Bird Yarns inspires ‘Tern’, by musician Mick Slaven: Listen here

Deirdre Nelson: Artist Diary March 2013

Tern, written and performed by Mick Slaven  

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Copyright control Mick Slaven, 2013:

Riding the Breeze

Bird Yarns made a brief landing at Letham Nights in Fife late last year and managed to share the stage with Coal Town Daisies and The Bevvy Sisters.

Letham nights aims to bring high quality music to Letham Village Hall and provide a stage for local talent. They are committed to ‘creating a zero-carbon village hall and funds from these events will go towards this aim as well as frequently supporting a variety of local, national or international causes.’

Each Bird Yarns landing engages new audiences and passes on information on craft, community, arctic terns and climate change. Bird Yarns not only gained new followers but made an exciting connection to musician Mick Slaven. Mick was reminded of a piece of music he had composed while on the Isle of Mull:

‘On holiday on Mull several years ago I’d gone over to Iona for the day. It was a beautiful summer’s day and the sun was sparkling on the sea, which was rippled by a light breeze. In the late afternoon as I waited at the pier for the ferry back, I was mesmerised by the sight of a single tern daintily riding the breeze, dipping gracefully into the water to catch a fish, rising effortlessly back into the sky, continuing the search. I watched it for about fifteen minutes before the boat came and when I got back to the cottage I was staying at, I picked up my guitar immediately and came up with this piece. I tried to evoke the shimmering quality of the water, the beautiful wing form of the bird and its movement in the wind.’

Mick Slaven Mick Slaven is a session guitarist and record producer from Glasgow. A former gardener at the University of Glasgow, Slaven became the guitarist for Bourgie Bourgie in the 1980s, and was briefly a member of Del Amitri. He has worked with Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue, Eighteenth after Trinity and Pearlfishers, and wrote the music for the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh’s production of Stephen Greenhorn’s play, Passing Places, which he played live. Slaven later composed the guitar score for Gregory Burke’s play, Gagarin Way, also for The Traverse. Slaven also fronts his own band, The Leopards, who released the album They Tried Staying Calm. The Leopards did two sessions for John Peel in 1997 and 1998.


Jo Mango at the Union Chapel

Photo by Joseph Lee

Its been a while since I have posted on Bird Yarns diary . Things have been busy with other projects and in keeping up with Bird Yarns activities and popularity! Back in December, through conversation with singer Jo Mango I discovered that she was off to London to the Union Chapel to play at Daylight music organised by Ben Eshmade. Ben is a radio producer and founder of The Arctic Circle .
“Ever since their debut event at The Hayward Gallery in March 2006, the Arctic Circle have been driven by a mad passion to create concerts that are perfectly formed and memorable. They will move land and sea to bring talented musicians, composers and visual artists to London’s best venues, ensuring that each concert is a once in a lifetime event. Although they feel most at home at London’s Union Chapel, Arctic Circle produce, programme and promote events at many different venues encompassing a broad range of acts and genres. Over the last three years they have not only played host to established artists, but are always on the lookout for new talent and specialise in showcasing emerging acts on the brink of wider renown.”
Arctic Circle and Union Chapel seemed a perfect place for Birdyarns ‘arctic terns’ to land on a journey south of Scotland so they were packed in a suitcase and travelled by train to Islington ready for a flight into a beautiful chapel:

Surrounded by musicians and sound technicians the birds flew in and waited for guests to arrive. It was wonderful to see visitors arrive and smile as they were greeted by Bird Yarns in the foyer and on stage. A lovely audience, cups of tea and home-baked cake added to the warm atmosphere at Daylight Music at Union Chapel and provided a memorable experience for both myself and our wooly flock of birds!
‘It’s hard to put into words the addition I felt that birds made in their brief flying visit to the Union Chapel and Daylight Music last year. The photos from the day may help show the joy and wonder that they created at the chapel. The unsuspecting music fans smiled and stared in delight at the intricate and beautiful knitted creatures and so did I! ‘ Ben Eshmade ( Arctic Circle)

Previous Bird Yarns landings:

Glad Cafe, Glasgow, for the launch of Jo Mango’s new CD, Murmuration, 3 November

Bird Yarns at Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh, 26-28 September

Photo by Helen Voce

Bird Yarns at The Lighthouse, Glasgow, as part of Luminate, 5-28 October

Bird Yarns brings knitters from Mull and across the UK and beyond together with textile artist Deirdre Nelson in response to the changing migration patterns of seabirds across Scotland’s islands. Working with local wool from Ardalanish, Mull, and recycled materials, the knitters created a flock of ‘lost’ arctic terns on Tobermory Pier and provided them with a Mull welcome of local food, music and poetry. Knitting kits have been developed in partnership with local producers to highlight the plight of migratory birds and celebrate local resources and resourcefulness.

