Shooglenifty; photo: Douglas Robertson

We teamed up with Reel Festivals, a group of events in Scotland, Syria and Lebanon that bring film, music and poetry from all three together. Festival director Dan Gorman blogs about his most vivid experiences of the events.

The recent Reel Festivals in Lebanon and Scotland was an intense, inspiring experience, and I’m still processing what happened along the way.

Like all best laid plans, there was a huge amount of fluidity and unexpected crossovers.

The first and most challenging issue we faced was the situation in Syria, which led to both our festival being postponed in Syria and a number of artists not being able to make it to Scotland, most notably the street musicians from Dar’aa, Southern Syria, led by Abu Hawash.

Instead, they sent us a live recording:

But Syria was still very much a part of our festival, with collaborations between Syrian poets and Lebanese and Scottish writers, as well as film-makers presenting their works to new audiences.

Perhaps the most vibrant piece of collaboration we saw was when the Scottish band Shooglenifty came to Beirut for four days.

We arranged for them to play a small session with local musicians in an informal setting. It was great – perfect atmosphere, long, drawn-out pieces of music with people testing the waters, seeing what possibilities for overlap there were, and then going for it.

Shooglenifty then invited Omar Dewachi and Bashir Saadi, whom they met at the session, to perform during the band’s concert at Beirut’s legendary Music Hall on the weekend.

These musicians, having met for a total of two hours before the concert, managed to put together a beautiful piece. Shooglenifty’s chief fiddler Angus described it as ‘people coming together in peace through music’.

Another highlight in Beirut must have been walking the streets with art music legend Bill Drummond and Lebanese graffiti artist Siska, who helped us spread Bill Drummond’s mantra ‘Imagine waking up tomorrow and all music had disappeared’:

Siska Bill Drummond graffiti Beirut; photo: Dan Gorman

Back in Edinburgh, Lebanese, Syrian and Scottish poets performed new translations of each others’ work to rapt audiences. As one audience member put it: ‘It fairly makes a difference when you know the poetry makes a difference’.


Read more about our work in Scotland, Lebanon and Syria.