Kenneth Steven grew up in Highland Perthshire, the only part of Scotland that’s land-locked. It was there he experienced the glens, rivers and lochs – as well as the wildlife – that inspired his poetry, prose and paintings.
Kenneth – the author
Kenneth Steven was born in 1968 to writing parents: a father from Lowland Scotland and a Highland mother. He spent his first years in Helensburgh, the town where one set of grandparents had lived, before moving with his parents to Crieff at the very heart of inland Scotland. It was there and in the town of Aberfeldy, where he spent his last years at school, that he developed a deeper and deeper love for the natural world, for what he terms wildscape. It was in Perthshire he began writing poems and stories, discovering the sheer wonder of words.
Before and immediately following his years of study of literature at the University of Glasgow, he spent academic years at Folk High School in Norway. He became fluent in Norwegian, meaning that much later he’d be published as a translator as well as a writer. In his second year, spent north of the Arctic Circle, he was able to pour himself into study of the Sami people and their story. That became important for what he’d go on one day to write, but also because his first series of programmes for BBC Radio was on the Sami world.
After returning to Scotland, Kenneth made up his mind to become a full-time writer. His first collections of poetry were published, as were his first picture books for children. But first and foremost he was travelling the length and breadth of Scotland, as well as far beyond, to give readings and talks in libraries and schools, and to lead writing workshops. He lived in Dunkeld in Perthshire with his first wife, and there in time his daughter Willow was born.
One chapter ended and a new one began. Kenneth now lives in Argyll on the Scottish west coast. He’s still first and always a poet, but very much a writer of prose too – both novels and short fiction. He also writes features on the wildscape of Scotland, and there have been numerous essays on Hebridean islands (still to be accessed via the BBC website).
Kenneth and his Swedish-born wife Kristina have worked together on a book on the story of the Sami entitled Beneath the Ice. Each October they lead retreats in Celtic Christianity on Iona, the island that has inspired so much of Kenneth’s writing. Kristina’s images as a photographer have been used as book covers, not least the picture for Kenneth’s volume of new and selected poems, Iona.
He gives readings from this book and from others like Evensong, Coracle, Salt and Light, Out of the Ordinary and Wild Horses. These days there are as many Zoom readings as real events, and the real ones take place everywhere from book festivals to churches to castles and art centres. There are events for schools too: all given under the terms of the Scottish Book Trust / Live Literature Scotland scheme. Many readings are a melding of voice and instrument: performances with musicians like Wendy Stewart, Paul Anderson, Eddie McGuire and others. Please get in touch with ideas: there’s ever room for new ones!
Kenneth – the painter
Kenneth Steven grew up in Highland Perthshire, the only part of Scotland that’s land-locked. It was there he experienced the glens, rivers and lochs – as well as the wildlife – that’s inspired his poetry and prose. But it was there too he had the privilege of encountering some of the last freshwater pearlfishers and the last speakers of Perthshire Gaelic. All of that priceless world poured into his writing.
But every summer he was with his parents on the Scottish west coast and in the Hebrides. From an early age he fell in love with the Isle of Iona especially. But by the time he was 12 or 14 he had visited numerous west coast landfalls with a father who was writing features on them for the Scottish Field. It wasn’t just a case of visiting the islands either: it was about climbing their highest hills, going to the remotest beaches, and meeting crofters and hearing the Gaelic language.
Kenneth and his wife Kristina now live on the Scottish west coast. They are still discovering new corners and experiencing islands old and new. Together they lead Celtic Christian retreats on the Isle of Iona each October. Kenneth has a studio both for writing and painting: it has no internet access and no telephone – the whole intention being to allow complete hideaway quiet for inspiration.
He doesn’t slavishly copy photographs of particular Hebridean locations, preferring to capture instead the spirit of the west. Sometimes homage will be paid to particularly loved places, but first and foremost it’s about trying to put on canvas and only with oils the power of Hebridean light, and the wonder of sky, mountain and sea. He doesn’t use a brush, only the index finger of his right hand.
Please contact him if you’d like to purchase any of the work displayed, or to commission a painting. Because he’s able to avoid increasingly expensive gallery fees, he can offer his work online at considerably lower prices. The marked price of all paintings is inclusive of postage.