it provokes some very strong reactions! People are either fascinated by it, and keen to relate examples of ‘bad taxidermy’ they may have spotted, or even ‘bad taxidermists’ they may have met. Others will regard you with suspicion, as if you’ve just confessed to regularly dining on dormice. Even the dictionary definition of the word- ‘an arrangement of skin’- conjures up images of nightmarish Frankenstein-esque creations.

The truth is that this ancient art is enjoying something of an renaissance, thanks to the work of a new generation of young, predominantly female, artists. They are possibly the most unlikely candidates to fill the  role of  the traditional taxidermist.

Leading the field is Polly Morgan, the inspiration behind the character of Alys in my debut novel Beneath the Skin. Polly has a freezer full of birds and small mammals in her kitchen, When she shakes your hand, she is imagining the structures beneath the skin. She also sells bizarre and beautiful taxidermied creations for six-figure sums.

Emma Willats is an Aberdeen-based entrepreneur. With her background in anatomy, it was a small step into the world of taxidermy. Emma recently launched her business The Dapper Dead. She makes and sells sporrans and other accessories created from roadkill foxes , badgers and so on. Even the odd guinea pig has found its way into her products. In a recent interview she reveals, “ You don’t want them [the animals] to die, but if they’re dead, you want them.”

It is this passion, this desire to resurrect the dead that I personally find so intriguing. It has opened up a whole new layer of meaning in Beneath the Skin, with Alys’s ‘undead’ animals inhabiting the twilight world of Walt, her assistant, who is suffering from PTSD. We may be repelled by the notion of keeping these creatures alive, but our human nature means we are fascinated by it too.

This is borne out by the Victorian obsession with taxidermy. It fed into the preoccupation with death and mourning which prevailed in this era. Walter Potter, a hero of my character Alys, was a renowned taxidermist who created anthropomorphic dioramas to astound the viewing public. Think kittens dressed up for a wedding, or toads playing cricket. These arrangements are decidedly creepy to out tastes, but were hugely popular in their day, and not that far removed from Polly Morgan’s white rat in a wine glass. ( Title: ‘Rest a Little on the Lap of Life’, 2006).

Although our views on what is ‘good taste’ and ‘bad taste’ are constantly changing, I predict that taxidermy will remain an endless source of fascination for us. There’s something raw and primitive about it that calls to us. We like to act all squeamish; we love to be repulsed. It is a horror film we just cannot look away from…

As Alys would say, taxidermy isn’t for wimps!

About the Author

Sandra Ireland, author of Beneath the Skin

Sandra Ireland is an award-winning writer, poet and artist. Born in Yorkshire, she was brought up in the North East and lived for many years in Éire. Her work has appeared in various women’s magazines and publications such as New Writing Dundee, Dundee Writes and ‘Furies’, an anthology of women’s poetry. Beneath the Skin is her first novel and was inspired by a love of all things curious and unseen.

Web: www.sandrairelandauthor.com
Twitter: @22_ireland

 

About the Book

Beneath the Skin

Taking a job in the studio of an Edinburgh taxidermist probably isn’t Walt’s wisest decision. Suffering from combat stress and struggling to outrun the demons from his past, he now finds himself confronted by the undead on a daily basis. His enigmatic boss, Alys, and her sister, Mouse, have their own uneasy relationship with the past. Someone doesn’t want to let them go. Can Walt save Mouse’s eight-year-old son, William, from becoming the next victim? And can he save himself?

Deliciously disturbing, this psychological thriller peels back the skin of one modern family to reveal the wounds no one wants to see. It deals with the effects of trauma and how facing up to vulnerability is sometimes the only way to let go of the past.

 

 

Praise for Beneath the Skin…

“The debut novel from Sandra Ireland is an exceptional calling card.” The Courier

“Sandra Ireland shows an impressive skill at locating her reader’s empathy and drawing it out to make you both emotionally invested and totally hooked on the action.” Becky Hinshelwood, Books etc.

