Welcome to the dedicated site for The Wireless Set – an ethnographic and film project about islands, care, globalisation, and peripheral voices. I’m Esme, and this Orkney based project began as part of a Masters degree in Visual Anthropology. A year on, it’s still developing and finding its impact in the wellbeing of Scotland’s rural and island communities. The project was my response to ongoing complaints in the archipelago about healthcare provision for our non-linked isles, a situation which reminded me of a story by George Mackay Brown.

‘If it’s a man that’s speaking,’ said old Hugh doubtfully, ‘Where is he standing just now?’

Mackay Brown (1969: 102)

He tells the story of the first ever radio arriving in a fictional Orkney community in the 30s. The wireless becomes a metaphor for how islands become engaged with under globalisation. They receive all these urban/mainland narratives which don’t apply to their lived experience of the space. The system is not designed for dialogue (they do try to respond) so they develop their own attitudes towards this disembodied voice of authority. They’re dependent on it but also not represented and sometimes betrayed by it.

I wrote a paper which developed a framework around the short story. It’s called The Wireless Set: Navigating Vulnerability and Resilience in Environments of Globalisation. I think George Mackay Brown encapsulates globalisation processes well because he does so from the perspective of those sensitive to them and takes into account the corporeal aspects of their experience.

So not only is the Wireless Set a useful story for understanding the complex dynamic between rural spaces and centralisation, it is a lesson. By example, it suggests we look to spaces of vulnerability and seek to embody the very real experience of moving in one’s own space.

The film part of the project is therefore an effort to tune into the island voice and suggest a remedy to this pattern we see in rural and island care under a centralised system. It’s about spending time paying attention to those who feel the impacts acutely and paying attention to how they struggle to navigate this space.

Read George Mackay Brown’s ‘The Wireless Set’ ->

Watch the Film ->

Read more about The Wireless Set dynamic for island and rural health ->