Margaret Tait 100 is a year-long centenary celebration of the work of Scotland’s pioneering filmmaker and poet, Margaret Tait (1918–1999). The programme officially launched in November 2018 on the occasion of Tait’s birthday, and includes screenings, exhibitions, workshops, readings, new publishing, and commissioning opportunities for artists working with film.
As part of Margaret Tait 100, ten short films will be commissioned in response to the legacy of Tait. The commissions will comprise five new works from established filmmakers including writer and director Mark Cousins; artist, filmmaker and musician Luke Fowler; and writer Ali Smith with artist and filmmaker Sarah Wood. A further five works will be commissioned via an open call, submissions now open (deadline: Tuesday 23 April 2019).
Margaret Tait (1918–1999) was born in Kirkwall on Orkney, Scotland. Tait qualified in medicine at Edinburgh University in 1941. From 1950 to 1952 she studied film at the Centro Sperimentale di Photographia in Rome.
Returning to Scotland she established Ancona Films in Edinburgh’s Rose Street. In the 1960s Tait moved back to Orkney where over the following decades she made a series of films inspired by the Orcadian landscape and culture. All but three of her thirty two films were self financed. She wrote poetry and stories and produced several books including three books of poetry.
Screenings include National Film Theatre (London), Berlin Film Festival, Centre for Contemporary Art (Warsaw), Arsenal Kino (Berlin), Pacific Film Archives (San Francisco), Knokke le Zoute, Delhi and Riga. Tait was accorded a retrospective at the 1970 Edinburgh Film Festival and has been the subject of profiles on BBC and Channel Four. The feature length Blue Black Permanent (1992) opened the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Her final film Garden Pieces was completed in 1998.
The kind of cinema I care about is at the level of poetry – in fact – it has been in a way my life’s work making film poems. – Margaret Tait
- One is One, 1951, with Fernando Birri and Peter Hollander, 33.03 mins, 16mm, black and white, silent
- Three Portrait Sketches, with Peter Hollander, 1951, 5.56 mins, 16mm, black and white, silent
- The Lion, the Griffin, and the Kangaroo, with Peter Hollander, 1952, 13.33 mins, 16mm, black and white, sound
- A Portrait of Ga 1952, 4.27 mins, 16mm, colour, sound
- Happy Bees 1955, 16.07 mins, 16mm, colour, sound
- Orquil Burn, 1955, 35.40 mins, 16mm, colour, sound
- The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo, 1955, 6.27 mins, 16mm, colour, sound
- Calypso 1955, 4.29 mins, 35mm, colour, sound
- Rose Street, 1956, 14.14 mins, 16mm, black and white, sound
- The Drift Back, 1956, 10.56 mins, 16mm, black and white, sound
- Hugh MacDiarmid, A Portrait, 1964, 8.27 mins, 16mm, black and white, sound
- Palindrome, 1964, 3mins, 16mm, black and white, sound
- Where I Am Is Here, producer Alex Pirie, 1964, 32.48, 16 mm, black and white, sound
- Caora Mor: The Big Sheep, 1966, 41.02 mins, 16 mm, black and white, sound
- Splashing, 1966, 4.53 mins, 16mm, black and white, sound
- A Pleasant Place, 1969, 21mins, 16mm, black and white, sound
- He’s Back (The Return), 1970, 20 mins, 16mm, sound
- John Macfadyen (The Stripes in the Tartan), 1970, 3.30 mins, 16mm, colour, sound
- Painted Eightsome, 1970, 6.16 mins, 35mm, colour, sound
- Aerial, 1974, 4 mins, 16mm, black and white/colour, sound
- Colour Poems, 1974, 11.20 mins, 16mm, colour, sound
- On the Mountain, 1974, 32.33 mins, 16mm, black and white/colour, sound
- These Walls, 1974, black and white/colour, silent
- A Place of Work, 1976, 31.11 mins, 16mm, colour, sound
- Tailpiece, 1976, 9.23 mins, 16mm, black and white, sound
- Aspects of Kirkwall: Shape of a Town, 1977, 7.49 mins, 16mm, colour, sound
- Aspects of Kirkwall: Occasions, 1977, 9.03 mins, 16mm, colour, sound
- Aspects of Kirkwall: The Ba’, Over the Years 1981, 65 mins, 16mm, black and white/colour, sound
- Aspects of Kirkwall: Some Changes, 1981, 21.38 mins, 16mm, colour, sound
- Aspects of Kirkwall: The Look of the Place, 1981, 17 mins, 16mm, black and white, sound
- Land Makar 1981, 31.32 mins, 16mm, colour, sound
- Blue Black Permanent, 1992, producer Barbara Grigor, Viz Productions, Channel Four, BFI, 84 mins, 35mm, colour, sound
- Garden Pieces, 1998, 11.30 mins, 16mm, colour, sound
Two profiles focusing on Tait and her films were produced for television and, more recently, Glasgow Women’s Library produced a documentary on Tait:
- Poet with a Camera, Spectrum, BBC Scotland, 30 mins, tx 5 Jan 1979, 10:15pm
- Margaret Tait; Filmmaker, Channel Four and the Arts Council of Great Britain, 35 mins, tx 25 April 1983. Channel 4 also showed a selection of her films as pert of the Eleventh Hour series, tx 9 March 1983, 10.55pm.
- Margaret Tait: Film Poet (dir. Marissa Keating and Michael Jones, 2012), Glasgow Women Library’s documentary on Tait.
The majority of Tait’s films are held by National Library of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive. LUX also distributes her films, and Freunde der Deutschen Kinemathek, Berlin and the South London Poem Film Society hold a few films for distribution. BFI distributes her feature film Blue Black Permanent (1992).