Photo of Iain Finlay MacLeod, the College's new Writer in ResidenceAward-winning director and dramatist Iain Finlay MacLeod from Ness in Lewis is the new Writer in Residence at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Iain Finlay follows in the footsteps of renowned Gaelic writers such as Sorley MacLean, Aonghas MacNeacail and Angus Peter Campbell who are among those previously to have held the prestigious post.

Iain Finlay (32) has received praise for his plays, and was one of the directors on the BAFTA award-winning arts series Tacsi. His plays, which he writes in both Gaelic and English, include 'Alexander Salamander' and 'Homers' both of which were performed by the Edinburgh-based Traverse Theatre Company. He has also just published his first novel 'Na Klondykers': a Gaelic novel set in Ullapool in the 1980s which centres on a love story between a Russian girl from one of the fishing boats, which used to visit the north-west Highland village at the time, and a local man. The novel was launched on Sunday (28.08.05) at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The Lewisman has also directed a number of arts documentaries including programmes on folklorist Margaret Fay Shaw and poet Murdo MacFarlane. He also runs his own independent production company Zebo Productions.

The Writer in Residence at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is funded by the College and the Scottish Arts Council. The Arts Council have supported the post since its inception in 1973: Catriona Montgomery was the first Sabhal Mòr Writer in Residence.

Speaking about what he hopes to bring to the residency Iain Finlay said: "My skills and knowledge lie more with drama than with poetry. And theatre is more community-based, I would say, with regard to bringing people together. For example, people can work together on writing a play, they can work together on the production, and as such it is different from poetry.

"I hope there will be opportunities with workshops for people to come with an idea, whether it is for a play, a novel or something else, and I will do my utmost to help them develop those ideas. Regarding students, if there is any way in which they can come together which will help them, then that has to be a good thing. The good thing about Sabhal Mòr is the amount of creativity there is in the college, there is a lot of creativity among students and others. And it is important that the Writer in Residence can help to develop that creativity."

In addition to helping people with their writing at Sabhal Mòr, Iain Finlay intends to pursue a number of his own writing projects which include more drama and another novel. According to the writer, the new post will help give him the time and support he needs to complete some of these projects.

Professor Norman Gillies, director of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, said: "One of the things that was attractive about Iain Finlay was that here was a young man who has already accomplished a great deal in a short time with regard to theatre and television. He has also just published his first novel. It will be appealing to the students to have someone young such as Iain Finlay at the college - someone who has already gained a great deal of knowledge and experience and who has a distinctive outlook when it comes to his work."

Speaking on the legacy of previous holders of the post Professor Gillies said: "When you think back on previous Writers in Residence, you could say that each of them have been very successful, during and after their time at Sabhal Mòr; and not only that, many of the students they influenced during their time at Sabhal Mòr have gone on to succeed as writers. It is an important post in the world of Gaelic literature, and as such we are confident that Iain Finlay will add to the success of the post.

"Together with the Scottish Arts Council, we give people freedom for a year or two to develop their own writing. That is the most important thing. You also have to consider the encouragement that people have received from past Writers in Residence at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and how they become interested in writing prose, poetry or drama as a result of contact with those writers."

Logo and link to Scottish Arts Council websiteGavin Wallace, head of literature at the Scottish Arts Council said: "The writer in residence programme at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig brings an opportunity for an established Gaelic writer to pass on advice, skills and knowledge to a new generation of students and aspirant writers. The Scottish Arts Council is delighted to support this post as part of both our Literature Strategy and our Gaelic arts strategy."