Sheena Blackhall is a prolific writer, illustrator, traditional ballad singer and storyteller. She is well known for her poetry, writing for children, and expertise on the language and culture of the North East of Scotland.
Over several decades, she has produced a trove of regionally, nationally and internationally recognised and acclaimed work, publishing over 150 poetry books in Scots and English and translating a range of classic literature into Scots including, The Wizard of Oz, Jane Eyre, Mr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, The Gruffalo and most recently, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Many of her stories have been broadcast on Radio Scotland, two of her plays have been televised.
Born and educated in Aberdeen, Sheena qualified as a primary school teacher. She took a degree in psychology with the Open University, graduating in 1995, and gained an M.Litt with distinction from Aberdeen University in 2000.
From 1998 to 2003 she was Creative Writing Fellow in Scots at Aberdeen University’s Elphinstone Institute, and in 2007 she was Creative Writing Tutor at the Institute for Irish and Scottish studies. Dr Tom McKean, director of the Elphinstone institute, has no doubts about the importance of Sheena Blackhall’s contribution to art. He said: “Sheena is unique. She can compose a topical ballad in minutes, or just as easily bring you to tears with a sharply observed turn of phrase…Without fail, she brings our language’s rich and inimitable world view to bear on the human condition, wherever she finds it.”
With Research Associate Les Wheeler, she co-edits ‘The Elphinstone Kist’, a Doric website providing an extraordinary Scots Language resource. The pair have worked tirelessly over years to put together an accessible treasury which includes poetry, fiction, drama, song lyric, reminiscence, and days-in-the-life of all sorts of North-East folk from oil-worker to hairdresser. Contributors range from established authors to school children, and the ‘E-Kist’ is a fully searchable and downloadable resource.
She became Makar for Aberdeen and the North East in 2009 and an Honorary Fellow of the WORD Centre for Creative Writing in 2016. Her many awards include the Robert McLellan tassie for best Scots short story and the Hugh MacDiarmid trophy for best Scots poem. She also shared the Sloane Award with Matthew Fitt from St. Andrew’s University.
In 2019, Sheena Blackhall’s outstanding contribution to Scottish culture was highlighted at an event in Banchory. “Celebratin’ Sheena” paid tribute to the invention and imagination of a real Doric champion.
This post is also available in: Scots