Powerful, unsettling, captivating.” Liz Robinson, Love Reading UK

Sandra’s debut novel, Beneath the Skin is available in both paperback and ebook. You can order a copy online here: Beneath The Skin

 

Lennon – Through A Glass Onion, Caird Hall, Dundee

lennon-4When I made my way to see Lennon – Through A Glass Onion at Dundee’s Caird Hall recently, with my Beatles fan Dad in tow, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Naturally, I knew all about The Beatles, but the life of John Lennon – not so much! Obviously I knew the basics –  the move to the big apple, the in the bed protests with Yoko Ono and his horrific murder, but the rest was well, it was all a bit sketchy to say the least.  So you could say I was looking forward to being enlightened! The fact that John and the rest of The Beatles had actually graced the Caird Hall’s stage back in the 1960s – only added to my anticipation!

The show, which is part concert, part biography, stars the very talented Daniel Taylor, who is a musician in his own right. The production begins on the fateful day that Lennon died, before looping back to his time with The Beatles before moving on to his solo career. As you can imagine, the soundtrack was amazing and included all the hits such as Imagine, Woman, Working Class Hero, and Jealous Guy as well as some of Lennon’s collaborations with McCartney, including Strawberry Fields Forever and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

Filled with insights about John’s relationship with his bandmates and the love of his life Yoko Ono, the show gets to grips with the man behind the music and separates the facts from the myths and legends. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and would recommend it to anyone looking to know more about Lennon’s life.

For more information about Lennon – Through A Glass Onion, visit: http://lennononstage.com

 

I Love Dundee Literary Festival!

lit-dundeeHip, hip, hooray! My favourite book event is back!

Now in it’s 10th year, the Dundee Literary Festival features the best writers in the world – and all in my sunny home city of Dundee! With a eclectic range of events for children through to adults, the festival is a wonderful place for any bookish person to while away the hours.

Three days into the five day event and I’ve already seen a stunning range of writers from debut novelists Sandra Ireland and Shelley Day right through to James Kelman – the only Scottish author to win the booker prize!

I’ve got loads more lined up over the weekend too including a Rock & Roll Roald Dahl Party with Matthew Fitt, Haunting Afterlives – an event examining the work of Shirley Jackson and Josephine Tey, Crime Through Time with Sue Lawrence and Martin Cathcart Froden and Outer Edges featuring writers Amy Liptrot and Malachy Tallack!

You could say that I’m going to have a pretty busy literary weekend!

I’ll be reporting back on my book fest experience next week, but if you’d like to join in on all the bookish fun before then, visit the Dundee Literary Festival website to book tickets! You’ll be glad that you did!

 

 

 

Dragon Matrix, Monikie Country Park – Review

dragon-quest-1

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise…especially if it’s Monikie Country Park in Angus that you visit! You see there is something lurking there, deep inside the forest, and we’re not talking about anything as tame as teddy bears! Oh no! We’re talking about terrible trolls, wicked witches and deadly dragons, and they’re all waiting in the dark to greet you…

Yep, you’ve guessed it! Vision Mechanics are back again with another brand new augmented reality theatre show for families, and no one could be more chuffed than me and my over enthusiastic seven year old!

After completing Dragon Quest last year and receiving our first special dragon protection badges, we’ve been counting down the days until we could get back inside those woods to complete Dragon Matrix! The fact that Dragon Matrix is going to be on my big girl’s absolute favourite programme, Blue Peter, next week, only added to the excitement! We (okay then I!) just wish we could have timed our visit better, so that we could have carried out our dragon protecting alongside BP’s Barney (who may or may not be very easy on the eye)….screenshot25

With the sad absence of Barney, we decided to bring along another few comrades to help us out instead, including our very own brave four year old girl warrior and Granny 5 star (another story for another day!) who is most excellent at holding little hands in the dark.

As we set out on our mission, it was clear that this year’s event, which includes actors, real life props, spectacular lighting and special effects, was even bigger and better than last year! The Dragon Matrix app has also been improved and features more interactive features, adding some extra menace and magic to the enchanting experience.

wp_20161012_19_01_55_proWhile some small children might find the notion of walking around in a forest at night a bit daunting, the Dragon Matrix always stays at the right side of scary, and my four year old warrior had a spectacularly good time, as did the rest of us dragon protectors!

Clever, bewitching and scarily good fun – the Dragon Matrix is a must see event for the whole family.

The Dragon Matrix is at Monike Country Park until Monday the 31st of October. For more information and to book tickets, visit: http://dragonmatrix.org.uk