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From Fiddle to Boat – a piece of North East history

If you have been following Pushing Out the Boat since its beginning in 2000, you may remember its predecessor, The Broken Fiddle. With Issues spanning from 1993 to its last publication at the turn of the century, the magazine not only featured a sumptuous range of poetry and prose focussing initially on the Banff and Buchan area, but also a selection of playscripts, advice columns for budding writers, a “news and reviews” section dedicated to local goings-on, and even a section dedicated to dance.

Iain Macaulay, publisher, Banff and Buchan District Council’s Arts Development Officer for early issues, suggested the magazine’s holistic coverage of the arts served to “demonstrate that the arts can be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone”. We can see where he’s coming from – the earlier magazine releases even featured a special section titled The Red Jelly Party, written by children, for children. Perhaps such a far-stretching coverage of the arts proved overly ambitious, for the magazine’s latter issues appear to have reduced their contents to poetry and prose, but preserve their “news and reviews” column.

While it was initially published by the District Council, The Broken Fiddle was taken over by its successor Aberdeenshire Council in 1996.  Its first editor was Caithness writer George Gunn, its last Angus Dunn. Sadly, Angus passed away in 2015 after a prolonged illness, but is remembered for his flair for poetry, especially that concerned with the natural world. An obituary for Angus written in The Scotsman describes his poetry as “magical”, such that it “lures us into a world where crows are fruit, the wind is a wire, the moon has a voice and water holds memory”. It was to be three years after the demise of The Broken Fiddle before Aberdeenshire Council published the first issue of Pushing Out the Boat and another seven before the boat floated free to become the magazine we know and love, run entirely by volunteer effort.

Contemporary submissions to Pushing Out the Boat show a similar valuation for the natural world. You may recognise some familiar names such as musician, writer and poet Haworth Hodgkinson, who submitted to both The Broken Fiddle and to Pushing Out the Boat. North East poet and member of Huntly Writers, Maureen Ross’s poems also feature in both.

Perhaps you recall the days of The Broken Fiddle, or are lucky enough to own an issue yourself? If so, we invite you to share your recollections by adding a comment below.

[Our thanks to former team member Martin Walsh who donated an almost complete run of The Broken Fiddle to the Pushing Out the Boat archive.]

 

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