Being in a Place
+ Margaret Tait Short Films & live sound performance

A yellow notebook sitting on a table, viewed from directly above. The notebook is a vintage style and has various text printed on it including an Orkney address and telephone number, along with scribbled handwriting in red pen.

‘The contradictory or paradoxical thing is that in documentary the real things depicted are liable to lose their reality by being photographed and presented in that “documentary” way, and there’s no poetry in that. In poetry, something else happens. Hard to say what it is. Presence, let’s say, soul or spirit, an empathy with whatever it is that’s dwelt upon, feeling for it – to the point of identification.’ – Margaret Tait

Drawing on a wealth of unseen archival material, including sound recordings, film rushes, offcuts and unpublished notebooks, Luke Fowler’s new feature film focuses on Margaret Tait, one of Scotland’s most enigmatic filmmakers. The film takes one of Tait’s unrealised scripts for Channel 4, entitled Heartlandscape: Visions of Ephemerality and Permanence, as its starting point and considers Tait’s life and work grounded within the landscape of Orkney. Tait was not interested in filming the scenery but instead looked at the precise details that constitute a place, the small things that are often overlooked. Exploring the process of filmmaking itself from the perspective of a fellow artist sensitive to Tait’s understanding of film as a poetic medium, Being in a Place pays tribute to the strengths in her method, the importance of fragmented bodies of work, and the intrinsic value in failure. 

The screening will be introduced by Sarah Neely, producer of the film.

This event will also include a screening of several of Margaret Tait’s short films.

After the screening, there will be a live sound performance by Luke Fowler, using audio recordings discovered in Margaret Tait’s ‘fugitive archive’.

Luke Fowler (b. 1978, Glasgow) is an artist, filmmaker and musician based in Glasgow. His films have been described as ‘para-documentary’ and often interweave archival footage with his own camerawork and sounds. Fowler’s film portraits often hinge on controversial figures or movements which have often been marginalised, erased or misrepresented by contemporary culture. Fowler studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dundee. Fowler was awarded the inaugural Derek Jarman Award in 2008 and was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2012 for his first feature film All Divided Selves. Fowler’s short film Mum’s Cards was awarded the 2019 Scottish Short Film Award at Glasgow Short Film Festival as well as the prize for Best Short at Punto de Vista International Documentary Film Festival of Navarre, Spain.

Margaret Tait was one of Scotland’s most enigmatic filmmakers. She died in Orkney, her place of birth, in 1999 at the age 80. 2018 marked her centenary with a series of exhibitions and events taking place worldwide to broaden the distribution and appreciation of her work (MT100). Tait made one feature film in her life (Blue Black Permanent, 1992) but was best known for her short 16mm poem-films (or film-poems). It’s not surprising that she also wrote and published poetry and prose (publishing three volumes of poetry, a volume of short stories and a book for children). After studying with Roberto Rossellini at the Centro Sperimentale film school in Rome (1950-52) she based herself in Edinburgh where she ran the Rose Street festival – rubbing shoulders with the likes of John Grierson, Hugh MacDiarmid, Sorley Maclean and Norman MacCaig. She returned to Orkney in the late 60’s – which became the landscape and subject of the majority of her films.

Sarah Neely is a writer, producer and researcher, working primarily in the areas of artists’ moving image and film archives. She is a Professor in Film and Visual Culture at the University of Glasgow.

Her work as a producer on Being in a Place: A Portrait of Margaret Tait, draws on many years of research on Tait’s life in work. In addition to work developing Tait’s film archive, Neely has worked extensively with Tait’s paper archive. Book publications include Between Categories: The Films of Margaret Tait – Portraits, Poetry, Sound and Place (Peter Lang, 2016), Margaret Tait: Personae (as editor) (LUX, 2020), and Margaret Tait: Poems, Stories and Writings (as editor) (Carcanet, 2012). She is currently working on a book-length study exploring the relationship between memory, archives and creativity.

In 2018-19, Neely led on a year-long project celebrating the centenary of Tait’s birth (, which involved the commissioning of ten new films, including Luke Fowler’s Houses: for Margaret.

Being in a Place
Dir. Luke Fowler
2022, UK, 61mins

+ short films by Margaret Tait

+ a live post-screening sound performance by Luke Fowler

Tickets on a sliding scale:
£5 / £3 / £2 / Free
Ticket guide available here

Watch Online:
16 - 31 DeCember

Being in a Place is available to book and watch online from 16-31 December. Online viewers will also be able to watch a recording of Luke Fowler’s live sound performance at CAMPLE LINE. 

Watch at Cample:
Friday 15 December, 7:00pm

The screening will be followed by a live sound performance by Luke Fowler, using audio discovered in Margaret Tait’s ‘fugitive archive’

Pomona: extracts from Margaret Tait's sound rushes

Luke Fowler Being in a Place – A Portrait of Margaret Tait, 2022 (still) 16mm transferred to digital file Duration: 60 mins Courtesy of Luke Fowler, The Estate of Margaret Tait and The Modern Institute/ Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow.

Supported by Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network, and funded by Screen Scotland and National Lottery funding from the BFI