'A Book Lover’s Dream Festival' (Glasgow Magazine, 01/02/2011)

The sixth annual Aye Write! event is a real page-turner for fans of all things literary

LANDMARK Two of the 20th-century’s landmark pieces of writing – and two of the men who created them – feature prominently in the sixth Aye Write! Glasgow Book Festival, which takes place at the Mitchell Library between Friday 4 and Saturday 12 March.

The first – Lanark: A Life in Four Nooks, by Alasdair Gray – which took three decades to write and celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2011, has been hailed as “one of the finest novels written in English”.

The second, Martin Luther King’s historic I Have a Dream speech which he delivered in 1963 to 250,000 spellbound Civil Rights activists at the Lincoln Memorial, was drafted by Clarence Jones, the clergyman’s aide. He will be here to talk about Behind the Dream, The Making of the Speech That Transformed a Nation.

The involvement of these library lions in our annual event devoted to writing and reading reinforces its not-to-be-missed reputation among writers and publishers. Other attractions include|: Ian Banks, Sarah Brown, John Cairney, Karen Campbell, Barry Cryer, Professor Niall Ferguson, Graeme Garden, Andrea Levy, Val McDermid, Dame Shirley Williams, Claire Tomalin, Baroness Mary Warnock and Louise Welsh.

To mark the death of Jimmy Reid, the topic of Reimagining Scotland will be debated, and David Hayman will read some of the late trade union leader’s memorable speeches.

Karen Cunningham, Director of Aye Write! and “Alasdair’s greatest fan”, said: “Since 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of Lanark’s publication – which is a seminal work in Scottish publishing and internationally significance – we couldn’t ignore the fact that Glasgow’s own son had reached this momentous occasion. It will be the theme of the entire festival.”

OPENING “Alasdair’s contribution begins with a major exhibition of his literary work, including Lanark, around which we’ve organized a long-term education programme. We’ll have the manuscript and some of his artworks which relate to it.

“We have akso recreated a corner of the old Riddrie Library. Alasdair is a massive fan of libraries and this is where he did his homework. There will also be books that influenced him and that he read as a child.”

Alasdair’s abundant artistic accomplishments will also be celebrated at an event marking the recent publication of A Life in Pictures.

Karen, who is also Glasgow’s Head of Libraries, continued: “As 5 March is World Book Night, there will be a mystery guest! We also have the usual mix of top-quality Glsdgow and Scottish writers. And each night there is a debate on a range of topics, including politics, philosophy, The Future of Capitalism, and Scotland in 2020.

“Because we try to cover a wide range of topics and interests, this year includes a 70s theme, with Chris Stevens discussing his biography of Kenneth Williams; James McGonigal on The Life of Edwin Morgan and, tp mark Glasgow’s status as UNESCO City of Music, we’ll be looking at political songs and having buskers entertain outside the Mitchell.”

There will also be a football evening. With the participation of Anthony Browne, Nick Butterworth and Julia Donaldson, Karen anticipates that “Glasgow’s kids will be jumping up and down with excitement during our fabulous Schools Programme.”

She concluded: “The reception our guests receive from audiences is stunning. They say they don’t get the degree of debate, range of interesting questions or level of participation anywhere else.

“We have built a reputation for creating a really interesting and enjoyable Festival that’s very participative – and which makes it different. Authors are keen to take part!”