Poets on the Attack: A dramatic re-enactment of Hugh MacDiarmid and Hamish Henderson's Folk-Song Flyting

11 May 2022
Hawthornden Lecture Theatre | Royal Scottish Academy Tickets £10 | RSA Friends & Students £6 Entry via the Royal Scottish Academy South Door entrance | Doors open 6.30pm | Performance 6.45 – 8pm

In 2022 it is 100 years since the name Hugh MacDiarmid first appeared in print. We are pleased to mark the anniversary of one of our Honorary Academicians with a performance of The Folk-Song Flyting. Join us for what promises to be a highly entertaining evening!


Alan Riach and Corey Gibson, both of Glasgow University, present a fascinating account of the flyting between two of Scotland's greatest modern poets, Hugh MacDiarmid and Hamish Henderson, orginally conducted in the letters pages of The Scotsman  in the 1960s.


A flyting is an old Scottish literary tradition of coruscating verbal attack, in which two poets present opposing arguments and tear into each other in delightful abandon with an abundance of sheer linguistic brio. The exchanges focussed on matters of Scottish arts and identity, the relative values of 'High Art' and folk song, genuine popularity and commercial populism. This event is a dramatic re-enactment of the flyting conducted in the original spirit of the correspondence, in the timeless Scottish style of ‘enjoying the row fine’.


The performance will play out against a backdrop of images from the exhibition, Landmarks: Hugh MacDiarmid: The Brownsbank Years by RSA Annual Exhibition exhibitors, Alexander Moffat RSA and Ruth Nicol.


The event is being filmed for the MacDiarmid Brownsbank Trust and following the performance there will be the opportunity to chat to the performers and artists over a complimentary dram. The publication Landmarks: Hugh MacDiarmid: The Brownsbank Years will be for sale in aid ofthe MacDiarmid Brownsbank Trust.


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Corey Gibson is the author of The Voice of the People: Hamish Henderson and Scottish Cultural Politics (EUP, 2015) and the editor of Hamish Henderson's Collected Poems (Polygon, 2019), as well as articles and book chapters on ballads, extremism and poetry, war poetry, class and nationalism, flyting and the folk revival. In 2018 he was appointed as Lecturer in Twentieth-Century Scottish Literature at Glasgow University.


Alan Riach is a poet and Professor of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University. Born in Airdrie, Lanarkshire, he studied at Cambridge and Glasgow, then worked at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, 1986-2000, returning to Scotland in 2001. his books include poetry: The Winter Book (2017), Homecoming (2009) and Wild Blue: Selected Poems (2014); criticism: Hugh MacDiarmid’s Epic Poetry (1991), Representing Scotland (2005), and co-authored with Alexander Moffat, Arts of Resistance: Poets, Portraits and Landscapes of Modern Scotland (2008), described in the TLS as ‘a landmark book’.


Hugh MacDiarmid (C.M. Grieve, 1892-1978) is widely considered the most important Scottish poet of the twentieth century and one of the major poets of the modern world.


Hamish Henderson was a poet, song writer, song-collector, archivist, lecturer at Edinburgh University's School of Scottish Studies, and pre-eminent champion of the folk music revival in Scotland.