Welcome to the Ties to the Tay Project

University of Dundeeteh River Tay from the Tower Building

Welcome to the Ties to the Tay blog. This  site provides information about activities and ongoing research related to the Ties to the Tay project, which is a collaboration between an interdisciplinary group of academics at the University of Dundee, the Nethergate Writers, artists, and community organisations.



The project aims to explore the changing relationships with, and representations of, the River Tay and its surrounding environs. Drawing on the work of creative writers, artists, film makers and many others, we hope to engage, document, create and celebrate diverse Ties to the Tay.


Watermarks-Nethergate Writers


Through the process of storytelling we will investigate how we produce and challenge connections to places, and how we formulate new relationships with various landscapes. To begin this journey we are drawing on Watermarks–a new collection of poems and short stories related to the theme of the River Tay–produced by the Nethergate Writers. (The Nethergate Writers Blog provides further information about the group, as well as their related Nethergate Writers Twitter feed.)




The project is coordinated by Susan Mains, Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Dundee.




This project has been made possible with financial support from Geography (School of Environment, University of Dundee), the Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience (CECHR, University of Dundee and the James Hutton Institute) and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.

Carnegie Trust for the Universities of ScotlandCECHR Logo


TTTT will be at the Dundee Science Festival!



We have some exciting news of an upcoming event: Susan Mains will be discussing the Ties to the Tay project at the 2016 Dundee Science Festival. The event, titled Ties to the Tay: Narrating Stories of Belonging, Community and Place, will be an open discussion held from 13.30-14.30 on Wednesday, 2 November at the Dundee Science Centre. We will chat about the key goals of the project, the activities the group has been undertaking–including some reflections from participating writers–and share some short film clips with attendees. We are looking forward to hearing about your connections to the River Tay and welcome ideas for future activities.

The event is free and tea/coffee and cake will be provided! You can book tickets at the link here – Ties to the Tay Dundee Science Festival Tickets.


Completed Films and Upcoming Filming Activities

We recently held a Ties to the Tay meeting to catch up and plan further filming activities. It was a nice chance to chat and plan how we can build on our filming and storytelling ideas.

So far, we have completed three short films. The first is My Song, based on Megan Heather’s prose poem. Megan’s poetry eloquently captures the diversity of riverside places and emotions.


Based on the short story by David Carson, the second film produced, A World Away, explores evocative places that remind us of the importance of past experiences, relationships and memory.


The third film, Wade’s Bridge, builds on the poetry of Gladys Taylor, to begin a journey through the historical, architectural and cultural landscapes of Aberfeldy.


We are now planning additional editing and filming activities and are looking ahead to potential screening and outreach activities, as well as possible future collaborations with other Tayside groups. Further updates will be posted here in the near future.

River Stories with the University of Dundee Nursery

Nursery Children and Ties to the Tay

My son attends the University of Dundee Nursery, and invariably we get chatting about the various kinds of activities they are exploring. Following a conversation we had a few months ago, and enthusiasm expressed by our youngest campus members, Anne McIntosh, the Deputy Manager for the Nursery, decided to build on the topic of the River Tay with a group of the children. We are delighted that the project has been a catalyst for a pilot project through which the children have demonstrated wonderful artistic and literary skills! We are aiming to build on this activity and continue the collaboration.

The short film below shows some examples of the poems, artwork and stories that the children have developed about their Ties to the Tay.

CECHR Workshop and Fieldtrip

Ties to the Tay Group at RSGS 28 April 2015

We’ve been getting out and about with our Ties to the Tay project. A few weeks ago we held a CECHR funded workshop at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) Headquarters in Perth. This was a very productive meeting where we explored: our progress so far; what sort of activities we would like to develop–including dissemination of the films we are producing; additional collaborators we may work with; and, the RSGS exhibition areas (where we may host future project events/screenings).

Artwork by Amy Woolvin

We also welcomed geographer and artist, Amy Woolvin, who recently moved to the Centre for Mountain Studies, Perth College-UHI (and is completing the final stages of her PhD in Geography at the University of Dundee). Amy’s participation in the group helps to strengthen our creative-human geography-environment connections, and further information about her fascinating dissertation project can be found here: Dissertation overview by Amy Woolvin (née Holden).

On Location in Errol

Following on from the RSGS gathering, we more recently held a fieldtrip workshop at a selection of sites that feature in the stories and poems of the Watermarks collection. One of the ideas behind the day’s events was to record project participants’ experiences and to document how the River Tay and environs had acted as a catalyst for creative activity and communicating new understandings of place.

We began our journey with a trip to the site of David Carson’s story, ‘A World Away,’ and recorded a short conversation about how the location had acted as inspiration. We also tried experimenting with some new camera equipment and a ‘furry’ microphone–kindly coordinated by Tracey Dixon–and realised that we’re getting closer to overcoming our battle with gusts of gales (but still have to look out for tufts of microphone fluff appearing in shot!).

On Location in ErrolWe then travelled west along the River Tay to the hamlet of Kingoodie. This is the site for Roddie McKenzie’s soon-to-be-filmed short story, which explores some Roddie McKenzie at Kingoodiehidden ‘undercurrents’ of Tayside life. The area provides a striking backdrop to a tale of intrigue, unexpected adventure and humour. The area was also known for its quarrying resources and much of the nearby stone was used to reinforce seawalls built to protect this ‘Ceann na Gaoithe’  (or windy head(land)).

And although we found it in a relatively tranquil state, signs of change in the river landscape could also be noted in the form of a new residence being constructed on its edge at the old Kingoodie Pier.

