In a dressing room a photograph taken in the mirrow shows a woman in a opwdered wig, mouth open in converstaion with someone that the mirror can't see.

So many interesting people

Gunnie Moberg: Mary Thomas, Fires of London, 1985

‘I met so many interesting people…no wonder I thought the place was interesting’ – Gunnie Moberg

In the year before the first St Magnus Festival, photographer Gunnie Moberg moved to Orkney with her husband Tam MacPhail and their four sons. She had chosen an exciting time when the artistic community of Orkney was flourishing. The Orkney Arts Society had recently been established, composer Peter Maxwell Davies was developing a new festival for the people of Orkney, and in 1979 the Pier Arts Centre opened.


And there in the centre of it all, Gunnie Moberg and her camera.


The festival is the focus of a new exhibition at the Orkney Library and Archive –  ‘They All Come To Me’.

Here is a preview of some of the Gunnie Moberg photographs in the exhibition which opens this weekend.


Two men Richard Murphy and Peter Maxwell Davies talk. Behind them a high stone wall. Richard, a tall man is on the left and he clutches to his chest papers, maybe a manuscript.

Richard Murphy & Peter Maxwell Davies 1983


St Magnus Cathedral stands central in this black and white image. Trees shade her. Outside the steps a busy scne, with BBC lorries and outside broadcase units.

BBC recording at St Magnus Cathedral 1986


Gunnie forged a strong relationship with the festival community photographing the first St Magnus Festival and over the following two decades. Gunnie’s festival photographs of the visiting and resident artists, poets, composers and musicians were in demand by newspaper editors. Working in a pre-digital age Gunnie remembers developing films at night and rushing to the airport to send images off to waiting news desks.

In the publication St Magnus Festival A Celebration (The Orcadian 2002) Gunnie recounts her days as the festival photographer:

In the early days, I felt awkward ‘butting in’ for pictures. [Judy Arnold] had the most wonderful way of introducing me. ‘This is GUNNIE MOBERG‘, a long pause would follow (like you must know who she is), ‘she would like to take YOUR picture’ (like you should feel honoured). Well, that is how it sounded to me and it always boosted my confidence. Judy also provided me with schedules for rehearsals, when performers would arrive and places where I should turn up for a good picture… many picture editors have said to me ‘you must travel a lot to have such a big library of famous artists’ and I say ‘no, they all come to me!’

On the left the poet George Mackay Brown his hair is combed back and he grins chinnily into the joke he shares with fellow poet Ian Crichton Smith. Ian in a white suit and George in black.

George Mackay Brown & Ian Crichton Smith 1987


A man on stage in a wig and a silk embroidered house coat, his coat swings at the bottom, he has just spun round. He holds his hand up and indicates someone drinking perhaps, his eyes wide and his mouth downturned.

Michael Rippon, Eight Songs for a Mad King, 1978


Open Day on Saturday the 21st of June when a wide selection of Gunnie’s St Magnus Festival related materials can be browsed. From 12 noon till 4pm. 

The exhibition has been developed by Sarah Nicol, Museums and Galleries Scotland Intern who works between Pier Arts Centre and Orkney Museums – ‘While working at the Gunnie Moberg archive, I was instantly drawn to the relationships illustrated in her photographs of the St Magnus Festival. Gunnie did an excellent job at capturing the intimacy of each relationship and sharing it’  To accompany the exhibition, Sarah has produced a free zine of St Magnus Festival newspaper clippings that use Gunnie Moberg’s images.

 Sarah’s internship is supported by Heritage Lottery Fund Skills for the Future fund, Museums Galleries Scotland and hosts: the Pier Arts Centre & Orkney Museums.

poster image of two musicians in glasses and macs, the man links arms with the woman, his boday is turned away from the camera but he twisist round to smile.




2 thoughts on “So many interesting people

  1. Pingback: Festival Open Day | The Gunnie Moberg Archive

  2. Pingback: They keep coming | The Gunnie Moberg Archive

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