Preview: This is it! Scotland’s literary talent in the spotlight at cabaret event

Can’t wait to attend this Literature Alliance Event tomorrow!

Best-selling author Louise Welsh and award-winning poet William Letford are set to headline an inaugural literary cabaret taking place this month, which shines a light on the nation’s literary scene in 2017.

                                      Author, Louise Welsh

The fast-paced, 90-minute show – called This Is It! – will highlight the year’s literary happenings across five strands – publishing, book festivals, school and public libraries, writers, and the international perspective.

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs will open this first public event from Literature Alliance Scotland (LAS) – the nation’s largest network of literature and languages organisations – on Wednesday 23 November from 7pm at Central Hall, Edinburgh.

Speakers include, respectively, Canongate Books’ Publishing Director Francis Bickmore, Adrian Turpin, Artistic Director of Wigtown Book Festival, and Pamela Tulloch, Chief Executive of Scottish Libraries Information Council.

Poet William Letford, who hails from Stirling, will cover writer development and perform a reading of his poem This Is It from which the event takes its name.

                Poet, William Letford

Closing the show will be Glasgow-based author, Louise Welsh, who will speak about Scotland’s books and literature on the international stage as well as the importance of literary exchange between nations.

In addition, attendees will be able to browse and buy books from Scotland’s writers and publishers courtesy of Blackwell’s Bookshop, Edinburgh while librarians from South Lanarkshire’s digital library programme ‘ACTIVEe’ will be on hand to demonstrate 3D printers which are now available in all of Scotland’s public libraries.

Peggy Hughes, Chair of LAS said: “With over 40 book festivals a year, ambitious new publishing houses such as 404ink emerging, stalwarts such as Birlinn celebrating 25 years, another Man Booker shortlisting for Ali Smith, Muriel Spark’s centenary on the horizon, not to mention the many, many Scottish books and authors that are going into the world every day and taking our stories and voices with them, it seemed high time that we took a moment to celebrate the wealth of our literature sector and shout about its cultural and social value.”
“At a time when Scotland’s Culture Strategy is being developed, it’s vital that we champion our sector and all the talented people working within and for it. Our literary cabaret is a chance for everyone with an interest in Scotland’s literature and book community to gather together and say, ‘This is it, this is a snapshot of what’s been happening this year’. It’s about carving out a space to celebrate the wonderful success, highlight the exciting potential and address the challenges. That’s why we’re so delighted that Fiona Hyslop is officially opening the event and giving this rich and vibrant sector the recognition it deserves.”

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Scotland’s distinguished literary culture is a notable part of our national identity. It also attracts visitors to Scotland and raises our cultural profile around the world. “I am pleased that the Literature Alliance Scotland is extending its reach beyond its membership of key individuals and agencies which promote writers and publishers to engage with the public.

“We are doing all we can to support the literary sector to ensure this rich legacy is maintained and strengthened in future years. We do this through for example our support for Creative Scotland, literacy, libraries, festivals, Book Week Scotland, the First Minister’s Reading Challenge and the post of Makar.”

Jenny Niven, Head of Literature, Languages & Publishing, Creative Scotland, said: “We have a unique, distinctive and rich cultural asset in literature that not only makes an enormous impact to people’s lives in Scotland but also enhances our reputation internationally. From poets to storytellers, screenwriters and playwrights the quantity and quality of writing being published here is truly inspiring. This is It! and Literature Alliance Scotland creates an important opportunity to bring together authors, publishers, libraries, festivals and literary organisations, and champion the work being done to make literature more visible to a greater number of people. We look forward to continuing this work with Scottish Government, partner agencies and individuals to create the best conditions to support a thriving literature and publishing sector in Scotland and internationally.”

Tickets for This Is It! are £7 /£6 – https://this-is-it-literary-cabaret-2017.eventbrite.com/

Dundee Literary Festival 2017

Hip hip hooray! Tomorrow marks the beginning of my favourite bookie event, Dundee Literary Festival, which takes places in my native city.

This year’s event which takes it’s inspiration from the great thinker, biologist, mathematician and classics scholar, D’Arcy Thompson whose book On Growth and Form, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, peers inside the books and stories featured at the event, analysing their structure, form and secrets too.

Jam packed with literary stars from crime writer Denise Mina, Man Booker Prize shortlister, Graeme Macrae Burnet and Tracy Beaker author and Honorary Graduate of the University of Dundee, Jacqueline Wilson – there really is something for everything at this extraordinary book festival.

I’m looking forward to attending a number of events over the long weekend, including a writing tutorial with YA author Joan Lennon on Friday, Literature in Britain Today with Tim Robertson, Director of the Royal Society of Literature on Saturday and Beyond Our Times with Irish author Sara Baume and Journalist Mark O’Connell.

It’s going to be a fabulous few days and I’m looking forward to reviewing the events that I see, next week!

