3 minutes of enLIGHTenment


It’s March, the ideal time to relive enLIGHTen, our spectacle of words and lights from March 2012. This wee video by Blue Iris Films captures the flavour.


47 seconds of enLIGHTenment…


Blue Iris Films have done enLIGHTen proud with these wee films of our City of Literature in a new light… Relive March 2012 and revisit our feast for the eyes.

Photo competition: winners revealed!

We teamed up with the good folk at Blipfoto to run an enLIGHTen photograph competition for which we asked you to submit dynamic, creative images that told us a story. Captured a mood. Showed us Edinburgh in a whole new light.

We asked and you responded! We were very pleased with the response, a rainbow of different projections, angles, framing and photography skills, presenting the judges with a particularly difficult job last week at City of Literature HQ. Lucky Edinburgh experienced freak summer weather, since only an ice cream run could make the task lighter.

After much deliberation, the laurels go to Ever Dundas for her striking, eerie capture of the Puffersphere in Charlotte Square.You can see more of Ever’s photography and collage work here: stillicidiousstars.tumblr.com and explore her  writing yonder: bloodonforgottenwalls.wordpress.com

Honourable mentions to runners up Pavel Lesnik and blipfoto user MAiT for their impressive entries. And our thanks and hurrahs to all who entered!

Feedback o’clock!

We’d love your feedback on all aspects of enLIGHTen – the visuals, the words we picked, the website, the Twitter activity :: EVERYTHING! Your input is enormously helpful to our future planning, so we’d be really grateful if you let us know how it was for you?

Our wee survey should take five minutes, and as an added incentive/expression of our gratitude for filling it in, there’s the chance to be entered into a prize draw for £50 worth of Waterstones vouchers!



A little video

We turned the lights off last night at midnight, so the streets of Edinburgh have returned to their normal state once more. But we will always have enLIGHTen! Here’s a wee video our partners NL Productions made of Pufferfish Ltd‘s dynamic projection designed for the Royal Society building…

And another, featuring a mashup of all six projections, by Michael MacLeod!

Meanwhile, there’s still time to enter our photo competition, browse our photo gallery, listen to our cracking audio, and of course let us know what you thought of the project

Finding the story: Gavin Inglis on enLIGHTen…

Gavin Inglis muses upon finding the story behind the commission. Gavin’s lovely story for enLIGHTen is called ‘Starfield’ (his audio piece features star sonifications from the Kepler satellite!) and it responds to the words of Allan Ramsay being projected upon 1 Rose Street.

The process of coming up with an idea for a story is mysterious. Harlan Ellison liked to lie that he got all his ideas by post from a service in Schenectady. It’s not like Sudoku, where certain rules, rigorously applied, will always solve the problem. Yet it is something of a puzzle to be solved. I spend a lot of time on this when I’m teaching, because for many students getting started is the biggest obstacle. This is the process I used to come up with the idea for my story Starfield for Edinburgh City of Literature’s enLIGHTen project.

I got the commission email in last thing on a Friday. That weekend featured two tough deadlines, and I was teaching on the Monday evening, so I didn’t really engage with it until Tuesday. At which point I learned they wanted a piece of flash fiction by Friday, for audio delivery, to a very specific brief.

The story had to relate to David Hume’s old house, previously at 8 South St. David’s Street. It also had to be a response to a quote by the poet Allan Ramsay:

Schools polite shall lib’ral Arts display,
And make auld barb’rous Darkness fly away.

Now, understand, my normal process for writing a story includes leaving it in a drawer for two weeks, and having it workshopped at a monthly session with Writers’ Bloc. I am also absolutely dreadful at writing to themes. It’s just not how my idea factory works. I contacted Peggy at City of Literature and blagged a weekend extension to the deadline.

So now I was committed to doing this in about five days. It wouldn’t be the writing that would be the problem; 600 words is nothing. The challenge would be coming up with a workable, on-topic idea, and forcing it to come quickly. I saw three possible entry points: the location, David Hume himself, or liberal arts…

This is just an extract! Follow Gavin’s creative journey over at his blog

Photo competition!

