The Oyster Party was originally a night that Michael Pedersen was to host with his close friend, artistic collaborator and Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison, to celebrate a year since the launch of his poetry collection Oyster, which Scott beautifully illustrated. But with Scott’s tragic passing Pedersen decided instead to make the event a tribute to Hutchison’s life and work. Close friends Hollie McNish, Withered Hand and E A Hanks joined him to pay homage to their talented friend in what I anticipated a deeply emotional gathering.
In the intimate surroundings of the book festival’s Spiegletent, Scott’s songs played while we found our seats. The man sitting next to me turned and said “you might have to witness a six foot five man cry.” It was clear how much Hutchison meant to him.
The night began with Pedersen announcing the format of the evening which was to comprise a series of short films peppered with live music and poetry readings and an ‘unusual’ toast to Scott. The first film was of Hutchison and Pedersen’s mothers candidly discussing their son’s successes and some embarrassing (but very funny) childhood moments; a window into Hutchison’s childhood.
Fighting back tears, poet, E A Hanks was first to read a selection of her works. The words “only songs; songs where there used to be words” from The Magpie and the Selkie stayed with me long after the reading ended. She finished with a poem called The Other Room which was included in the chap book used to raised funds for mental health awareness.
Holly McNish followed, choosing lighter subject matter to express the mischievous humour her and Hutchison shared. “Scott said people should kiss and hug more” she told us before delivering a playfully lyrical homage to physical contact called Touch. Covering subjects from bodily functions to shoulders her work brought laughter; a brief respite from the tears.
A Frightened Rabbit animation, Roadless, was accompanied by the band’s song of the same name. It was a moving, sentimental montage of a soldier leaving for war and ships at sea, speckled and grainy with overlaid paint effects that echoed the tender soundtrack.
Pedersen then introduced Scott’s mother, Marion Hutchison, who courageously told us about the love of poetry her and her son had shared. Often sending each other poetry books, she hoped they would inspire him but added that “most of his magic came from within.” Thanking Scott’s friends and fans, she read a poem she had written to him on the day “the water returned Scott to us” and finished with a piece from William Boyd’s Sweet Caress. It was impossible to hold back the tears.
Another film, in the style of ‘dodgy holiday snaps’ as Pedersen described it, illustrated Hutchison’s impish humour, powerful song-writing and big-hearted friendships. It was a touching and heartfelt tribute played to the sound of Scott singing the Waterboy’s Whole of the Moon.
Pedersen was going to read his poem Oyster but the book became wedged under a collapsed table. Unable to free it he had to recite it by heart but not before saying that ‘someone up there’ was having a ‘wee joke’. He followed Oyster with a new poem, Fortunately Lush, also written on the day he learned of Scott’s passing. The towering respect and love he had for Hutchison shone through in the line “You’re inked in the sky tonight, come rain, come shine, come snow.”
After a beautiful set by Withered Hand, on which Pedersen and McNish accompanied one song on xylophone and recorder (an in-joke they shared with Scott), we toasted Hutchison with oysters and oyster mushrooms; a quirky touch befitting the event.
While the sadness was palpable, so was the love and admiration all those in the tent felt for Hutchison. The event was a desperately loving eulogy to a man who touched the hearts of millions around the world, because he had one of the biggest. He will not easily be forgotten. The saddest part of the evening was knowing Scott would have loved every minute of it.
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