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.

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…

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.

August at the Reading Room and around Skye

Lots and lots going on this month – here are a few suggestions to tempt the book lovers amongst us…….

Saturday 10th August  11.00am-3.00pm Skeabost – free entry
Reading Room Book Stall
at the monthly Indoor Sale at Skeabost Memorial Hall.

Skye Live Literature Weekend courtesy of SEALL
Friday 16th August 7.30pm-9.00pm at Sabhal Mor – check website for prices etc
Astronomer Royal for Scotland, John C Brown OBE and Rab Wilson, renowned Scots poet and NTS Scriver in Residence at Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, come to Skye to launch their new book Oor Big Braw Cosmos in a fascinating illustrated talk with readings. http://www.seall.co.uk/events/seall-live-literature-16-august/

Saturday 17th August at An Crùbh – check website for prices etc
2pm – 3pm
Maggie Craig – Interesting Times: The Men and Women of the ’45
3.15pm – 4.15pm 
Barbara Henderson – Going Down in History: Writing workshop
https://www.seall.co.uk/events/seall-live-literature-maggie-craig-17-august.

Reading Room Blether aboot books
Tuesday 27th August 7.30pm at Edinbane Community Hall – free of charge
Following the enjoyable launch of Lin Anderson’s latest book ‘Time for the Dead’ at the library in Portree there will be a chance to discuss it at the Reading Room’s monthly get together. If you’ve not got a copy they’re available at Aros and at Carmina Gadelica in Portree. If you don’t get a chance to read it beforehand you’re still welcome to come along and be sociable – remember we’re always looking for suggestions for future events.

Hope to see you at some of these events

July at the Reading Room

It looks like there’s lots on in July on the literary front so the Reading Room folk are taking some time off. You’ll probably see some of us at these other events that are happening soon:-

Christopher Whatley, author of Pabay: An Island Odyssey will be at
Edinbane Community Hall – Saturday 6th July from 5.00-7.00pm
Cafe at An Crubh               – Monday  8th July from 5.30pm
Tickets are free for both events but please email events@birlinn.co.uk to RSVP or to find out more information.

Reading Room Book Stall at the monthly Indoor Sale at
Skeabost Memorial Hall      – Saturday 13th July from 11.00am-3.00pm

Anne Pia, an Italian Scot award-winning author poet based in Edinburgh will be at
Bog Myrtle, Struan              – Sunday 21st July from 4.00pm
tickets via http://www.seall.co.uk/events/anne-pia/

Last month we had a great time at our Open Mic with guest poet and all round good guy Harry Gallagher. There will be more about the event shortly but imagine our surprise when chairman Simon Clayton opened the evening by welcoming Harry in verse thus:-

Welcome to Harry

Edinbane, on the Isle of Skye,
Hosts meetings of the Reading Room.
At best, they light a writer’s fire,
At worst, they lift a little gloom.

Our members love the written word,
More so, when read aloud.
We always welcome poets here,
We’re not an awkward crowd.

This month, we are truly blessed,
And expect a thrilling ride.
Harry Gallagher’s only here,
All the way from Tees-side.

Remember, tonight’s an Open Mic,
For visitors and members.
So, let the breath of this good throng,
Be blown on your word’s embers.

After this short, sweet, intro,
You people can show your mettle.
And read until you’re satisfied,
Or ‘til Deb puts on the kettle.

To Harry we give grateful thanks,
Awaiting poems with Northern grit.
Poetry ripe with the richness of life,
Public bar sawdust, and spit.

Now, I’ll be quiet and we can start,
Please clear your throats and ears.
And welcome Harry to this place,
With great Applause and Cheers.

 

Review of May Event: Gordon Brown

By Irene Ross

Our guest speaker at the Reading Room in May was Gordon Brown, author not politician, as he was quick to clarify. Gordon is from Glasgow and, after University, spent many years working in marketing roles before finally making the jump to pursuing a career as a full time writer.

Gordon’s talk was hugely entertaining, veering from humorous tales of finding inspiration in strange situations to key intelligence on writing and editing. He painted a wonderful verbal picture of watching a fight between two Glasgow drunks and observing the complete disengagement of the only other customer in the bar and then posing the typical writer’s question of ‘What if?’. Ultimately this led to the first of his series of books about Craig McIntyre, the possessor of a very strange skill. He also has a series of crime novels based in Scotland (Charlie Wiggs series), with an accountant as the rather unlikely lead protagonist.

Having books set in the UK and in the US, he is well placed to highlight the potential pitfalls in terms of vocabulary, location and editing of mixing the two. He also regaled us with tales of his own shortcomings when, even after several readings and major editing, the eagle-eyed reader spies the error which everyone else has overlooked – even down to making his hero go to the wrong side of the platform on the Glasgow underground!

He is one of the founding members of the Bloody Scotland book festival and touched briefly on its history, although he was unable to give us too much information on the 2019 festival, as he was speaking to us before the official launch. For more details on the event, which takes place from 20th to 22nd September in Stirling, see https://bloodyscotland.com/

Gordon finished the evening by reading one of his short stories to us. A tale which had us laughing out loud but had a gruesome twist in its tail! For more information on Gordon and his work, see his website at: https://www.gordonjbrown.com/

Join us at Edinbane Hall on Tuesday 25th June for our next meeting, featuring performance poet Harry Gallagher and an open mic session.