Biography of 'TAIT, Margaret'

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Film-maker, poet and author

Born: 1918, Kirkwall
Died: 1999, Kirkwall

Margaret Tait trained in Medicine, graduating from Edinburgh University in 1941. She was called up into Royal Army Medical Corps in 1943 serving overseas until 1946. By the late 1940’s her interest in film became to dominate. She enrolled at the Centro Sperimentale di Photographia in Rome studying there from 1950 to 1952.

Returning to Scotland she established Ancona Films in Edinburgh’s Rose St, completing her first film of the street in 1956 and a number of works on aspects of the city. She wrote poetry and produced several books. Tait moved to Orkney in the 1960’s making a series of films over the following decades inspired by the Orcadian landscape and culture.

All but three of her thirty two films, which she produced between 1952 and 1998 were self financed. There was no funding forthcoming for her type of films, which she would describe as film-poems. In the mid 1980’s she returned to a screenplay that had its inception in the 1940’s. The feature length Blue Black Permanent began shooting in 1992 with Margaret directing. Her final film Garden Pieces was completed in 1998.

For additional biographical and contextual information go to LUX at http://www.lux.org.uk/collection/artists/margaret-tait

Researcher: Janet McBain

Films associated with 'COCOZZA, Enrico'

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8SOME [4444A]

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Margaret Tait described this title as 'An eightsome reel played by Orkney Strathspey and Reel Society, recorded in about 1955 - 1956, later transferred to 35mm optical stock with clear picture and gradually painted over the years. Eights of different th

1970

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'AERIAL' thumbnail

AERIAL [3699]

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Margaret Tait described this film as follows: "Touches on elemental images ; air, water, (and snow), earth and fire (and smoke) all come in to it. The track consists of a drawn-out musical sound, single piano notes and some natural sounds."

Full length video available

1974

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ALL THESE NEW RELATIONS [8824]

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Affectionate observational shots of toddlers, school age girl and very new baby.

1955

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'BA', the' thumbnail

BA', the [6225]

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Part 4 in Margaret Tait's series 'Aspects of Kirkwall'. The streets of Kirkwall, Orkney come to a standstill as the "Down the Gates" and the "Up the Gates" battle it out in this traditional Norse ball game. Margaret Tait records the sights and sounds of

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1975

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'CALYPSO' thumbnail

CALYPSO [6226]

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Hand painted directly onto film stock by Margaret Tait, this film features animated dancing figures, accompanied by authentic calypso music.

Full length video available

1955

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'CAORA MOR BIG SHEEP, the' thumbnail

CAORA MOR BIG SHEEP, the [3701]

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A picture of East Sutherland in 1966.

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1966

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'COLOUR POEMS' thumbnail

COLOUR POEMS [3697]

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Seven linked film 'poems', described by Margaret Tait herself as follows: A poem started in words, and referring to distant memories to do with people going or not going to the Spanish Civil war, goes on in the picture (in "Numen of the Boughs") ; memory

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1974

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'DRIFT BACK, the' thumbnail

DRIFT BACK, the [6222]

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The first in a series of films for the Rural Cinema Scheme in the Orkneys, it records the return to the island of Wyre of Neil Flaws, a farmer, and his family at a time when the drift from the northern isles of the Orkneys was of concern to some Orcadians

Full length video available

1957

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ECLIPSE [6213]

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Short film of an eclipse.

1973

silent

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EDINBURGH [8556]

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General views of Edinburgh Royal Mile and Princes Street.

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'EDINBURGH GENERAL' thumbnail

EDINBURGH GENERAL [8554]

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General shots of Edinburgh City Centre taken by film-maker Margaret Tait, focussing on the Royal Mile, Holyrood House and Princes Street Gardens.

Full length video available

1955

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FURTHER GROVE [6215]

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Slates of the last poem entitled 'Grove' in the set of three which makes up the film "Garden Pieces". [See ref. 6214 for full film]

1998

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'GARDEN PIECES' thumbnail

GARDEN PIECES [6214]

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A set of three 'film poems' composed around the theme of the garden - the central one featuring hand scratched animated drawings. Margaret Tait described them as follows: 'Round the Garden' - right round and round again, 'Garden Fliers' - flighty cartoo

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1998

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'GROWING UP: Chinese Geese in Orkney' thumbnail

GROWING UP: Chinese Geese in Orkney [6216]

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The 'Growing Up' in the title refers to the Chinese Geese in Orkney recorded in this film.

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1970

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'HAPPY BEES' thumbnail

HAPPY BEES [6228]

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This film poem evokes childhood happiness on the island of Orkney. Footage includes wildflower meadows, toddlers playing in garden, friends fishing together and images of the sea.

