Eilidh Morris: Vessels
Vessels is a five-minute film created by Dundee-based artist Eilidh Morris in collaboration with musician Johnny Threshold, and filmed in Dundee and Tayport.
Eilidh is a Dundee-based artist who writes and performs spoken word poetry as an expression of their mental health issues, abuse, and recovery experiences. Vessels is a five-minute film created by Eilidh in collaboration with musician Johnny Threshold, and filmed in Dundee and Tayport.
Eilidh says: “Being commissioned by SMHAF to create Vessels was an unexpected and meaningful gesture for me. The invitation arrived almost serendipitously, as my favourite-cafe-to-write-in had just re-opened, and I found myself there, teary-eyed, watching the theme of this new piece play out in real time – the Normality of daily life and the question of what Normal is.
“My spoken word poetry has always been a form of expression and reflection, but it was especially cathartic in this instance to translate these feelings onto paper because the ‘real world’ was right there in front of me. I turned to analogy as comfort, stories of ships and great voyages manifesting as a way to process the feelings, symptoms and experience of living with mental illness and trauma. It does no good to pretend these things don’t affect me. But I also believe there is a way to exist, even thrive, in a world that feels full of tidal waves, and I won’t find them by continuously sailing into the eye of a storm.
“We live by the beautiful River Tay, in a city with a rich history of ships and discovery. In filming and editing the video, Johnny created a journey from the overwhelming and huge waters, through to the small and comforting streams and ponds – mirroring the thematic journey of the piece much like the musical arrangement. Johnny composed the music for the piece (while the final draft took form) paying close attention to the sea-faring themes, incorporating flourishes reminiscent of being underwater, boats creaking under duress, and sea-shanty-esque rhythms that drive our vessel inland and upstream.
“Over the course of three weeks and our exploration of this concept, the meaning grew deeper and I found comfort in the words myself. We went from filming at serene and quiet gardens, to down by the river on a windy, atmospheric day, and the message came to life. Even though this poem centres around the struggle of existing in the vast, perilous waters in which we watch our peers traverse daily, Vessels is ultimately a poem of perseverance, honesty, hope and self-acceptance.”
A Spoken Word Piece by Eilidh Morris
Watching from the window
the upper deck of my boat
Streets begin to flow with life and purpose
Just like before
9 to fivers
And all the inbetweeners
Post-job few pint socializers
While society rolls back in
I was launched into this voyage with a weakness for capsizing,
sunken cost dictating the pace,
But see I thought we all set off from the port the same
Vessels with funny sounding names
Canvas hoisted higher, hand over fist in vain,
Nautical maps approved by committee
And their one size fits all attitude to individual ability
We hold precious & close our special play-list of songs to sing as we
head out to sea
Every sailor needs a good sea shanty, don’t we?
(It’s more than that,
There’s a weight or a shadow in the hull that’s distracting,
But the weather outside looks fine!
And as far as I know
Everyone’s voyage will be identical to mine
If they can do it, so can I,
Right into the path of a wave
And another and another
Rip-tides, pirates and currents are churning
My stomach, and blurring my vision
Once again I’m dropping anchor, With longing
for stronger sea legs and conviction
Now an era of continual repair
Any progress negated by distressingly casual wear and tear
And the acts of opportunists, looters and strangers
My vessel was not built for this
Or so it feels
A pulse of powerful beams splintering the wheel
Changing course better be worth the heavy bleed if I’m to find an even
I am asking permission
to sink, sail or swim
Red hands outstretched to an overwhelming cerulean
I wish to navigate it’s structure the way that people do,
with inbuilt guidance and communication so fluid)
To walk on water as I’d walk on this sea-soaked wood
Decks untouched and free from the sticky residue
of chasing that collective heartbeat that inside, I never knew
it wasn’t this fresh, distanced reality that caught my breath
But the reminder that I’d have to do it all over again,
Waken my need for safe, meaningful connection held near
Distance between us not just across turbulence and tiers
But the splashes of history thickening my fears
A painful aversion to loud and crowded piers,
Anxiety unappeased by the re-opening’s this year
From the port hole
I watch the Swell below
Time to start pretending that I’m not scared
And am begging for some strong wind in my sails
The idea of strength in numbers
Fear of others
Always influencing my boat
And yeah not everybody plunders
Lone ships in
But I have to stay afloat
If I could move like the school’s of fish below,
I could join the dance of silvery pieces making a whole!
But I’m drenched and clinging on beam ends, and
wondering what became of the fish that spent it’s life thinking it was less
Because they really believed they should be able to climb a tree,
Or sail a ship…. whatever metaphor fits
it feels like all I can see are fish in trees,
Uninhibited by tidal waves nets or ocean worries
Or my unavoidable fixation on sinking
If this is normality at sea
I need to find safer waters for me
So I cut and run,
Turn my back on the fleet,
I’ll choose a paper boat
Haphazardly drifting down a stream
Put myself in Kingsley’s fairytale story,
Make my great journey to the sea
But in my own goddamn time
Because I shouldn’t have to start there
in a dark and salty abyss
Where my deepest, formidable waters
are only up to other people’s shins,
Populated coves and treasure troves
are further down the line
for a vessel that does what it needs to do
in order to survive
In shallow rivers,
maybe I’ll finally learn the ropes
Send a message in a bottle to those far-away folks
Not to give up hope,
I might cope if I don’t sink my ship or lose my lifeboats
As long as I stop trying to pretend that this Seasickness doesn’t affect my
There are calmer waters out there.
I believe it.
My paper vessel may become wooden
If circumstances conceive it
But I won’t force it
My fellow struggling wayfarers, enduring tidal waves and lonely days,
Bay your sea shanty out and listen for a change
In the air.
Even a ripple.
A small breeze
take your time in the rivers and lochs
Until it’s safe to sail downstream.
Visit the 2 Stoned Birds’ Bandcamp page to explore more of their spoken word and music, and download the track.