#MyPhD Notebooks Research

2013, November: UHI Postgraduate Research Conference Innovative Presentation

There were three presentation options from which to choose at the UHI Postgraduate Research Conference held in November 2013. I opted to present my research in the innovative format category.

It works best read aloud. One day I’ll get round to recording it.


To what extent is there a unique Orcadian identity and what is folklore’s role in its creation and maintenance?

Good afternoon, I’m Lydia Crow,
Just in case, somehow, you don’t already know;
And today, UHI, I want to talk to you
About my research: where I’m going, what I plan to do,
Why it’s important and why it’s topical;
And hopefully I’ll leave you intrigued and full
Of questions of your own you wish to pursue
And answer, to establish what’s important to you
In terms of your own culture and identity,
For sometimes, when you start looking, it’s surprising what you see.

Does Orkney have an identity, distinct and clear,
Built from her history and politics over the years?
Is there just the one, or maybe two,
Or a plethora of identities, old and new,
Fluctuating, breathing like living things
Responding to the changes this world brings?
And how might these identities manifest
In culture and heritage and dictate how it’s expressed?
And, beyond this, how does this all relate
To the islands’ folklore, recorded to date?

I want to look at social media, starting out
With Facebook pages: I want to see what’s about
In terms of personal expression, how people display
Who they are to the world every single day.
I want to look at a newspaper and look at a blog,
I want to see how the culture cog
Slowly and quietly turns the page
And offers a new form of expression in each different age.
New ways to communicate and new ways to say
In black and white and shades of grey;
This is who we are, our community,
And this is our version of the world we see.

I want to speak to the council and speak to schools
To see what they teach and what tools they use
To introduce Orkney’s culture and her folklore
To each generation that darkens their door.
I want to visit museums and analyse how
Orkney’s past is portrayed in the here and now;
What role folklore plays and what it says
To visitors of Orkney, in different ways.
And after I’ve looked into all of this
I’ll collate my thoughts and my analysis
Will concentrate on whether there are similarities
In terms of folklore motifs and related themes.
And, fingers crossed, they’ll be something there
To draw into case studies that will hopefully bear
Enough of a resemblance to these initial ideas
That’ll lay to rest my research panics and fears.

There are plenty of challenges: two raise their head
For each quandary I resolve or problem I put to bed.
The interdisciplinary nature can be hard to balance
With appropriate depth, or whilst ascertaining my stance
On what Academic A thought of Academic B.
With so many disciplines it makes for quite a melee
In terms of establishing my individual thoughts,
But this does make for a more rewarding study of sorts:
Because, after all, life itself isn’t cut and dry;
So, as disciplines go, I can but try.

So what’s the point of this, then, and why should anyone care?
Well, we’re living in interesting times, friends, there’s change in the air.
In ten months’ time Scotland will go to vote
And though economics and politics are issues to note,
I suspect that many of those residents heading to the booths
Are looking at themselves and deciding how to choose
How they want to be seen from the inside out
And the outside in and roundabout;
What they want to say about who they are,
Where they belong, where they come from, both near and far.

But of course, in truth, this is all by the by:
The ref’s happening at a perfect time (I’m so happy I could cry),
But really I opened this particular door
Because of a love of Orkney, and of people and of folklore;
Because, to me, these things are key
To who we are, who we were, and who we might, one day, be.
Identity is personal: yours and mine;
We get to choose precisely how we’re each defined.
But how much of us is embedded within
A maze of collective memory or a labyrinth of whim?

So there you have it, friends and cohort,
My research plans and a few related thoughts.
Thanks for listening, it’s been a ball,
I’ll now open this up to questions from the floor.
I hope, however, you’ll forgive me today
If I don’t answer questions in quite the same way.

And I know I haven’t really filled the time,
But there’s only so much you can listen to in rhyme.

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