Caught by the River


Bill Drummond | 3rd May 2019

A lapwing is turning and tumbling.
A skylark is climbing higher and further.
Both are competing for my attention with their attitude to life.
Inside the Baltasound Hall, forty folk are watching the film Imagine Waking Up Tomorrow And All Music Has Disappeared.
And if you read last week’s Caught by the River you would know I’m on my second leg of my nine-year tour of The Atlantic Archipelago, and that the Baltasound Hall is in Shetland on the island of Unst to be more exact, and Unst is the most northerly inhabited island in the Atlantic Archipelago, which is also known as The British Isles by some.

I’m sitting in a hired white Ford Transit Van, with the window down, and I am at one with the world.
Or at least at one with the lapwing, the skylark and the two lambs in the neighbouring field that are attempting to feed from their reticent mother.

The white Ford Transit Van is parked up just outside the Baltasound Hall.
The landscape is vast and empty in an uplifting sort of way.

That said there are also two policemen within ten feet of me and they are inspecting the scene of a crime in search of evidence, but I will try and ignore their presence.

Shetland, and Unst in particular, is more epic than I could ever have hoped, and not just in a perfect setting for a Nordic Noir drama sort of way but, okay…in that sort of way as well.

Since the piece went in last week’s Caught by the River and right now – as in when I am writing these notes in the White Ford Transit Van – not only have you lived the twists and turns of every detail of your life and I have driven up to Aberdeen from Albion Parade, London, England, then got the overnight ferry to Lerwick, then the local ferry to Yell and then the even more local ferry from Yell to the island of Unst – there is something else that has happened and formed.

And that forming and happening has been mainly happening in the last hour.

And that is The Atlantic Archipelago Song Contest.

And yes, you too must have been understandably wondering “Why has it taken so long for a rival to the Eurovision to have evolved?” But it has and is evolving right now as you read this.

In these last few minutes, as the lapwing has been tumbling and turning and the skylark climbing and rising and both competing with the world with their songs, this Atlantic Archipelago Song Contest has taken further form.

This is how it is to work:

1: From here on in, on this nine-year tour, the screening of the film bit is to become secondary.

2: Instead of just recording one song sung in the local language of 200 years ago, I will instigate the recording of two songs to be recorded. Both of these songs chosen and sung by the singer of their particular language.

3: And before the screening of the film, in each of the remaining seven locations of the tour, I will play back to the audience the two pertinent songs for their appreciation and judgement.

4: And using a show of hands, they will choose which of “their” two songs should go through to the final.

5: And then some months, or weeks or just days after the tour of The Atlantic Archipelago ends in 2026, the final of The Atlantic Archipelago Song Contest will be held.

6: As for where this final will be held is yet to be decided – I thought it should be maybe the Royal Albert Hall, but my travelling companions from Neu! Reekie! think it should be in Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa. My guess is that Fingal’s Cave will get the popular vote.

But as for the voting for the winning song at the final of The Atlantic Archipelago Song Contest, it should be based on the tried and tested one used by our rivals at Eurovision.

7: And as for the prize, that is also yet to be decided.

The next leg this tour, and step in The Atlantic Archipelago Song Contest, will take place during the Appleby Horse Fair in June 2020. This will be to celebrate the Romani language and traditions in song. As yet we do not know who the singer of the two songs in the Romani language is to be.

The Cornish entry from 2018 and the Norn (Shetland) entry from 2019 can be heard below:

‘Goonlas’ sung in Cornish by Bec Applebee

‘The Unst Boat Song’ sung in Norn by Inge Thomson

* * *

Post Script:

To celebrate the above the Intercontinental Twinning Association are honoured to announce:
The twinning of the Welcome To Albion Parade Bus Shelter in N16 London with Bobby’s Bus Shelter on Unst.


The Votes For Women Puffin as the mascot for this particular twinning.


To celebrate this twinning I have done a one painting exhibition of the ATLANTIC ARCHIPELAGO canvas by Bobby’s Bus Shelter.