Happy 700th Birthday – a review..

The Skye Reading Room hosted a birthday party with a difference on the evening of Tuesday 25th February. The Declaration of Arbroath was sent by the Barons of Scotland to the Pope in 1320, begging for help against the bullying of the English King. The famous extract from the letter, highlighting the focus on freedom, is legendary to all Scots and many others around the World. It was thought that a discussion on the topic of Scottish Independence, in particular looking at literary output in connection with the subject, would make for a lively evening, and so it proved. Seventeen souls braved the weather and it was particularly encouraging to see so many new faces in attendance. Messages of support were received from the offices of Ian Blackford and Kate Forbes, who would have both welcomed the observation that the majority of attendees were in favour of Independence, after 700 years of waiting.

A contingent from The Common Weal were present and they had a variety of relevant publications to share. Most people brought suitable books or recommendations of appropriate writers, while the Chairman circulated the draft of a book list to assist with future reading.

Refreshments including cake, banana bread, and flapjacks were appreciated and would have kept us going late into the night, as the conversation never looked like flagging. However, eventually we had to call a halt and people were still enjoying each other’s company, as we ushered them out and locked up for the night.

A fascinating evening and particularly encouraging was the sense that everyone supporting independence seemed very clear on this being achieved in a civilised manner, thus protecting relationships for the future.

Simon Clayton – Chairman

The Reading Room invites you to a book party…

“For as long as a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions, be subjected to the lordship of the English.  It is in truth, not for glory, nor riches nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”

 

Theme:      Happy 700th Birthday to the Declaration of Arbroath
Place:        Edinbane Community Hall
Date:         Tuesday 25th February 2020 (and, yes, we know it’s about 5 weeks early!)
Time:         7:30pm
Entry:        Free
Format:     Come and join a friendly discussion on whether 700 years is long enough to wait. Bring, suggest, or swap books involving the struggle for independence. Highlight creative works that have flowed from the situation. Suggest how the future could unfold. Above all, have a good chat and enjoy some delightful home baking accompanied by tea and coffee.

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Next event: Postponed meantime
Helen Sedgwick’s Skye launch of ‘When The Dead Come Calling’
Place:         Portree Library
Date:          Tuesday 31st March 2020
Time:          6:30pm
Entry:         Free

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If you need more information please contact us at: skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk
or via Facebook: The Reading Room – Skye.

Review of November Book Week Scotland Event: Alastair Jackson

By Simon Clayton

The Spirit Is Willing…

The Reading Room were pleased to welcome photographer and author, Alastair Jackson, to a ‘Book Week Scotland’ event at Edinbane on Tuesday 19th November. A pleasing number of fifteen members and guests braved the drizzly night, to hear the former Skye resident talk about his collaborative work with poet Kenneth Steven.

The ‘Spirit of the Hebrides’ is a homage to legendary poet Sorley MacLean and skillfully combines the poetry of Kenneth and the photography of Alastair. In spite of his doubts surrounding the publisher’s imposed title, Mr Jackson went through the evocative and haunting images in the book, on slides, each accompanied by an appropriate poem.

Mostly seascapes and all monochrome, the photographs brought to life the wonderful boundaries of Skye and Raasay and made many of us want to visit some of the vantage points Alastair used. Many were subsequently put off when learning of the difficulties of access, and the (up to) 5-hour walks involved!

The topics brought to life by the photos and poems were very much the stuff of Skye’s history and a wider Scottish context. Depopulation was well demonstrated and one brooding picture of Storr Lochs – entitled ‘After Culloden’ – clearly told a wider story. Each image seemed to bring the ever-changeable Skye weather into play, to great effect.

After the presentation and questions, we all enjoyed the usual delicious home baking and hot drinks which helped the group have a good ‘blether’ – which is, after all, this year’s concept for Book Week Scotland. The icing on the cake was to learn subsequently that ‘Spirit of the Hebrides’ has been listed for the next Highland Book Award. We wish Alastair well in the judging of that competition.

