Paul Fegan’s first feature documentary follows Scottish cult-pop raconteur and former Arab Strap frontman Aidan Moffat as he tours Scotland in 2014, performing his modern re-interpretations of old folk songs.
It was meant to be a tour that celebrated communities and lore. But just before they hit the road, Fegan met Sheila Stewart: a 79-year-old force of nature, the last in a line of travelling folk royalty, and a balladeer whose life – and unexpected death, in 2014 – upturned Moffat’s folk assumptions, and diverted the course of Fegan’s film.
The ensuing film is a warm-hearted journey through music, mortality, landscape and time. It’s also a moving, wry and enlightening depiction of two of Scotland’s most distinct and vital voices, as they cross paths (and words): Moffat believes Scotland’s oldest songs are ripe for re-working against a contemporary urban backdrop. Stewart does not.
their quiet humour – not to mention their conflicting beliefs as to how music should be treated – had to be at the very heart of the film
The film includes the final interview and performance footage of Sheila Stewart, the last in line of a celebrated family of gypsy travellers, the Stewarts of Blair, who date back to the 12th Century. Says Paul Fegan of his initial encounter with Sheila Stewart: “When I met Sheila, I was blown away. She was fierce, and passionate, and brilliant company – and I loved her stories about her life, and family, and songs. As soon as I introduced Sheila to Aidan, I realised that Aidan had met his match, and it quickly became apparent that their relationship, and their quiet humour – not to mention their conflicting beliefs as to how music should be treated – had to be at the very heart of the film.”
The cinema tour will kick off with a full band performance from Moffat and the musical stars of the film, including James Graham (The Twilight Sad), Jenny Reeves (Bdy_Prts), Stevie Jones (Sound of Yell), Michael John McCarthy, and traditional bothy ballad singers Joe Aitken, Geordie Murison & Danny Couper – at Sheffield Doc/Fest on 12th June.
The event tour that follows will take the film to 18 cities and towns throughout the UK where screenings will be followed by a Q&A with director and producer Paul Fegan and a solo performance by Aidan Moffat.
WHERE YOU’RE MEANT TO BE will be screening in 40 cinemas from 17 June, for full listings go to whereyouremeanttobe.com. The film will be available on iTunes 1 July 2016.
Last in the Line
It’s also worth revisiting a tribute we ran to the late Sheila Stewart in 2014 for which we were given permission to show a short film from 2006, directed by Dylan Drummond and Blair Scott. In Last In The Line (part of the Scottish Documentary Institute‘s Lies series) Sheila talks openly about her life, and the culture she spent her life sharing. You can watch it again below: