Show Less
Restricted access

Between Categories

The Films of Margaret Tait: Portraits, Poetry, Sound and Place


Sarah Neely

Margaret Tait – filmmaker, photographer, poet, painter, essayist and short story writer – is one of the UK’s most unique and remarkable filmmakers. She was the first female filmmaker to create a feature-length film in Scotland (Blue Black Permanent, 1992). Although for most of her career Tait remained focused on the goal of making a feature-length film, her most notable and groundbreaking work was arguably as a producer of short films. The originality of her work, and its refusal to accept perceived barriers of genre, media and form, continues to inspire new generations of filmmakers.

This book aims to address the lack of sustained attention given to Tait’s large body of work, offering a contextualisation of Tait’s films within a general consideration of Scottish cinema and artists’ moving image. Furthermore, the book’s grounding in detailed archival research offers new insights into Scotland (and Britain) in the twentieth century, relating to a diverse range of subjects and key figures, such as John Grierson, Forsyth Hardy, Hugh MacDiarmid, Lindsay Anderson and Michael Powell.

Show Summary Details
Restricted access




Taking into account Blue Black Permanent (1992), Margaret Tait could be considered alongside other filmmakers such as Derek Jarman, Peter Greenaway and Sally Potter, as an avant-garde filmmaker who eventually achieved cross-over success in mainstream cinema; yet unlike them, she was only able to produce one feature film in her lifetime. As has been suggested of Tait, who was based in Edinburgh and Orkney, it may have been that Tait was simply in the wrong place, but in many respects it may have just been the wrong time. In the programme notes for the National Film Theatre’s 3rd International Avant-Garde Film Festival, Malcolm Le Grice (1979), described Tait as ‘the only genuinely independent, experimental mind to precede the current movement which began here (Britain about 1966)’ (n.p.). In later years, Tait achieved greater degrees of recognition in Scotland when a retrospective of her work appeared at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1970. Without doubt, as Le Grice’s comments attest, she was a pioneering British experimental filmmaker, but as the historical account of Tait’s work reveals, in Scotland in the 1950s and 1960s, her work failed to register with a variety of influential funding bodies. Thankfully, like many pioneers, Tait was able to remain independent, working to a clear vision. In her opinion, Ancona films was one of the few companies in Scotland making films in a professional manner with ‘serious artistic intentions’.1 In a letter to The Scotsman in 1957, she questions the legitimacy...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.