Full length video available

1954

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'HUGH MACDIARMID: A Portrait' thumbnail

HUGH MACDIARMID: A Portrait [6220]

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An offbeat, affectionate portrait of the Scottish poet, Hugh MacDiarmid. There is straightforward material of him in his own home, and in addition to speaking his own poems, the poet gracefully enacts the film-maker's interpretation of them.

Full length video available

1964

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HYDRO POLES BY HELICOPTER [6231]

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Poles, presumably to be used to carry electricity wires, are seen being carried over a wintry landscape by helicopter in Sandwick, Orkney.

1978

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JIGGAN MARCH AND REEL, the [4445A]

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Black and white animated figures dance to the traditional tune 'John MacFadyen', as played by the Orkney Strathspey and Reel Society in this hand painted piece by Margaret Tait. See also ref. 4445. [Title currently undergoing preservation work]

1970

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'JOHN MACFADYEN' thumbnail

JOHN MACFADYEN [4445]

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Brightly coloured animated figures dance to the traditional tune 'John MacFadyen', as played by the Orkney Strathspey and Reel Society in this hand painted piece by Margaret Tait. See also ref. 4445A. [Title currently undergoing preservation work]

Full length video available

1970

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'LAND MAKAR' thumbnail

LAND MAKAR [3700]

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The 'Land Makar' of the title is 'a poet of the land'. Margaret Tait described this film as 'A landscape study of an Orkney croft, with the figure of the crofter, Mary Graham Sinclair, very much in the picture, and enriched throughout by her vivid commen

Full length video available

1981

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LEADEN ECHO AND THE GOLDEN ECHO, the [6217]

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A film interpretation of the poem 'The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo' by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Margaret Tait reads the poem throughout the film.

Full length video available

1955

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'LION THE GRIFFIN AND THE KANGAROO, the' thumbnail

LION THE GRIFFIN AND THE KANGAROO, the [6218]

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Perugia and its Italian University for foreign students.

Full length video available

1951

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'LOCAL NEWS: BU of CAIRSTON BROCH' thumbnail

LOCAL NEWS: BU of CAIRSTON BROCH [6219]

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Excavation of the Broch at Bu of Cairston by John Hedges in 1978. The broch is located in Stromness, Orkney.

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1978

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'LOOK OF THE PLACE, the' thumbnail

LOOK OF THE PLACE, the [3704]

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Part 5 in Margaret Tait's 'Aspects of Kirkwall' series. A tour around Kirkwall, covering the years 1969 - 1976. Places featured include St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall harbour, Victoria St, Broad St, Kirkwall Grammar School (at School Place), dumping in t

Full length video available

1981

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MILANO [8555]

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Young women in Milan, rooftops and children. [One of the women is possibly Margaret Tait]

1949

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'MY ROOM.  VIA ANCONA 21' thumbnail

MY ROOM. VIA ANCONA 21 [8551]

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Interiors of Margaret Tait's room when she stayed at 21 Via Ancona, Rome, Italy. Brief shots of her belongings (shoes, films, teacup) and then views of the street as seen from a balcony window.

Full length video available

1951

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NUMEN OF THE BOUGHS [6227]

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Inspired by the poem 'Numen of the Boughs' by Sorley MacLean, this film is the first section of the longer film COLOUR POEMS [see ref. 3697], however featuring extra 'experimental' footage. Margaret Tait described it thus: "A poem started in words, and r

1974

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'OCCASIONS' thumbnail

OCCASIONS [6238]

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Part 3 of Margaret Tait's series 'Aspects of Kirkwall', covering special events in the town. These include the Orkney Agricultural Society County Show, boat race, Remembrance Parade at St. Magnus Cathedral.

Full length video available

1977

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ON THE MOUNTAIN [3702]

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The film compares Rose St. in Edinburgh in 1973 with another film (also by Margaret Tait), of the same subject, shot in 1956. In the words of the film-maker, it is a film about the 'life of the street'. See also ref 6224.

1974

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'ONE IS ONE' thumbnail

ONE IS ONE [6229]

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"Carlo and Rafaella are going to Rome for the first time. They have specially planned a journey they must make so that they can have a whole day together alone".. . so starts this film following the (mis)fortunes of these two young lovers.

Full length video available

1951

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'ORQUIL BURN, the' thumbnail

ORQUIL BURN, the [6221]

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Starting from its source, this film tells the story of the Orquil Burn, Orkney. Narrated by Margaret Tait.

