The Yellow Cake Revue

... is a piece for piano and voice, composed by Peter Maxwell Davies in 1980. Davies first performed it at the Stromness Hotel, as part of the 1980 St. Magnus Festival – a summer arts festival that he co–founded in 1977. The spoken word portions were performed for the debut performance by Eleanor Bron.

The revue concerns the threat of a uranium mine being constructed on Orkney's Mainland. Yellowcake is a step in the processing of uranium after it has been mined. When a geological survey revealed deposits in the early 1970s, the South of Scotland Electricity Board (SSEB) wanted to mine the uranium to fuel a nuclear power plant. The islanders and the local council were strongly opposed to the initiative. Davies, who was born in Salford but lived in Orkney from 1971 until his death in 2016, was moved to write The Yellow Cake Revue after a public examiner's report advised the Secretary of State for Scotland to deny the SSEB's request to mine.

Stromness is the second biggest town in Orkney, after Kirkwall. Both are on Mainland.

The (undated) entry for the Yellow Cake Revue, on Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's official website, reports that "The Secretary of State for Scotland gave no immediate authorization for uranium mining to begin, but the long–term threat remains.

"The original local agreements negotiated by the Scottish Electricity Board have since run out, and there is now strong activity afoot in the direction of alternative energy sources, with Orkney the centre of experimentation in wind power generation. In the meantime, The Yellow cake Revue symbolizes the active position of vigilance inside Orkney. Well–maintained placards still stand outside the town of Stromness, and the campaign would be immediately resusitated (sic) if there were any suspicion of attempts to re–open the matter."

© Haydn Thompson 2017