Alasdair Gray at the Edinburgh Festival

14 Aug

It’s festival time in Edinburgh don’t you know!

Town is full of people going to various events and shows and generally enjoying the largest arts festival in the world. Mrs TT and I generally take in a few shows etc. during the festival, mostly in the fringe and mostly involving music or comedy. Well you have to really.

Sometimes we take a vague stab at something and go see it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it just doesn’t but such is life during the festival. You’ve probably done similar. You can always do a bit of sleb spotting. Loads of them come. We don’t tend to do much of that to be honest although it’s good to know that some globally known slebs come to Edinburgh, which hopefully isn’t a bad thing if they go home, and tell all their mates that Edinburgh is the place to go

Anyway, this weekend we made our first foray into the festival. The Book Festival started on Saturday and we went up on Sunday to hear Alasdair Gray read from his impending new book of short stories. As with all things festival it was more of an experience than it might have been.

Charlotte Square was much drier than usual. A lot less puddles and green grass showing rather than normal “Somme” appearance we have all been accustomed to and grown to love. Okay we don’t it’s just its always so wet and I don’t find the smell of wet grass that appealing. No matter. We were there in good time stopping to browse in the books shop and even managing to get a “wee” seat there so we were ready to sit down for a while in the theatre to listen to Alasdair.

If you haven’t already come across the work of Alasdair Gray that’s a pity. He’s best known for his murals in The Ubiquitous Chip and the Oran Mor and for his best known book “Lanark”. I read Lanark in 1985 and enjoyed it immensely. You might want to give it a go although I’d advise you prepare yourself to stick with it at times. The whole book is better than some of it’s parts but it is wonderful if slightly, well okay, pretty far away from the beaten track of most books back then and miles away from most books now. Alasdair also has written plays and poetry and carries his sense of humour through all of those.

I was lucky enough to meet Alasdair a few years ago. He was at one of my clients involved in book publishing one afternoon. He was a bit unkempt (his trademark although not by design), wearing a long grey coat, which was past its best as my granny would have said and he had a partially finished bottle of Irn Bru in his pocket. He seemed confused and I did worry about his ability to make his way back to the train station and all the way back to Glasgow under his own guidance. I didn’t ask him for his autograph.

Anyway, We took our seats (yes I’m back to the book festival now – keep up!) and Brian (no neck) Taylor of BBC political correspondent fame was the Chairperson. He came in as a rotund vision in pristine white trousers and shirt and a fetching yellow jacket, quite a statement Brian!

Alastair was brought on looking a bit unkempt. He was introduced by Brian as being an artist with many strings to his bow each of which he was exceptionally talented, which is of course correct. It was then over to Alasdair to read a sample of two short stories and two poems.

Off he went. It was slightly unsettling. His voice changed as he went along and took on various accents and ranges. From time to time he was wont to laugh and did so enthusiastically and without constraint. His first story concerned a chap called Eustace (useless) McNulty who seemed to find it hard to hold on to who he was. This was followed by a story about “big” a chap who was a bully and couldn’t keep hold of relationships with clever women. This was cut short prematurely because he hadn’t brought the last page. He did finish the story from memory whilst tugging at his white hair, which took on a “Jedwardesque” style. Two poems followed and then we were on to the Q & A session presided over by Brian.

The questions weren’t many in number and less cerebral than might have been hoped. He did manage a wonderful response to a question as to when he felt he had reached a point of success. He said that he had felt that quite early although it was short lived and he had moved between peaks and troughs, through which there was only one way to proceed. This was of course just to keep going regardless. No secret. Is that not what we all do he said! Of course we all thought.

He was well received and went on to do a book signing, which went on for almost two hours. I took my 1985 copy of Lanark along but didn’t queue for the autograph.

The moral of this long ramble?

Simple. Alasdair Gray is a huge, unique and significant talent and we should laud him highly whilst he still walks amongst us.

Give his site a look and buy a book, visit Oran Mor when they have a band on that you like and enjoy the added experience of the venue and his murals. Rave about him to friends. Write to your MP so Alasdair gets the recognition that so many of our Scottish heroes failed to get when they still habited the planet.

Six gold medals is a significant and awesome achievement but so is being an incredible multi-talented artist!

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Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Art, Education, General


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