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Elphinstone Kist   Background and Contexts

Natural Heritage     by: Morrison, Frieda

Recently I was asked to produce a documentary for BBC Radio Scotland that would reflect the current state of culture in the North East. I was pleased to do so- but was concerned about the enormity of the task. How could I portray such a deep rich culture to listeners, who had maybe never been aware of its existence? How could I explain what was happening now- without getting bogged down in a murky economic diatribe? And why- in this part of the 21st century, are we bothered about what happens to an individual culture anyway?

I don't think I ever found a satisfactory verbal explanation to that last question- but I can tell you about the amount of attention that's given to a 'rare orchid' halfway up the slopes of a remote mountain in Scotland. A lot of time and money is now being spent on trying to protect our 'Natural Heritage' because ( according to my scientific advisors) it 'enriches our lives'. If our Natural Heritage is so important isn't our Cultural heritage equally important? But it would seem it's easier to protect, nurture and appreciate the 'rare orchid'! The survival of our North East Culture depends on how we explain its relevance today. In the course of research for my Radio Programme, 'A Sense of Time', I found myself constantly referring back to 'Sunset Song' by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Somewhere in these pages, I felt lay the key to my dilemma over the importance of the word 'culture'. The problem may lie with the very word.

Language lies at the heart of culture and Gibbon may not write in North East Scots but he captures its rhythm- and he writes to powerful feelings. So what of the future of this culture? Are we hearing the Sunset Song of the North East- the end of an auld sang? The answer to that, I feel, lies in our getting to grips with attitudes, within our social and educational circles. Only yesterday I heard of a primary school child in my part of Aberdeenshire being taken to task by his teacher for uttering the words 'my lum was rikkin'. The teacher tried to correct the urchin with the words- 'No Robert, my chimney was smoking.'
'Well', the child replied,' Your lum can dee fit it likes- bit mine wis rikkin.'
Consider the orchids- how they grow.

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