Alastair Jackson Blethers With His Camera: Spirit of the Hebrides

Tuesday Evening, November 19, 7.30 pm, Edinbane Hall, Free Admission

Book Week Scotland is the annual event which celebrates books and reading, sponsored by the Scottish Book Trust. We invite the public to come and play with this year’s theme, Blether. Bring your passion for reading and propensity to chin-wag, and join us at Edinbane Community Hall on Tuesday, 19th November, at 7.30 p.m.

Our merrymaking will center around Skye and Raasay and island life, with Alastair Jackson, co-author of The Spirit of the Hebrides. The book combines the poetry of Kenneth Steven with the photography of Mr. Jackson and features images of Skye and Raasay in homage to one of Scotland’s leading 20th century poets, Sorley MacLean.

Alastair JacksonAlistair Jackson is a photographer who grew up on the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland; the environment has inspired him to create images which reflect this. He has been exhibiting since 2016, and his interest in wandering the hills and coast bring a psychogeographical dimension to his work, along with his interest in the history and culture of the Highlands. His photographs capture the sublime beauty of the isles, and those of us who love them should appreciate the familiar haunting quality of the images.

In addition, Alastair has sought to collaborate with a range of other creators, including artists Kate McMorrine and Moira Buchanan; photographer Ingrid Budge; and broadcaster & record producer, John Cavanagh.

His latest projects broaden his scope of work to look at environmental issues which are currently causing concern.

Kenneth Steven, Skeabost Hotel, 2015

Kenneth Steven, Skeabost Hotel, 2015

Kenneth Steven grew up in the Scottish Highlands and is first and foremost a poet. In late April, 2015, the Reading Room had the pleasure of his company for a companionable, informative and inspiring afternoon workshop and impressive evening reading. His gentle, contemplative nature worked its charm on the audience and he is fondly remembered and wished well on this collaboration with Alastair. The Spirit of the Hebrides, with Alastair Jackson’s stunning photography, must have touched what Kenneth is most interested in – the link between people and their land, what makes individuals the way they are, and how that identity is shaped and changed by wild places in particular. Though he will not be with us for the evening, we will naturally be blethering about his literary contribution to the book.

This event is funded by Scottish Book Trust. Admission is free. Refreshments will be served.

For more information about our event or questions about the Reading Room, please contact us at: skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or on Facebook: The Reading Room – Skye.

 

Review of October Event: James Oswald

By Debbie Roberts

It was a delight to meet James Oswald last week and hear him read from ‘Natural Causes’ and talk about his writing.

It appears that this farmer, writer and all round nice guy has spend most of his life writing in one style or another – comics, fantasy, crime with a sprinkling of the supernatural – you name it he’s almost certainly tried it.

Success as an author in financial terms has only come fairly recently and holidays as a couple are well nigh impossible with an extended family of beef cattle.

One of the characters in the Inspector McLean series is named after James’ friend and fellow writer Stuart MacBride. I’m still trying to figure out whether DI Tony McLean might in fact be James Oswald!!

If ever you get a chance to hear James speak don’t hesitate – you won’t be disappointed…

Next Event
Join us to celebrate Book Week Scotland at Edinbane Community Hall on Tuesday 19th November. We’ll be having a blether about Skye and Raasay and island life with Alastair Jackson – co-author of ‘The Spirit of the Hebrides’ : Word and Images inspired by Sorley Maclean.

The event is free and everyone is welcome so don’t be shy…

James Oswald: Darkness and Light

Event: Tuesday 29th October, Edinbane Hall, 7:30 p.m.

Related imageAuthor James Oswald has a gentle manner of speaking, whether he is telling a story about his life or answering queries about his writing career. While I watched his interview videos, it was easy to imagine him softly encouraging a calf into new life on his 350-acre Fife livestock farm that overlooks the River Tay.

