A cultural collective once frequented by future Scottish icons including Billy Connolly, Aly Bain, Phil Cunningham and Norman MacCaig has reunited 45 years after their first appearance for a series of special performances during this year’s Edinburgh Festival.
‘The Heretics’ first came together in 1970 to promote the poetry and music of Scotland’s living tradition in a relaxed and convivial setting. Throughout the 1970’s, the group appeared regularly at the Edinburgh Festival and hosted evenings of poetry and music throughout Scotland until they eventually disbanded after a final farewell concert in 1980.
Early billings included appearances by comedian Billy Connolly, then a member of folk band the Humblebums and celebrated poet Norman MacCaig alongside renowned Scottish fiddler Aly Bain and poet and songwriter Hamish Henderson, one of the driving forces behind the post-war Scottish folk revival. The acclaimed Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean, writer and political activist Hugh MacDiarmid and influential publisher, academic and Gaelic writer Derick Thomson were also regular contributors.
Hosted by the Saltire Society, the first of ‘The Heretics’ comeback performances took place on Wednesday evening (5th August) at the Society’s headquarters in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town. Further performances will take place at the same venue on Wednesday the 12th and Wednesday the 19th August.
The gathered artists took the opportunity to recreate an iconic photograph from the Heretics archive.
The comeback was the brainchild of singer, actor, writer and Gaelic activist Dolina MacLennan and author and playwright John Herdman, both part of the original ‘Heretics’ line-up back in 1970.
As part of the 2015 revival, members of the original line-up are joined by a new generation of performers including novelist and songwriter Peter Burnett and writer Craig Gibson who have ambitions to revive the tradition of ‘The Heretics’ with fresh performances in future years. Other contributing New Heretics will include:
- Performance poet Anita Govan;
- Poet and musician Colin Donati;
- Singer Kirsty Law;
- Edinburgh band The Range of the Awful Hand; and
- Historian and writer Dr. Mark Jardine.
Scottish fiddler and one-time Heretics contributor Aly Bain said:
“I have very fond memories of taking part in Heretics events in the early seventies. So more than forty years later, I’m delighted to learn that surviving members from the original line-up are getting back together. With founder members including Doli MacLennan and John Herdman taking part in the revival, I’m sure these events will be just as lively and entertaining as they were back in the day. Some great tales to be told and no doubt a few surprises in store as well!”
Original Heretic Dolina MacLennan said:
“The original purpose of the Heretics was to provide a stage for unpublished Scottish poets, writers and musicians to perform their work – because such a thing didn’t really exist at the time. It had a great run throughout the 1970’s and we were lucky to have so many iconic artists on the billing. This included people like Liz Lochhead, Billy Connolly and Aly Bain who went on to be household names but also hugely important figures like Sorley MacLean, Hugh MacDiarmid and Derick Thomson, whose influence on Scottish culture generally and Gaelic language and culture in particular can still be felt today.”
New Heretic Peter Burnett added:
“I’ve long been an admirer of ‘The Heretics’ and so many of the artists who were regular contributors. 35 years after their farewell performance, the time seemed right for a revival. Hopefully, we can help some of today’s leading performers of poetry, writing and traditional music from Scotland’s living tradition to find an audience and to go on to be the stars of the future.”
Saltire Society Executive Director Jim Tough said:
“We’re delighted to be able to host the comeback of ‘The Heretics’ during this year’s Edinburgh Festival, 45 years after they first took to the stage. Scotland’s living tradition is a precious thing that deserves to be celebrated. I’m confident that this revival will have every success in bringing that tradition to a new audience in the years ahead.”
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Notes to Editors
‘The Heretics’ are due to perform at the Saltire Society Headquarters, 9 Fountain Close, 22 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1TF at the following dates and times:
- 7pm on Wednesday, the 5th August 2015
- 7pm on Wednesday, the 12th August 2015
- 7pm on Wednesday , the 19th August 2015
These will be ticketed events and numbers are strictly limited. Full details and tickets are available via the Saltire Society website. Entry is free but donations can be made on the evening. All proceeds will go to the Saltire Trust.
About the Saltire Society
The Saltire Society seeks to encourage everything that might improve the quality of life in Scotland. It works to preserve all that is best in Scottish traditions and to encourage new developments which can strengthen and enrich the country’s cultural life. It acts as a catalyst, celebrant and commentator through an annual programme of awards, lectures, debates and projects. Founded in 1936 is a non-political independent charity with membership branches throughout Scotland.
Membership of the Saltire Society is open to all individuals and organisations who support the aims of the Society.
Other details: –
Saltire Society Website – www.saltiresociety.org.uk
HQ, 9 Fountain Close, 22 High Street,
Edinburgh, EH1 1TF