Today, we are launching one final call to arms for enLIGHTened bods everywhere.

The end of enLIGHTen is nigh, and we’re looking for the best and brightest photos to put in our scrapbook.

We are scouting about for an exciting image that captures the project and the projections. We’ve teamed up with the good folk at Blipfoto to hunt for the winner.

It’ll help us remember enLIGHTen fondly when the streets return to their regularly scheduled programmes.

Happy snapping!


How to enter:

Enter either through blipfoto or via Twitter.

If you don’t have a blipfoto account, you can join here. It takes 30 seconds. Be sure and tag your entry with the word ‘edlighten’.

If you don’t have a twitter account, you can join here. Be sure to tag your entry with the competition hashtag #edlighten.

Who can enter:

Anyone and everyone!

What to enter:

A single photo – the one image that captures enLIGHTen in all its dynamic glory. Any of our six sites are fair game, and any composition or style is eligible.

We want dynamic, creative images. Tell us a story. Capture a mood. Show us Edinburgh in a whole new light.

Any photo already taken during the campaign is eligible – but will not be considered unless submitted as outlined below.

Why not take a spin through our Flickr gallery, featuring the work of Chris Scott and David Lesault, to whet your appetite?


Projections run until Sunday 18 March.

Deadline for submitting your photo: midnight on Wednesday 21 March

The prize

£100 cash prize!  Payable by cheque.

The fineprint

Entry is online (see above for how to enter).

Work must be your own, submitted under one person’s name. By submitting images you confirm that you are the copyright holder and creator of the image and that you will be responsible for any claims by any third party.

Copyright will remain with the photographer. However by entering this competition the photographer/entrant agrees to the Edinburgh City of Literature using the images for possible exhibition, publication or promotional use.

Judges decision is final.


enLIGHTened with… Billy Letford

We snatched 10 minutes to get to know Billy Letford a little better. His poem, ‘Monuments of the Mind’, responds to the words of David Hume being projected onto the Melville Monument in St Andrew Square.

If you could project any words on any building in the world, which words would you choose, and which building?

I once read about a man that was walked to the scaffold to be hanged for a failed assassination attempt on the King. There was a clamour from the public to see the event. Wooden stands were erected to satisfy the public’s desire. Before the final punishment, one of the stands collapsed. Many members of the public died. Once the chaos and confusion had been dealt with the man still had to be hanged. His final words were, ‘the more the mischief the merrier the show.’

Insanity can be turned on itself. The humour is so dark, and the situation so ridiculous that the words stuck with me. The name of the man has left me. The name of the King has left me. I can’t even remember the century when all of this took place. So I’ve temporarily claimed his words as my own.

I’d project, ‘the more the mischief the merrier the show,’ onto The Palace of Westminster.

Has enLIGHTen changed your perception of the enlightenment?

It has altered my perception.  I’m proud that these great men and women were Scottish, but their words and actions belong to the world. enLIGHTen made this apparent in a beautiful and dramatic way.

How did you tackle your particular commission? What was your starting point?

‘Truth Springs From Argument Amongst Friends.’ David Hume’s quote is wonderful, but it takes a certain type of friendship to argue in search of the betterment of everyone concerned. Most arguments are about one-upmanship and self gain. I asked myself who I could trust. How many people do I know that could take the subject, put it in the centre of the table, and argue around it knowing that being wrong is as relevant as being right. There weren’t many. All of them were family, and not all of them were alive. I chose two.

Which Enlightenment figure(s) would you invite to dinner? What would you eat?

David Hume was visited by the poet Thomas Blacklock. Blind and penniless, the poet no longer had the means to support his large family. Hume, in financial difficulties himself at the time, had managed to secure a university appointment worth about forty pounds a year. He took the grant for the university post from his desk, handed it to his unfortunate friend, and promised to have the name changed from Hume to Blacklock. This saved the poet and his family from destitution.

