For nearly twenty years, Alan Bissett – award-winning playwright and novelist from bonny Falkirk – has been gracing Scottish stages with his unique blend of wit, patter and performance. Following the controversial documentary about Robert Burns he presented on BBC Scotland in 2020, Alan talks to our ‘virtual’ BIG LIT audience about the complex and contradictory psychological elements which made up Scotland’s bard. The mythologising of Robert Burns, he argues, has overtaken the reality of him, as a flawed, sometimes selfish and other times vulnerable human being, whose genius and political radicalism often stood in stark contrast to his ability to cause chaos in his personal relationships. A BIG LIT ‘health warning’. Rabbie’s language was often more than a little fruity!
Inspired by the extraordinary tenth century Aberdeenshire gospel book, The Book of Deer, widely regarded as the earliest manuscript produced in Scotland, musician Richard Ingham tells us about his journey towards composing the score before we link into the digital launch of his new CD. It’s a sonic rollercoaster with bells, plainsong, reels and electronic soundscapes featuring Strangeness and Charm - Richard Ingham (reeds), Maarten Verbraeken (trumpet), Fraser Burke (keyboard), Kenny Irons (bass) and Andy James (percussion).
British journalist Yvonne Ridley first came to prominence in 2001 after she was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan and held for 11 days. She wrote a best seller In The Hands of The Taliban about her terrifying experience and as chief reporter for The Sunday Express, continued to report from some of Asia and the Middle East's conflict zones as well as covering humanitarian disasters. Yvonne talks to novelist Karen Campbell in a fascinating chat about the clash of cultures - including some hilarious and surprising anecdotes - her conversion to Islam, how she came to be living in the Scottish Borders keeping bees and running a peafowl rescue centre and how the idea for her historical trilogy, The Caledonian’s, came about. The first book was published in January by Austin Macauley.
Bashabi Fraser, poet, Professor Emeritus at Napier University, who bridges East and West in her own work, talks to BIG LIT online about her new biography of Indian Polymath and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore - a new and a long overdue critical biography. In this timely reappraisal of Tagore's life and work, Bashabi Fraser assesses Tagore's many activities and shows how he embodies the modern consciousness of India.
David Clegg, whose mother suffered from dementia, worked for ten years in Care Homes. In his spare time he interviewed some of the more articulate residents. The transcripts were eventually re-recorded by actors and broadcast on Resonance Radio. One of these came from John who was able to describe his own dementia. David Clegg developed this into a short film as seen from the perspective of the bedridden John, with the voice of actor and broadcaster Peter Marinker, a popular regular at BIG LIT.
Please visit www.fabulousphoebe.co.uk for the poem’s transcript, interviews with the poet and actor, and, importantly, an introduction to Tender, the charity that works with young people to teach them about caring, respectful relationships. If you see the film, please pop over there and give £2. It will help the next generation avoid Phoebe’s plight.
BIG LIT 2019 offered five bumper days of poetry, launches, ideas, prose, film, puppetry, history, workshops, politics, music and cabaret not to mention a children’s programme of magical time travel, folk tale and madcappery for four local schools!
We hosted a mixed bag of the best local talent and talent from further afield including Booker Prize nominee Bernard MacLaverty, Sue Lawrence a former Master Chef Winner, Janis Mackay, a winner of a Scottish Children's Book Award and Donald S Murray whose work was shortlisted for a coveted Best First Novel Award – and there was a delicious tasting of award winning cheeses from The Ethical Dairy up at Rainton. Awards all round!
The Dumfries and Galloway Jazz Orchestra made a welcome first appearance at BIG LIT along with an evening Cabaret at the Mill on The Fleet celebrating songs of the late, great Adrian Mitchell with his daughter the singer Sasha Mitchell accompanied by musician Peter Moser. And Scotland’s story featured large – its history told from the point of view of women who lived it, the benefits of Scottish cooking, the story of the Scottish clarsach, and how The Church of Scotland rose to the challenges of The Great War with BBC Health Editor Hugh Pym – now so brilliantly fronting BBC’s coverage of the Covid-19 outbreak. We had a memoir about Scottish novelist Muriel Spark, and a commemoration of The Battle of George Square, Glasgow in John MacLean’s centenary year - how he became the early hero of radical Scottish Independence.
It’s a difficult programme to beat, but watch this space for next line up once this awful pandemic is behind us. BIG LIT gets bigger and better every year!
Here are some pictures from BIG LIT 2019 to whet your appetite.