Launch of Issue 16


In the time of pandemic, the exception becomes the norm and the norm becomes the exception.

This thought must have crossed the minds of at least some of the near-one hundred souls who logged onto the online launch of Pushing Out the Boat magazine Issue 16 on the afternoon of Sunday the 16th of May.

Pushing Out the Boat’s recent norm, as old hands will know, has been to launch our new edition in the wonderful Phoenix Hall of Aberdeen’s Newton Dee community. Alas, Covid ruled that option out this year, so online it had to be or not at all.

Out had to go the pre-launch drinks and nibbles, the meeting of old friends and the making of new, the display of some of the art work from the magazine, and the buzz that can only come from face-to-face live performance. Out also, the chance to recoup some of the costs of producing the magazine through a ticketed event with added sales opportunity, a.k.a. our table laden with present and past issues of Pushing Out the Boat for sale (but don’t forget our online shop to order those extra copies for family and friends).

Lily Greenall – Sheila Templeton – Michael Stephenson – Alison Bell – Mairi Murphy

In came an online slide show of all the art work in the magazine (which can now be viewed on the Issue 16 page of our website, along with a selection of sample extracts of poetry and prose), in came poets and authors far from Aberdeen able to read at one of our launches for the first time, and in came guests from across the UK, Italy, Lithuania, Nigeria, and Switzerland (and those are just the places we know about). In also came a live chat function, so we could not only highlight biographies and contact details for our fifteen readers as they introduced themselves, but also capture the immediate responses of those attending. Here’s a selection of what people said.

  • Stunning artwork
  • So enjoying all the voices today
  • A real Sunday afternoon treat
  • What a whole load of talent!

And, plucked at random, responses to some of the individual contributions.

  • ‘Beyond the wind, by the asphodel-starred lochans, a redshank is crying …’ a gently hopeful ending (Alison Bell’s prose piece ‘Finding Ithaka’)
  • ‘He nails your soul to the floor …’ Thank you. Lovely poem (Mairi Murphy’s poem ‘Roan Inish, Gweebarra’)
  • ‘A certain heartbreak smell’. Wonderful to see the inspiring object (Gabrielle Barnby showed the audience the crucifix that was the subject of her prose piece ‘From Poland’)
  • I could hear the sea in your voice. So good to hear the Doric (Alistair Lawrie’s poem ‘Switherin’)
  • Just fabulous (Ellen Renton’s poem ‘In my best dreams’)
  • Wonderfully precise and captivating. Thank you (Susan Elsley’s short story ‘Golden Air’)
  • Names and identity are so important – thank you for writing this. Wonderful poem (Adebusola Bada’s ‘Identity’ – Adebusola is one of our young contributors, aged 17).

Gabrielle Barnby – Alistair Lawrie – Zoë Green – Ellen Renton – Eleanor Fordyce – Morag Smith

You can find recordings of all our featured authors reading their work here.

Not so long ago, any online arts event was very much the exception, associated with a sense of having been short-changed of the ‘real’ thing. Now the world of performance has been turned upside down. As one of our readers, Alison Bell, said in introducing her contribution, ‘Everything I wrote last year came out of the pandemic one way or another’ and we sensed a similar impact on many of our readers. Our online launch may have been part of the new norm but in the hands and with the voices of our contributors it also became exceptional, and we thank them, and our audience, for that. Thanks also, of course, to our editor, Lily Greenall, who introduced our readers and for the warm words about Pushing Out the Boat spoken by the author of Issue 16’s Foreword, Scots and English poet Sheila Templeton.

Footnote. Like most people, we also yearn for a return to the best of the old norm and hope to put on a live event of readings in Aberdeen as soon as we can, featuring local contributors to Issue 16. News of that will be publicised in the usual way – on the website, on social media and to our newsletter subscribers (you can join our mailing list here).

Susan Elsley – Ingrid Leonard – Adebusola Bada – Stella Hervey Birrell – Tom Bennett – Ian Crockatt