Bookmark and Share


    "a democracy ignorant of its past is not qualified either to analyse the present or to shape the future"

                                                                                                                                         Tom Johnston

'Strains of Eden ' is a search for identity and belonging through songs from our collective past. It explores some key periods in the people's history like the Clearances, Chartist and Crofting Times, showing how the land and democracy are intertwined, and what this means for us in 21st century Scotland.


The project has been devised by Scottish singer songwriter Alan Dickson, who says it’s a story worth retelling, as it lies at the roots of who we are and where we have come from. “Back then, there were dissenting voices that questioned progress but most collectors tended to ignore the more 'radical' songs. I’ve managed to trace and re-work some of them for today’s audiences. That way fresh light can be shed on the past and be carried forward to inform the future.”


The songs are in English and Scots, with many being recorded for the first time. New tunes have been composed or existing Scottish traditional tunes adapted where the original tunes have been lost or not documented in the archives.


On a general note, roots music is often banded about as an alternative description for folk, Celtic, or even traditional music. However, in the original sense of the word it has a deeper meaning; being of the soil and embodying life that is characterised by lyrics with a radical dimension.  The dictionary definition of radical is of the root(s); inherent, essential, fundamental, meaning we have to go to the roots to affect change.


Background notes:

Originally from Leith, Alan Dickson studied land use planning at Dundee, then went onto train and work in the field of community education in and around Glasgow for some thirty years. He took voluntary redundancy in 2013 to concentrate on his music.

Material was gathered, including lyrical poetry, from the archives at the University of Glasgow’s Janey Buchan Political Song Collection, Caledonian University’s Special Collections, relevant books and online sources, such as and Chartist sources.

The project will be of interest to those with an interest (both academic and general) in Scottish history, Scottish literature, politics, land reform, active citizenship, arts and culture, traditional music, and ethnology/folklore.


At its core 'Strains of Eden' reweaves a rich tapestry of song, organised around the five elements:

          1. Fire - protest songs

          2. Air - songs of hope

          3. Water - laments (loss & longing)

          4. Earth - ballads (renewal)

          5. Soul - anthems (celebration)

In this regard 'Strains of Eden' is an attempt to bring into focus a radical vision of Scotland - one that roots our sense of belonging and our 'oldest' identity in the land.

Image description