Any man willing to help a poet facing difficult times can have a place at my table. I’d feed him mince-soup and fresh buttered bread then quietly enquire if he was still good for a tap.

What’s next for you and your writing?

My first book, Bevel, is launched in August. So now I’m working towards my second book. That’s a good feeling. Apart from that, who knows? But that’s what makes life interesting.





On Stories as Venn Diagrams

Kirsty Logan muses upon the overlap between stories. Kirsty’s lovely story for enLIGHTen is called ‘Sleep Pictures’ and it responds to the words of Alison Rutherford, Lady Cockburn being projected upon 175 Rose Street.

Every story I write overlaps with the one written before it and the one written after it. I like to think of it as a Venn diagram – remember those? The things you drew in school, with two circles that overlapped to create a shared area. It’s used to show the differences and similarities between two things. I’ve never gone so far as to actually draw Venn diagrams for my stories – well, maybe once or twice, but then I have also drawn flowcharts and mind-maps and line-graphs for stories. Procrastination, what’s that?

My girlfriend, a graphic designer, tells me that the same thing happens with her website designs. Each website she builds has something in common with the one before it and the one after it, so if you wanted to you could follow an artist’s work, linking their pieces together like a string of beads. But beads that overlapped, which doesn’t really make sense, so I’m sticking to the Venn diagram analogy.

These overlapping elements can’t be predicted. It might be that a writer has just learned some bizarre historical tidbit, and can’t shake it until they’ve written about it a couple of times. Or a designer has learned a new skill, and wants to show it off before they get bored and want to learn something new.

Here’s an example: Last month I wrote a story called ‘Girl #18’ about a teenage boy on Skye who is haunted by the twin sister he accidentally killed in a car crash. It’s one of the last stories for the short story collection I’m working on, The Rental Heart and Other Curiosities. I’m also editing my first novel, Rust and Stardust, which is also set on a Hebridean island and is also about a teenager with a dead sibling. Although the tone and content of the novel and the story are very different, there were some definite overlaps.
Then the lovely Peggy from the enLIGHTen project commissioned me to write a story inspired by both the Roxburghe Hotel on Rose Street and Lady Cockburn’s quote: “There is nothing so pleasant and wholesome to the human heart as to love and be loved”. So I wrote ‘Sleep Pictures’, a short monologue from a lovesick ghost haunting the hotel where their beloved returns every anniversary. It’s pretty far away from Rust and Stardust, but it’s much closer to ‘Girl #18’. Although I didn’t mean for it to happen, certain elements of that story seemed to seep into ‘Sleep Pictures’. The ghost, of course, but also descriptions of the wind off the sea and the physical nature of hauntings.

After that, I wrote a very short film script for the fabulous ladies of Lock Up Your Daughters. It’s called ‘The Ghost Room’ and it’s about a woman who returns to the same hotel room every year to try to communicate with her ex-girlfriend. We’re now getting very far away from Rust and Stardust and pretty far from ‘Girl #18’, but still extremely close to ‘Sleep Pictures’. The practice of returning to the hotel every anniversary is the most obvious similarity, but ‘The Ghost Room’ doesn’t actually have a ghost or a haunting – at least not in the more literal, physical sense of the previous two stories.

It may seem that I am obsessed with ghosts, but I haven’t written about them since writing these three pieces. They had their little Venn diagram overlap, and now they’re done. After the script I wrote another story about a troubled lesbian relationship, but without hotels or anniversaries – so there’s a new overlap. I haven’t written another story since then, so I’ve yet to discover what from this new story will bleed into the next. My newest obsessions seem to be circuses, tigers, animal teeth and pro-wrestling, so I can only hope that this will lead to some interesting overlaps.

So am I the only person who thinks of their stories in terms of diagrams? Have you ever noticed similar patterns of overlap in your own work? Tell us over at #edLIGHTen…