Oswald has pursued a varied career – from Wine Merchant to professional Sheep Shit Sampler. The latter reference continuously tickled one of his interviewers, fellow crime writer Barry Forshaw, who referred to Oswald’s books as gritty, tough and mesmerising.

James Oswald has been a storyteller since he was a child, and we look forward to the many tales he can share about his life on the farm, including changes due to the political climate, and how he writes and gets published. He can tell us about the publishing house bidding war that arose after the astonishing success of his two debut novels as e-books, both of which were short-listed for the Crime Writing Association Debut Dagger Award. Natural Causes and The Book of Souls stirred elements of urban fantasy into “police procedural” genres, which initially had no commercial appeal for publishers. Detective Inspector Anthony McLean is a tragic figure who operates in Edinburgh as a traditional sleuth, while using his supernatural intuition. He is currently stalking inexplicable evil in Bury Them Deep, the 10th novel in this series, not yet released. Tony McLean resurrected from two much earlier comic scripts of ghost stories – Oswald admits to easy mind-wandering among dragons and magic.

Nothing to Hide (New Series James Oswald)His new Constance Fairchild series is receiving accolades from readers. Con works for the Met, and though this young, female detective is based in London, her dark, shivery world gets the opportunity to hover around Tony McLean’s equally sinister one. Although the twain have not yet met, it is hoped they will. The second novel, Nothing to Hide, is available in hard cover, audio and ebook, and the paperback will be out on November 14.

Under his perhaps no longer well-hidden identity, J D Oswald, James also has written a classic fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro. Inspired by the language and folklore of Wales, it follows the adventures of a young dragon, Sir Benfro, in a land where his kind have been hunted near to extinction by men. The whole series is now available in print, ebook and audio formats.

Image result for james oswald

What kind of person writes crime novels? How can you spend hours a day with grisly, adrenaline-pumping details, twisted human minds and dredging up uncountable possibilities of evil in our world? According to James Oswald, the crime writers he knows are nice and well-adjusted people, without the competitive edge you get with other writers: “All the frustrations in life we get out on the page!” 

To dig into the mind that creates gruesome demons that might actually exist (and who’s to say they don’t) but a rational detective must accept irrational explanations (and can you destroy or stop a supernatural monster?) – well, I say, come and enjoy James Oswald with the Reading Room, on Tuesday, October 29! Committee members meet up at the Edinbane Inn around 6 p.m. for dinner and welcome anyone who wants to join them. The event at Edinbane Hall starts at 7:30 p.m. 

Refreshments will be served. You may browse our Good Reads table and expect interesting camaraderie among guests and our special guest, James Oswald. Non-members pay £5 at the door. All are welcome.

For information about this event or questions regarding the Reading Room, please contact us at:  skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or on Facebook: Reading Room – Skye 

 

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Review of September Event: Max Scratchmann

By Irene Ross

The guest speaker at our September meeting was Max Scratchmann, poet, writer and illustrator. He treated us to his Edinburgh Fringe show, ‘The Last Burrah Sahibs’, based on his book of the same name. With a background of home movies from his childhood in India and Scotland, Max described life through the eyes of the child he was, beginning with the scents and sounds of life as the child of a jute factory manager in India. He spoke of the shock of returning to Scotland where the family’s status was significantly lower than on the subcontinent and the snow was savagely cold. The return of his family to what is now Bangladesh allowed the boy to witness the end of the colonial era.

The talk was in turn comical, tragic and an historical account of a turbulent time. He was able to compare and contrast the two lifestyles: the houses, the staff (or lack of it) and the social differences between the two societies. He touched on the impact on his parents, especially his Mother, of the move from India to Scotland and then back to Bangladesh. He finished the evening with one of his poems highlighting the things he loves about Scotland, now his home, although he does not rule out a return to India in his retirement.

Next Event
Join us at Edinbane Hall on Tuesday 29th October to hear from crime writer James Oswald author of the Inspector MacLean novels set in Edinburgh.