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Margaret Tait – Selected Films 1952-1976

Margaret Tait was one of Britain’s most unique filmmakers. Her life’s work consisted of making film poems and over the course of 46 years she produced over 30 films including one feature. She also published three books of poetry and two volumes of short stories. This DVD contains a collection of films made by Tait between 1952 and 1976. Films included on this DVD are:

Portrait of Ga (1952),
Aerial (1974),
Hugh MacDiarmid,
A Portrait (1964),
Colour Poems (1974),
Where I Am Is Here (1964),
Place of Work (1976),
Tailpiece (1976),
John Macfadyen (The Stripes in the Tartan) (1970)

Black-and-white and colour
Silent and sound
Running time: 110 minutes


Hidden (checked)

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Related biographies

Please read Understanding catalogue records for help interpreting this information and Using footage for more information about accessing this film.


Reference number: 6230

Date: 1976

Director: filmed by Margaret Tait

Production company: Ancona Films

Sound: sound

Original format: 16mm

Colour: col

Fiction: non-fiction

Running time: 31.11 mins

Description: 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 effective 'goodbye'. Margaret Tait said it 'was meant to define a place, or the feeling of being in one place, with the sense this gives one, not of restriction but of the infinite variations available.'

See also ref. 6233 for TAILPIECE, a closely related film.

Margaret Tait deined the film as follows: "Place of Work was meant to define a place, or the feeling of being in one place, with the sense this gives one, not of restriction but of the infinite variations available. Inevitable variations with time, with even quite short intervals of time, and voluntary variations according to one viewpoint. The specific thing of that very moment at that very place, within a slightly more general thing of thereabout and never very far away, over a period of months (with implications of before and after that, as well). The place I pick on is a house in Kirkwall, Orkney, which was my home from the age of seven, which I often returned to... and which I latterly made my own place of work, for about seven years. At the time of filming I was living there and working there. The scheme followed, as the film built up, was to take you from the work table, out the front door, and round the house in an east, south, west and north circling; showing the shape of the garden, and then to repeat this circle, with excursions in and out of the house, observing on the way with equal gaze the creatures in the garden, human activity outside the glimpses of town, sea and other islands beyond. Into this come some, in a sense rather obvious , observations about flowers budding, flowering, turning into pods and being shaken and broken by the wind. As the trees are battered bare, we return to the editing bench, overhearing that the telephone is to be left connected 'until Monday'"

See also Additional Information file at 11/1/455. Paper Archives 4/5/119, 4/11/651, 4/5/92.

The Tait papers are deposited in Orkney Archives. Currently being catalogued. For any enquiries please contact Principal Archivist.

Place of Work and Tailpiece (both 1976) documented her studio in the family house to which she had returned in Orkney, and which was eventually demolished by the Kirkwall local authority; Tailpiece showing the empty spaces after she moved out. These quiet works seemed to echo Virginia Woolf's call for 'A Room of One's Own'; and were important to a generation of women film-makers struggling to find their history within the male dominated London Film-makers co-op.
[Source: taken from an online resource. No longer available. 3/4/2008]

The British Artist's Film and Video Study Collection at based at Central St. Martin's College of Art and Design holds an artist's file on Margaret Tait.

The British Film Institute National Library holds many of the published articles on her and her work.

In 1979 Margaret Tait was the subject of a BBC Scotland 'Spectrum' arts programme.

Credits: filmed at Buttquoy, Kirkwall by Margaret Tait

Shotlist: opening titles (0.16) ints Margaret Tait's working film studio and library, equipment lies everywhere (1.31) extended gvs garden with flowers in bloom, birds tweeting etc, towards end of sequence roadworks are seen alongside garden wall (diggers etc) (6.38) ints kitchen including shots of store cupboards, drying dishes with teatowel, tea and cake laid set out on table - further gvs garden as it slowly withers shot by shot (8.48) digger moving earth outside window, new road being built (10.51) view over rooftops, church to bay beyond, gvs children playing games in street [as seen from inside house looking out] (12.04) further gvs garden and grounds of house, including stone archways and path, a cat, focussing on a blackbird, views of garden from inside, c/u insects such as bees on poppy flowerheads, c/u flowers and foliage (21.30) ints house, c/u embroidery of flowers etc (22.39) men painting window frames (24.23) further gvs garden, including car parked and brief shot child walking small dog, as it moves into autumn the flowers wither (26.30) postman delivers letter to open doorway and is startled when he is confronted with filmcamera (26.45) pet dog and cat, shots of local children on street beside house, gvs garden, wind blows trees and leaves about, bare branches (30.50) ints Margaret Tait's working film studio and library, equipment lies everywhere (31.11)