Back in 1986 I visited Glasgow’s Caledonia Books on Great Western Road and it changed my life. I had recently seen Carl McDougall do a reading at Stirling University and that was the first time I had heard someone who spoke like me and my friends and family reading poetry or involved in literature, and it gave me a thirst for more. In the shop I picked up a copy of James Kelman’s The Busconductor Hines, Iain Banks The Wasp Factory and Tom Leonard’s collection of poetry Intimate Voices. I then spent the rest of the afternoon nursing an underage pint and reading the latter from cover to cover. I would never be the same again.
It’s with great sadness that I write this after hearing about Tom Leonard’s passing. He, alongside his friends and contemporaries James Kelman, Liz Lochhead, Aonghas MacNeacail and Alasdair Gray, would change the landscape of Scottish writing forever, astonishingly all part of the same writing group in Glasgow overseen by Philip Hobsbaum. I love them all, but Leonard’s poetry in particular made a lasting impression. It took the everyday speech of those he lived with, knew and met and made it something magical. Continue reading →
There are regularly heated discussions about the worth of prizes in art and culture. Recently announced, the Scottish Album of the Year longlist provoked debate about the worthiness not only of those on the list, but of the nature of the award itself as a very long, (and very strong), list of eligible albums was whittled down further to twenty by a chosen group of critics, journos, and others (of which I should declare that SWH! was one).
The arguments for are that the chosen records and musicians will benefit from the publicity, reach a greater audience as a result, and showcase the strength of Scottish music at the moment. Among the arguments against is that all such awards reduce art and culture to a competition, one which pits artists against each other, and which, at least according to one well-known and respected musician, can lead to anxiety and stress amongst those who find their music being judged in this way. Continue reading →
The first book of Allan Massie’s I read was his historical novel Augustus (I think in the late ’80s) and it made a deep impression on me. I hadn’t been a huge fan of historical fiction up to that point, preferring the modern and contemporary even then. Written in the form of a memoir by the titular Roman emperor in old age, what was so impressive was how Massie managed to get into the character and make the reader believe that this was his life, at least from his point of view.
It’s a style which served Massie well in 1991’s Tiberius, the second of his “Memoirs of the Emperor” novels, and it is one he similarly applies in The Ragged Lion, his 1994 novel about the life of Walter Scott which has just been republished by Polygon Books. For those who are fans of Scott’s fiction it is essential, but, as with the Roman Trilogy, it is also a great read for those interested in the history of the time as it looks at the people, places, events and attitudes through the prism of arguably the most famous Scottish writer, and, certainly at the time, the most celebrated. Continue reading →
For the latest podcast, Ali headed to Edinburgh to talk to poet, writer and musician, Andrew Greig. The first topic of conversation is Clean By Rain, the CD of spoken word and music Andrew has recorded with musician Brian Michie.
As you’ll hear, music has always been very important to Andrew, providing the spark which lead him into writing, and this latest project (& his next) provide a wonderful symmetry to his life so far.
The two also talk about his poetry and prose, particularly his debut novel, Electric Brae, and a favourite of Ali’s, Fair Helen, which prompts an unexpected musical interlude. It was an absolute pleasure talking to Andrew (right), and we hope you experience similar feelings while listening to what he has to say. Continue reading →
For 10 days in March there is only one place to be as Glasgow’s Aye Write! takes up its annual residency in the Mitchell Library between 9th-19th to cement its reputation as one of the best book festivals around. Pedants will point out that there are also events at the CCA, Kelvin Hall and Royal Concert Hall, but it is only right that Glasgow’s most famous library is the focus point for a book festival which is international in scope, but has its roots firmly planted in this city.
It’s a festival which encourages interaction from those who attend, with many various workshops on offer in writing fiction, poetry, songwriting and more. I could go into more detail here, but that’s what the podcast is for and Roy gives you the insider information you just won’t get elsewhere, and talks about the festival’s genesis and ethos. If you’re not booking your tickets by the time the pod ends, we will be very surprised – and a little disappointed. Continue reading →