Stepping into its second decade with well-earned confidence and style, Glasgow’s Aye Write! festival is a must for all book addicts and lovers of literature, with this year’s programme promising something for everyone.
All life is here, with authors talking food, music, love, politics, money, evolution, revolution and Star Trek.
Here are a few selected highlights to give you something to think about, but you can peruse the full programme at your leisure here.
One of Scots Whay Hae!‘s books of 2015 was Stuart Cosgrove’s Detroit ’67: The Year That Changed Soul Music, and when Stuart talked about that book on the SWH! podcast he also mentioned that his next venture was going to be a history of Northern Soul, one of his great loves. That book is called Young Soul Rebel, and he will be talking about it on Friday 11th March. Cosgrove is steeped in soul music and this is a must for all music lovers.
On the same day music journalist Barney Hoskyns is in town to talk about Woodstock and the musicians and characters drawn to that place. On Saturday 12th, Cosgrove and Hoskyns’ fellow NME alumni Paul Du Noyer will discuss his book on Paul McCartney which is based on a series of conversations the two have had over the decades. McCartney is sometimes portrayed as a figure of fun these days, but he is one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, and Du Noyer has had almost unprecedented access for this book.
Musicians who write novels have a decidedly mixed reputation, but, although I haven’t yet read either person’s novel, I can’t think of many people with whom I would rather spend an hour in their company than James Yorkston and Colin MacIntyre who promise an Evening of Novels & Song on 12th. However, the music themed event I’m most looking forward to is the promised appearance of at least some of The Remarkable Vespas, rumoured to be joining David F. Ross when he talks about his novel The Rise & Fall of The Remarkable Vespas on the 15th.
Back to soul music, as so often is the case, there is further discussion of the history of soul music, more specifically the history of Motown, on Sunday 13th when Adam White talks about the music and the people who made it in his book Motown: History of Young America. You know, this sort of thing:
As far as forms of writing go my personal preference, if I was pushed to name one, is for the contemporary novel, and there are some of the best contemporary authors appearing at this year’s Aye Write! On 12th, Kevin MacNeil and Benjamin Wood appear together to talk about their latest, and you could see them and then quickly follow that event with Christopher Brookmyre talking about his latest, Black Widow. Brookmyre is one of the most engaging speakers around and is not to be missed. Leila Aboulela’s 1999 The Translator is one of the finest debut novels of the last 20 years, and she is going to be talking about her latest, The Kindness Of Enemies, on 17th.
Two of the finest and most interesting new writers of recent years are Lucy Ribchester and Jenni Fagan, and both appear on the 20th to talk about following up critically acclaimed debut novels. For anyone interested in a life as a writer, this will be invaluable.
Crime fiction, as expected, is well represented at the festival, but the two events I would point you in the direction of are Craig Robertson, Anna Smith and Anne Randall talking about Glasgow crime fiction and their latest novels on 13th. Recent podcast guest Graeme Macrae Burnett appears alongside Peter Arnott on the 15th to discuss how the ever popular crime novel can be played with and its conventions subverted.
If the historical novel is more your thing, Rosemary Goring and Ajay Close appear on Sunday 13th, and later on the same day Catherine Czerkawska will talk about The Jewel, which is based on the life of Jean Armour, wife of Robert Burns.
And now for the science bit. On the 12th, Adam Roberts keeps it simple by asking the question, “Are We Alone In The Universe?”, and on 17th, Oliver James and Kat Arney discuss questions of nature vs nurture with reference to genetics. If you want to check out more big brains, A C Grayling will discuss The Age Of Genius: The Seventeenth Century & The Birth of the Modern Mind and how it shaped modern life.
Another must attend is Robert Newman on 19th, who will discuss his Entirely Accurate Encyclopedia of Evolution. Newman is a writer and comedian who makes you think as he is making you laugh, and this book is testament to this. Having seen the show in which the book is based, I can guarantee both. Here he is reading from the book:
You want poetry? You’ll be at the right place. On the 12th, Liz Lochhead, Jim Carruth and Gerrie Fellows read from and talk about The Hunterian Poems, and Glasgow Laureate Carruth is back on the 17th introducing two new poets, Helen Mort and Rebecca Perry. Composer Lliam Paterson presents new works inspired by the poetry of Edwin Morgan, and two award-winning poets, David Kinloch and Andrew McMillan appear together on the 20th, but I must point you towards an event to celebrate and remember the life and work of poet Alexander Hutchison. Sandy was an inspiration and mentor to many younger Scottish writers and poets, and he is sadly missed. This will be the perfect way to honour his memory. Here he is reading his poem ‘Everything’:
If you like your novels graphic, there are the Aye Con! events. Metaphrog are going to talk about The Red Shoes and Other Tales, their adaptation of the stories of Hans Christian Andersen, and they’ll also be joining legends Alan Grant and Frank Quitely on the 19th to discuss the history of Scottish comics. If you’re into your games, then on the 11th Cara Ellison and Keza MacDonald will talk about the people who make and write about games, and how they have shaped our world.
I could go on and on, but I hope that’s given you some ideas as to what’s on offer. I haven’t even mentioned Louise de Bernieres, Limmy, Tom Devine, Joan Bakewell, Alexei Sayle, Nicola Sturgeon and Irvine Welsh (which sounds like the line-up for a great night out to me), and there are plenty of other events on offer, such as Creative Writing workshops, ‘The Books That Made Me…’ series, and ‘Introducing…’ which highlights the work of new writers and poets.
Before I let you get back to it, I have to recommend three in particular. On the afternoon of Sunday 20th, Elizabeth Buchan, Kate Williams and Isabelle Grey discuss ‘Dangerous Women’, looking at powerful, influential and subversive women in literature. Noir at the Bar is on the 17th, where crime writers, including Denise Mina and Brooke Magnanti, will take part in what is described as a ‘crime salon’, which promises inspiration and execution on the menu. While we’re talking salons, Edinburgh’s Neu! Reekie! are through for a visit on the 19th, and will be in collaboration with Gutter magazine putting on a night of poetry, film and fiction, and including music the always welcome R. M. Hubbert and performance from MacGillivray. Here’s something from both:
Have a good festival, and I may just see you in or around The Mitchell. I’ll probably in the bookshop spending money I don’t have…