For more information and to book tickets, visit: https://literarydundee.co.uk/festival

Public Service Broadcasting at True North

Everyone has something that makes them tick. For me it’s books and theatre, for my other half it’s music. Now don’t get me wrong, I love music. But, I don’t live for it. I don’t spend hours and hours listening to it. I don’t dedicate time to discovering new bands or sounds that I might just love. I’m lazy. My musical tastes have all been handed to me on a plate – artists that I’ve heard on the radio, or songs that I have become familiar with through other people’s musical tastes.

That’s how I became acquainted with Public Service Broadcasting. My husband must have been listening to them for a while without me even realising it, because one day I discovered that one of their songs had managed to worm itself inside my brain. That song was Progress.

So, when I discovered that the band were opening Aberdeen’s True North music festival at His Majesty’s Theatre, it seemed like a pretty good idea for the two of us to check it out.

After watching the brilliant and very quirky support act, BDY_PRTS perform , it was time for the Public Service Broadcasting to come on. I was hoping that they would be good, I hadn’t expected them to be phenomenal – but they were.

The three piece band, consisting of J. Willgoose, Esq, drummer Wrigglesworth and multi instrumentalist JFAbraham, performed their back catalogue, which pays homage to historic events such as the miners’ strikes, missions to space and Hillary and Norgay’s quest to conquer Everest. Using AV transmissions, archive footage and samples from old public information films, Public Service Broadcasting’s performance was an absolute feast for the eyes as well as the ears.

Playing old favourites such as Go, Spitfire and Everest (my husband’s fave) as well as new tracks from their album Every Valley, the band’s set had the crowd in the palm of their hands. Seeing Public Service Broadcasting live was an immensely intense experience that I will remember forever. And now, after spending the morning listening to every song they’ve ever made, I can proudly say that music makes me tick too. Well PSB do anyway…

True North Music Festival runs from the 7th to the 10th of September and includes acts such as Arab Strap, Dutch Uncles and Rumours, a celebration of Fleetwood Mac’s iconic album. For further information and to book tickets, visit: www.aberdeenperformancearts.com

*Disclaimer, I was provided for a ticket for this performance in exchange for this fair and honest review.

Au Revoir Edinburgh International Book Festival

They say that all good things must come to an end. How I wish that wasn’t true! With the Edinburgh International Book Festival closing earlier this week, it was time to say goodbye to my happy place for another year. For me the festival represents everything that I love: words, books, storytelling and the city of Edinburgh itself.

On my last visit to the festival on Saturday, I had the pleasure of seeing three amazing events. The first one was Hari Kunzru with David Mitchell – two brilliant and inspiring authors who I have long since admired. The informal chat about Kunzru’s new ghost story White Tears, was punctuated by music from the Delta Mississippi Blues, which made it all the more interesting and memorable.

My second event of the day was Sara Baume & Oddny Eir, two female author who use nature in their writing. Both Baume’s novel, A Line Made by Walking and Icelandic author Oddny’s debut, Land of Love and Ruins, sound utterly fascinating and I can’t wait to read them.

My last event of the day was Take Me to the River at the Baillie Gifford Imagination Lab. The talk featured YA author Claire McFall, who was there to discuss her novel Trespassers and Martin Stewart, whose debut novel Riverkeep is up for the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s First Book Award. Chaired by children’s writer, Lari Don, the event explored the myth and folklore around death and loss in a light and quirky manner that went down very well with the audience.

When I left the festival to catch my train home, I took one last look around the beautiful gardens with a heavy heart.

Au revoir, Edinburgh International Book Festival. Until we meet again.

National Theatre Live – Saint Joan at Dundee Contemporary Arts

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to see the National Theatre Live production of Saint Joan at Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA). The production, starring Gemma Arterton, is an updated version of George Bernard Shaw’s classic 1920s play.

Set in France on a revolving boardroom filled with hedge fund managers, the play tells the story of Joan of Arc: daughter, farm girl, visionary, patriot, king-whisperer, soldier, leader, victor, icon, radical, witch, heretic, saint, martyr and woman.

The play opens with the shocking news that hens have stopped laying eggs, leading to a crash in the stock market. The hedge fund managers are understandably worried but then a local farm girl called Joan arrives, boasting about her ability to speak to dead Saints and Angels and tells the men that God is on her side. She asks them to let her take control of the army so that she can drive the English out of France. Of course, she’s immediately met with ridicule, but then she does something amazing – she asks the dead saints to help her get the hens laying eggs again. When it works – she’s suddenly someone to be reckoned with.

While Gemma Arterton’s performance is wonderful as the feminist farm girl turned visionary, the modern setting with all its technology and gadgets left me a little bit cold. Personally, I would have preferred a more faithful adaptation of this play, but I still enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about Joan and her amazing strength and conviction.

My next visit to the DCA will be to see the celebrated play Hedda Gabler, written by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Starring the amazing Ruth Wilson – it’s a National Theatre Live production, not to be missed!

For more information about National Theatre Live productions coming to Dundee and to book tickets, please visit: www.dca.org.uk

*Disclaimer – I was provided with a ticket for this showing of Saint Joan in exchange for this fair and honest review.