Build It and They Will Come

As an avid reader and writer, I love attending literary events for insight and inspiration. Up until very recently this meant that I had to travel west to Glasgow or east to Edinburgh to hear readings by well-known writers.

The reason I no longer have to travel 20+ miles is thanks to [Untitled] and The Grind working hard together to make Falkirk a destination for quality literary gatherings. Following the success of previous events, the latest coup for [Untitled] and The Grind was to feature established names and exciting new writers of Scottish contemporary writing.

The event, called Nomenclature,  which in Latin, means “naming” and is the process of giving specific, descriptive names to things (a new word for me!) was an all-female line-up – ‘No-men-clature’ is quite unusual.

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Fiona gein it laldy!

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Janet sharing one of her anecdotes of family life.

Nomenclature had something for all tastes and was compèred by Jenny Lindsay, of Rally and Broad, who set the tone with her entertaining spoken word performances.

There was also hilarious Scots poetry from Falkirk born award-winning writer Janet Paisley who had the audience in stitches with her dead-pan delivery. Then there was Celtic poetry and music inspired by Scotland’s turbulent history performed by Katharine Macfarlane and Fiona McNeill.

Lucy Ribchester read her evocative short story, The Glass Blower’s Daughter, which was shortlisted for the prestigious Costa Short Story Award and an extract from her excellent debut novel, The Hourglass Factory. Writer Vicki Jarret has recently launched her collection of short stories, The Way Out and the restaurant setting of the story she read was a great taster (couldn’t resist the pun!).

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MacGillivray’s words and music were full of emotion.

The unique voice of MacGillivray was showcased with her haunting music and ethereal words in a performance the like of which I’m sure the venue (a former haunt of mine when it was Rosie’s nightclub and more used to the hits of Madonna than MacGillivray) has ever experienced!

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Janice’s use of comic timing and facial expression is priceless.

For me, and I’m sure I’m not alone, Janice Galloway, the headline act, fulfilled her top billing status. Janice has a powerful presence which permeates a room with her dramatic style and distinctive voice.

Reading a passage from her memoir, This is Not About Me, which describes her sister getting ready for a big night out in Ayr, she used her talent to brilliant effect and wowed the crowd. Janice is one of my all-time favourite writers and to have the chance to hear her read and meet her (she was very sociable considering I came across as a star struck groupie!) was the highlight of the night.

All credit to [Untitled] and The Grind as Nomenclature was proof that you don’t need to be a big city to attract big names.  Do you have access to hearing inspiring writers locally?

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L to R – Vicki Jarret, Janice Galloway, MacGillivrary, Fiona McNeil, Katharine Mcfarlane, Janet Paisley

(Thanks to Eddie McEleney for permission to use his excellent photographs from the event).

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Birthday in Belfast

photophoto.JPG  hhhI like to read magazines in the bath and I love to travel which meant I presented my hubby with a page torn out of Woman and Home suggesting that we go to Belfast for my birthday (a much safer option than leaving him to choose a gift!). I’d never been to Belfast and after doing a bit of research I created a wish list of places to visit. The much hyped Titanic Belfast visitor centre was a definite ‘hop off ‘on the sightseeing bus tour but two other attractions were higher on my list.

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The iconic memorial mural for hunger striker Bobby Sands.

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A tattered Union Jack flag on a resident’s shed and a lamppost painted in red, white and blue.

I wanted to go on a ‘black cab tour’ of west Belfast to view the mural art and learn more about life for the residents of Shankill and Falls Road before and after ‘The Troubles’.

 

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Barack Obama told a crowd in Belfast: “There are walls that still stand, there are still many miles to go”.

This was particularly relevant to me as only the week before I’d attended the Glasgow Women’s Library’s Mixing the Colours conference which celebrated the work to address the issue of sectarianism. This is a recurring theme in my own writing so I was interested to learn more about Belfast’s history of sectarianism and how the communities are working to stamp it out.

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A chance to make my mark in support of Mixing the Colours.

As Bobby our driver highlighted, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s hero” and it will take time and effort to battle against sectarianism. As part of the tour, we stopped at the Peace Line and Bobby suggested that we join others and write our own message on the wall.

 

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The tunnel that connects the gaol with the courthouse on the others side of the road.

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4 wings of the prison radiate from the ‘Circle’.

 

The other tour I wanted to squeeze into our short trip was to Crumlin Road Gaol. The building, known as ‘The Crum’, first opened its gates in 1846 and for 150 years it was a fully operational prison, only closing its doors in 1996. During its history, the gaol housed murderers, suffragettes, loyalist and republican prisoners.

 

I’ve just finished reading the excellent book, The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester and this features the struggle of the suffragettes, some of whom were force-fed when they went on hunger strike in jail. This happened in Crumlin Road Gaol as well and the tour really helped bring scenes in the The Hourglass Factory alive.

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Oops! My glass is overflowing again…

Touring a Victorian gaol and a deprived area of a city ravaged by religious and political hatred might not be everyone’s ideal birthday treat but I thoroughly enjoyed my chance to understand more about issues that are important to me (and there was plenty of time for good food and drink too!).

Have you been to Belfast?

International Women’s Day – Make it Happen!

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Anna Munro was a Scottish suffragette who was a founder of the Women’s Freedom League. In 1912 she walked from Edinburgh to London to protest because women were not allowed to vote for Members of Parliament.

As a feminist, I support International Women’s Day (IWD) as an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality. And as a writer, I support fellow writers, particularly Scottish women who are making their voice heard through fiction.

 

download (1)So when I saw that my pal, Clare Archibald, was involved in organising a book event on IWD called, ‘Cream Tea, Gin & Corsets it sounded like the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

I don’t drink tea or gin and I’ve never worn a corset but the lure for me was three things:

 

  1. The book reading was by Lucy Ribchester
  2. The event was in Burntisland
  3. It was associated with the Women for Independence(WFI) Coastal Fife group (but was open to all women whether they’d voted Yes, No or who couldn’t care less about independence).

I’ll explain why these 3 factors were a winning combo for me…

  1. Lucy has recently been shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award in addition to huge praise for her debut novel, The Hourglass Factory which explores the suffragette history within a fictional setting. (You can read a review of the novel on one of my favourite blogs, The Writes of Woman).
  2. When I was wee, a day trip to the seaside had us heading to the Silver Sands at Aberdour (Lucy’s hometown) for a picnic on the beach then on to Burntisland for a shot on the shows so it was a great excuse to revisit a childhood haunt.
  3. I was proud to vote Yes in last year’s Scottish referendum and I live in hope that the work of groups such as WFI can make the dream become reality.

So you can understand why I was keen to spend IWD at an event that brought together women of all voting histories and futures in celebration of female achievement and possibility.

I don’t live as near to the Fife coast as I did when I was a child so it took me over an hour to get to Burntisland but it was well worth the time and effort. At my table, the plate of scones was shared between three lovely women – Clare’s mum, her neighbour and a woman who had many connections to my own hometown – we could’ve talked for hours! This year’s IWD theme is ‘Make it Happen’ and being there to hear about how women in Scotland helped change the course of politics and society made me feel very privileged indeed.

Did you Make it Happen and celebrate IWD this year?

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