Debauchery and Deviance on the Streets of Glasgow

SSWC_Standalone_BlackDebauchery and Deviance‘ – the title of the walk was enough to hook me! Who wouldn’t be intrigued? I certainly was when a writer friend, Suzanne Egerton posted on Facebook that she was leading a tour around Glasgow city centre.

The walk was part of an eclectic programme of events organised for the national Sexology Season in Manchester, Brighton and Glasgow incorporating live performance, films, salons, archives, talks and literature events. I couldn’t resist investigating further…

The blurb stated, “the mischievous walking tour uncovers the debauched history of Scotland’s most populated city with tales of sex in all its guises, from the scandals of Victorian society, burlesque and queer lives to ‘adult’ cinema. We’ll also take a look at the Church of Scotland’s influence on sexual attitudes”. 

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Some buildings look better after dark!

I booked a place on the free event faster than the crack of a dominatrix’s whip and last Wednesday I met up with the tour group outside the infamous Barrowland Ballroom.

Along with Suzanne, there was another tour guide who was clearly recognised by the rest of the group and caused a ripple of excitement. I’d no idea who she was but I was soon informed that it was none other than highly respected singer-songwriter, Horse McDonald who was there to share her own experiences of performing at the iconic venue.

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Horse posing beside a Barrowland poster of Horse!

Much to the surprise of my friend, Anabel, who’d joined me on the walk, I’d never been to see any bands at the venue so everything was new to me! Suzanne and Horse gave us a fascinating insight into stories associated with the Barrowland, such as the case of ‘Bible John’ who frequented the dance hall in the late 1960s to lure his victims and murdered three young women. Horse took us on a back stage tour and it was an eye-opener to see that areas like the dressing rooms weren’t ‘shabby chic‘, they were simply ‘shabby!


“Roll up, roll up, for one night only!”

We then visited  the world’s oldest surviving music hall – the Brittania Panopticon. I’ve walked past the exterior of this building many times but knew nothing of the history of this amazing hidden treasure. The Brittania is famed for the debut of Stan Laurel in 1906 and since opening in 1857 the venue has played host to a carnival, wax works, a freak show and even a zoo in its basement! Our group was very lucky to learn about this fantastic piece of entertainment and social history from Judith Bowers who founded a charity to rescue this historic building and continues to campaign to bring the music hall back to life.


The notorious Madeleine Smith.

These ‘behind the scenes’ tours were the highlight of the afternoon for me but we continued our walk to the art deco Classic Grand which was formerly a porn cinema, the Waterloo Bar which claims to be Glasgow’s oldest gay bar, some say the oldest in Scotland. We then hiked uphill to Blythwood Square, an area once frequented by prostitutes and also home of a former resident, Madeline Smith. In 1857, the young woman was tried for the murder of her lover Pierre Emile L’Angelier, although the verdict was not proven the salacious story scandalised Scottish society.

The hype of the walk’s title didn’t disappoint. My knowledge of Glasgow’s seedier side is much richer and I’m not short of writing ideas now!

Have you been on any guided tours with gory or gritty details that fired up your creativity?

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Me with the excellent tour guides Horse and Suzanne.

From Page to Stage

There’s lots of advice online about reading your work in public and one of my writer friends, Suzanne Egerton has shared her top tips which are well worth a read.


The quirky venue for the course was Scottish Storytelling Centre includes the historic John Knox House on Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile.

But there’s nothing to beat face-to-face training and I was lucky enough to gain a place on the Performance and Presentation Course organised by the Scottish Book Trust with the aim of bringing a writer’s work to life, perform better and overcome nerves.

As someone who has a book due to be published next year, I want to make the most of any readings and events I have to promote my writing to engage better with my audience. There’s no hiding place these days, festivals and literary events are now an important part of promoting your work and a great way of connecting with your audience so it’s crucial to get yourself and your writing out there.


Although my day job involves public speaking, that doesn’t mean that I felt I’d nothing to learn. And I was right. The course was excellent and I now have a LOT to work on to improve my performance.

Alex Gillon is an experienced voice coach who has worked extensively in theatre, television and film and she shared the benefit of her expertise with us by critiquing our performance. The feedback was brutally honest and not for anyone lacking a thick skin. But Alex’s ‘tough love’ style was highly effective as all seven of us made noticeable progress and eventually earned a hard-won “better” from Alex.

download (1)My main weakness was adding false beats in the text and pausing where there was no full stop or comma. Breathing properly from the abdomen to fuel the voice was a key point for all of us and Alex also emphasised the importance of appropriate body language.

One issue I addressed with Alex is my apprehension to read out the swear words and non-PC terms in my writing for fear of offending an audience. Alex’s advice was to commit to the words from my novel and give them the power they deserve as if there’s no heart in my delivery, there’s no truth. Thanks to Alex I can now say the ‘F’ word with far more impact, a skill I never expected to achieve! The key message I will take from the course was Alex repeatedly reminding us that, “they’re your words, use them!”

The added bonus of the course was that for the second week in a row, I met other lovely writers, in particular, Clare Archibald, a kindred spirit I ‘know’ from Twitter but haven’t managed to cross paths in real life until now. I also enjoyed meeting Stephen Shirres who is the chair of the West Lothian Writers group and Lindsay Littleson who won the Kelpies Prize for her children’s novel, The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean! which will be published early next year.

Do you enjoy reading your work aloud in public? Have you received professional training to help develop your performance? What’s your top tip for a great performance?




Home Game

Being born in Falkirk, I qualify for the official status of a “Fawkurt bairn” and I’m always keen to support any arts event in the area.


I’m also behind any fundraising efforts for Foodbanks, the existence of which seems appalling in 2014, especially in a week when shops promote ‘Black Friday’ to encourage consumer greed.

So when I heard about Untitled’s latest event as part of the wonderful Book Week Scotland (in partnership with The Grind) I was keen to go (even although the poster showed a scene from a football match and I panicked for a nanosecond that I’d be forced to suffer anything remotely related to sport).


for-websiteUsually, I have my bestie by my side but she was busy (my fall back of dragging hubby was a no-no as a full night among “arty farty folk”, his words, not mine, would be a step too far) and it was a case of me feeling like Billy Nae Mates or missing out on a great line up showcasing some of Scotland’s best new talent. I’m a big girl (sadly in width more than in height) so I braved dreich weather and took myself along to Behind the Wall to enjoy the spoken word acts which included the launch of Dickson Telfer’s new short story collection, Refrigerator Cake.

I’ve heard Dickson perform his work before and he really is an engaging speaker who thoroughly entertains with his offbeat take on everyday life.  As before, Dickson won the audience over with his unique style of performance. After this taster, I can’t wait to read my copy of his new book.



Stephen Watt wowed the audience with his performance poetry.

Other highlights of the night were local writers Samuel Best reading from his WIP, Bethany Anderson reading from her novel Swings and Roundabouts and Stephen Watt who knocked it out the park (surely the Home Game theme merits at least one or two cheesy football puns?) with his performance poetry.

And even better, I needn’t have worried about being there on my lonesome, I met writers I follow on Twitter and could’ve spent hours talking to the lovely Suzanne Egerton, Vicki Jarret and Mairi Campbell-Jack. A win on home ground!

Do you have a local spoken word scene? Is feeling part of a community important for you as a writer?