+ View related artist diary posts
+ Bird Yarns on Facebook
+ Bird Yarns on Tumblr
+ Bird kits now online in the An Tobar shop

Deirdre Nelson is an embroiderer and textile artist based in Glasgow, who has exhibited widely in a variety of gallery and museum contexts nationally and internationally, and has been involved in site specific works in heritage locations such as Gibside Estate Northumbria and Brodsworth Hall Yorkshire. Research and education forms a large part of her practice with extensive experience in school and community contexts. Deirdre is artist-in-residence at An Tobar, Mull, in 2012.
+ Profile: Deirdre Nelson


By a community of knitters, facilitated by Deirdre Nelson and An Tobar

18 – 24 June 2012

Fisherman’s Pier
Main Street
Tobermory, Isle of Mull
Contact An Tobar: 01688 302 211


1 August – 3 September 2012

Woodend Barn
Burn O Bennie
Kincardineshire AB31 5QA
Tel: 01330 826520


26-28 September 2012

Dovecot Studios
10 Infirmary Street,
EH1 1LT, Edinburgh
Tel: 0131 550 3660


5-28 October 2012

Luminate Festival
The Lighthouse
11 Mitchell Lane
Glasgow, Scotland G1 3NU
Tel: 0141 276 5360



Bird Yarns accompanying singer Jo Mango in the launch of her album Murmuration.

3 November 2012

The Glad Cafe
1006a Pollockshaws Road


24 November 2012

Daylight Music Free lunchtime concerts
Union Chapel – Compton Terrace
London N1 2UN


Part of Luminate: Scotland’s creative ageing festival celebrating and profiling our creative lives as we age.  This brand new festival taking place across Scotland throughout October 2012 offers an exciting and high quality programme of arts events and activities with and for older people, as well as events that attract audiences and participants across the generations



  1. Dawn Reade says:

    I’ve just waved Deirdre Nelson off after a two day visit to Mull to get the Bird Yarns project off to a great start. Yesterday we visited Ardalanish farm to see the sheep, whose lovely fleeces will be knitted into arctic terns. Anne & Andrew Smith who own the farm treated us to a 4×4 safari around the farm (stunning) and we met some of the talented staff who weave organic tweeds and generally take care of looking after such a fantastic product. Last night Deirdre introduced herself and some of her past community knitting projects to our group of knitters. I think most of them are up for knitting a tern! A few of us are going to trial knit the pattern very soon.

  2. Betsy says:

    So excited to hear about this project via Lauren O’Farrell’s Crafty Crafy post!!! What an excellent project and Deirdre is *perfect* person for the task as she always does a beautiful job of weaving together cause, aesthetics and meaning into her work.

  3. […] Bird Yarns brings a community of knitters together with textile artist Deirdre Nelson in response to the changing migration patterns of seabirds across Scotland’s islands. It’s part of Cape Farewell – an international programme offering a cultural response to climate change. You’ll find lots of interesting Bird yarns info on their Facebook page. […]

  4. anne says:

    May I have a kit please? I know it will be a late arrival but would love to knit for you. I already knit for Alison Murray of Bideford who is now working on a new project. Previous projects of hers have been the Gingerbread House and Above and Below the Waves [could almost knit a mermaid in my sleep by the time we finished!] However, I would like to knit a seabird – perhaps blown in by the winds and rain here to Coventry!

    • deirdre nelson says:

      We are not currently emailing out patterns while we develop plans for the project. Ut if you follow Birdyarns on facebook it will give you updates. Thanks so much for your interest.

    • deirdre nelson says:

      Anne. If you email me at can keep you updated on the next stages of the project . thanks.

  5. […] so happy to play a small part in Deirdre Nelson’s innovative textile project on Mull called Bird Yarns. Deirdre had knitters from all over the UK and beyond knitting Arctic Terns, I brought five with me […]

  6. […] year I was pleased to contribute an arctic tern to the Bird Yarns project. I was lucky enough to see them exhibited at the Dovecot studios in Edinburgh (and, by a […]

    • Ruth Little says:

      Thank you so much for contributing a tern! Bird Yarns is such a rich project precisely because the flock holds so many stories. And your blog is wonderful too. Do come to see the work-in-progress performance of Air falbh leis na h-eòin at Tramway on 9 March or at Tectonics Festival on 11 May.

      • Anna says:

        Thanks for your kind words – the tern was a lovely knit and it’s so interesting to watch as the flock moves and the project evolves. It’s exciting to have been even a small part of it. I really hope to get to see Air falbh les na h-eòin – somewhere!

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