Karine Polwart – 'Wind Resistance has been a proper gear shift in terms of what others think I can do'

Karine Polwart – 'Wind Resistance has been a proper gear shift in terms of what others think I can do'

credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

The folk singer, songwriter and composer reflects on her hit show and new role as theatre maker

Until last summer, it would have been reasonable to refer to Karine Polwart as a folk singer and leave it at that. Then she wrote a piece with a more storytelling aspect based on the flight of geese over her local moor near Fala in Midlothian, a piece 'with shoogly links to ecology, midwifery, and local history,' she says. 'Two days later I performed it at the Traverse Bar in Edinburgh, where the Royal Lyceum Theatre's artistic director David Greig saw it. He said if I could get him a brochure description within 48 hours, he'd like the Lyceum to pitch it for the Edinburgh International Festival that summer. It was that sudden.'

Wind Resistance went on to become a substantial and very deserved hit with critics and audiences. Polwart values the personal responses she's had (from 'midwives, bird geeks, ecologists, moor lovers … so many women revisiting their own birth stories [and] people sharing their own family stories of grief and survival'). 'Truthfully, I didn't expect to be performing it still, more than a year on,' she says. 'It's a fairly expensive piece of work to stage compared to your average acoustic gig, but it's brilliant that there's life in it still. I'm not quite done with it yet.' Next year it visits Cardiff, Perth and hopefully London.

For the moment, however, Wind Resistance returns to the Lyceum as Polwart and composer Pippa Murphy release an adaptation of the piece on record; 'most definitely a concept album, which demands a kind of single-sitting absorption that our busy lives don't always allow for,' says the artist. Beyond this, she sees new opportunities for theatrical and compositional work which only this show has made possible. 'I think I'm able to call myself a proper writer – the text of Wind Resistance is being published by Faber & Faber – a theatre maker and a composer now, as well as a folk singer and songwriter,' she says. 'Wind Resistance has been a proper gear shift in terms of what others think I can do, as well as a massive personal confidence boost in terms of my own ideas and ambitions.'

Wind Resistance

  • 5 stars

Every autumn, two and a half thousand pink-footed geese fly from Greenland to winter at Fala Flow, a peat-bog south-east of Edinburgh. Musician Karine Polwart captures the surrounding landscape through story and song, taking in history, bird lore and personal memoir.

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