Full length video available

1955

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'PAINTED EIGHTSOME' thumbnail

PAINTED EIGHTSOME [4444]

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Margaret Tait described this title as 'An eightsome reel played by Orkney Strathspey and Reel Society, recorded in about 1955 - 1956, later transferred to 35mm optical stock with clear picture and gradually painted over the years. Eights of different th

Full length video available

1970

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'PALINDROME' thumbnail

PALINDROME [8548]

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A palindrome created on film by Margaret Tait. Features interaction between a couple with the recurring line 'Madam I'm Adam'.

Full length video available

1964

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PLACE OF WORK [6230]

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Margaret Tait documents her house, studio and garden in Buttquoy, Orkney as the seasons pass. She had lived there from the age of seven and often returned. At the time of filming, the house was about to be taken back by the council - this film is an eff

1976

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'PORTRAIT OF GA, a' thumbnail

PORTRAIT OF GA, a [3698]

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The 'Ga' of the title refers to the film maker's mother. The film gathers together this elderly lady's everyday actions to offer an abstract insight into her life.

Full length video available

1952

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'PRINCES STREET EDINBURGH' thumbnail

PRINCES STREET EDINBURGH [8552]

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A short piece of film recording general views of Edinburgh's Princes Street in the 1950s.

Full length video available

1955

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'ROSE STREET' thumbnail

ROSE STREET [6224]

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The minutiae of daily life on Edinburgh's Rose Street in the fifties is presented in this impressionistic documentary piece.

Full length video available

1956

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'ROYAL MILE, the' thumbnail

ROYAL MILE, the [8553]

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A short piece of film recording general views of Edinburgh's Royal Mile in the 1950s.

Full length video available

1955

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'SHAPE OF A TOWN' thumbnail

SHAPE OF A TOWN [6212]

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Second in a series of films about the changing face of Kirkwall over the years. Filmed in 1974, it features the primary school, various shops, St. Magnus Cathedral under scaffolding and general views of the area including land fill in the 'Peedie Sea'.

Full length video available

1974

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'SHOP!' thumbnail

SHOP! [6236]

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A series of interiors exploring the work of various businesses - presumably in Kirkwall. Margaret Tait has filmed them at different speeds and added humorous intertitles to hint at their content. 'Workshop Whizz Kids' features auto mechanics, 'Hangar L

Full length video available

1978

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'SOME CHANGES' thumbnail

SOME CHANGES [3705]

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Part 6 in Margaret Tait's series 'Aspects of Kirkwall'. Views in and around Kirkwall concentrating on things that have changed. These include a new grammar school building, model yachting on the Peedie Sea, demolition of a building, the 'No Uranium' cam

Full length video available

1981

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SPLASHING [8557]

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An experimental piece of film-making by Margaret Tait, featuring three children at play in a burn and garden, splashing and having fun playing with water.

Full length video available

1966

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START OF A RACE, END OF A SHOW, ETC. [6237]

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Footage of a yacht race and a (Highland?) Show in Kirkwall, as filmed by Margaret Tait. [this is possibly incomplete footage from her 'Aspects of Kirkwall' series?]

1976

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SURVIVOR [6232]

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Unedited slates from a film called 'Survivor' filmed by Margaret Tait. Footage includes outdoor landscape and garden scenes, a fire burning in field and a man drinking tea in his study. [There appears to be no coherence to the footage]

1976

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'TAILPIECE' thumbnail

TAILPIECE [6233]

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Lingering shots of house and garden accompanied by music, song and poetry provide an appropriate goodbye to Margaret Tait's empty house and studio in Buttquoy, Orkney.

Full length video available

1976

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'THESE WALLS' thumbnail

THESE WALLS [6234]

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Margaret Tait's impression of the interior of her studio premises in Rose Street, Edinburgh. The film consists of slow pans around her studio focussing on the walls and artwork there - presumably as she is about to leave. There is also some footage of c

Full length video available

1974

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'THREE PORTRAIT SKETCHES' thumbnail

THREE PORTRAIT SKETCHES [6235]

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The three portrait sketches of the title are called 'Claudia', 'Fernando Birri' and 'Saulat Rahman'. [Presumably made when Margaret Tait was a student at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematographia, Rome]

Full length video available

1951

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'WHERE I AM IS HERE' thumbnail

WHERE I AM IS HERE [3703]

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A film poem in seven parts: 1. Complex, 2. Here and Now, 3. Interlude, 4. Crocodile, 5. Come and See This, 6. Out of this World, 7. The Bravest Boat. In Margaret Tait's own words "Starting with a six-line script which just noted down a kind of event t

Full length video available

1964

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