Flower Trains at Errol Station

Errol train station was our final stop before sustenance at our local favourite cafe, The Horn (which is becoming a regular creative stopping point!). Although no longer in use as an active station, trains still pass by on the adjacent line, and the station building itself is now a private residence. This is also one of the settings for Ann Prescott’s short film, ‘Wheels for Feet.’

The morning provided a unique opportunity to converse about how people and places have come together in situ, and how these connections can be interwoven through the mediums of creative writing and film.

Lots of Activities: Sound, Editing and Workshops!

Still from "A World Away" short film based on David Carson's short story.

Still from “A World Away” short film based on David Carson’s story.

Still from "A World Away."

Still from “A World Away.”

Things are moving along with our Ties to the Tay project. We’ve recorded the sound and now completed the short film of David Carson’s story “A World Away.”  Through the context of visits to a garden allotment, the film explores the central character’s relationship with his father, and paints a poignant and evocative story of the connections between past and present landscapes. Filmed on location at the Dundee City Council allotments near Magdalen Yard, we benefitted from great weather and learning new ways to create convincing sound effects!

Still from "The Point" based on Cathy Whitfield's story.

Still from “The Point” based on Cathy Whitfield’s story.

Still from "The Point," based on Cathy Whitfield's short story.

Still from “The Point,” based on Cathy Whitfield’s short story.

We’ve also had a look through the rough cut of the visuals for Cathy’s film “The Point” and now have the complete voiceover, so following another editing session this should be our next film appearing shortly. This includes some dramatic shots of Tentsmuir Beach and the surrounding area.


Earth Room at the RSGS Headquarters, Perth (RSGS 2015).

In terms of upcoming activities: next week we will be holding our CECHR funded workshop, “Creative, Sustainable and Transformational Communities.” This event is kindly being hosted by the RSGS at their headquarters in Perth and will give us the opportunity to explore the progress of the project so far, upcoming filming, fieldtrip and screening activities, as well as the possiblities for expanding the project over the longer term. An update on the workshop will follow shortly along with details of accessing the films and future screenings.

We’re Screening at StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival

StAnza International Poetry Festival

We have a very exciting week ahead. Three of our Ties to the Tay short films will be screening from 4-8 March, 2015 as part of the StAnza International Poetry Festival. The films begin screening in the Byre Theatre Conference Room in St Andrews on Wednesday evening (4 March) and run from 10am to 10pm during the rest of the festival (with pauses when other activities are being held in the same location). The screenings are free and provide a nice opportunity to sit back and enjoy some innovative audio visual entertainment in-between readings and performances.

The three films we are screening are based on the work of Roderick Manson, Gladys Taylor and Megan Heather.

A still while filming 'Chase the Evening' introduction.

A still while filming ‘Chase the Evening’ introduction.

Roderick’s short film provides an introduction/trailer to the longer film of his poem ‘Chase the Evening,’ which we will be filming during the coming months, following the river from the sea to its source.

Roderick Manson

Our recent filming took place on a ‘fresh’ (!) Sunday morning next to Broughty Ferry Castle, and provided us with some nicely atmospheric shots.

Esther Read, Alan Long and Gladys Taylor at Wade's Bridge during filming.

Esther Read, Alan Long and Gladys Taylor at Wade’s Bridge during filming.

The second film, ‘Wade’s Bridge,’ provides a historical poetic journey through the film’s namesake structure found in Aberfeldy.

Based on Gladys Taylor’s poem, the piece provides an evocative picture of changing architectural features, such as bridges, and their wider social and political presence. We were also able to celebrate Esther’s birthday, with a wee bit post-filming coffee and cake (an essential component of collaborative team building!).

Megan Heather

Megan Heather, author of ‘My Song.’

And, finally, the third film poem, is based on Megan Heather’s poignant prose poem, ‘My Song.’ Filmed along the Dundee City Waterfront, in an appropriately moody and stormy day, the film encludes a range of striking textual and visual imagery enhanced by Megan’s expert narration.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Ties to the Tay working lunch Dec 2014

The past few months have been busy for the Ties to the Tay project. We’ve been meeting up to explore the more detailed development of the storyboards for our short films based on a selection of the Watermarks short stories and poetry. This has given us a chance to think further about what sorts of locations, actors, and props may be useful as visual imagery. We’ve also been chatting about audio components: voiceover, music and, one of the writers, Gladys, has been sharing information in relation to audio software, particularly useful when accessing computer files and using iPads in relation to visual impairment.

We have also talked about other technical issues: sharing large video files, moving between iPad and android devices, how we may record sound–we now have a shiny new space-age looking microphone, so that should be a good help with recording voiceovers.

Bandstand Magdalen Yard

Our first day of filming took place, in glorious sunshine, in the vicinity of the Magdalen Yard (Dundee) allotments and went very well. This first film is based on David Carson’s short story, “A World Away,” and was very much a team project: two cameras, a sound effects expert (thanks Beth for the hard work raking stones and for your husband’s willingness to become an acting extra!), and impromptu meetings local residents. We’ll soon be posting some short clips so that you can get a feel for what we’ve been recording.

Tentsmuir Dunes

Our second day on location took place on the Fife side of the River Tay, as the river meets the sea, at the atmospheric Tentsmuir Beach. Once again we struck gold with the weather and got some great shots filming Cathy Whitfield’s short story “The Point.” On returning to Tayport we had a quick look through the footage, and we should have some super landscape shots!

So now we are moving on to further filming–Megan Heather’s prose poem, “My Song,” is next–and we will also be working through the footage compiled so far, including editing and adding in audio (without quite so dramatic wind effects!).

We’ll keep posting updates on the process, so please watch this space!