Top Scottish novelists such as Val McDermid and Christopher Brookmyre, plus international bestsellers like Joanna Trollope and Lars Mytting, feature among the 270-plus writers participating in this year’s festival.
As well as literary stars, Aye Write 2020 features household names from across the cultural spectrum, including Bake Off’s Prue Leith, Strictly’s Anton Du Beke and comedian Paul Tonkinson. Two former Eastenders actors are also on the bill: Michael Cashman (author of One Of Them: From Albert Square To Parliament Square) and John Partridge (There’s No Taste Like Home).
Festival highlights include Remembering Alasdair: a special tribute to the late writer and artist Alasdair Gray, who had originally been scheduled to appear at this year’s festival to discuss his most recent book, Purgatory with his biographer, Rodge Glass. Gray died on December 29 last year and on Friday (March 13), some of Gray’s eminent friends – including Bernard MacLaverty and Janice Galloway – will join Glass in the Mitchell Library to pay tribute to the man who made a huge contribution to Scottish and international culture, and read from his work.
Councillor David McDonald, chair of Glasgow Life and depute leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “The Remembering Alasdair event promises a very inspiring evening – albeit a sad one for Aye Write, as Alasdair was a much-loved contributor to the festival.
“Through his writing, murals and other artworks as well his visionary thinking, he brought so much to Glasgow, Scotland and the world, so it’s fitting that we pay tribute to the man and his work at Aye Write: a festival that celebrates books and culture, while also providing an important forum for thinking and debate.”
There will be plenty of original thinking going on during Imagine A Country: an event hosted by crime-writer Val McDermid and university professor Jo Sharp, co-editors of a book in which prominent figures present their dream of a future Scotland. Land reforestation, educational reform, a care revolution and the end of capitalism could all be touched on as guests Stuart Cosgrove, Louise Welsh and others envision the nation they’d most like to live in.
Founded in 2005, Aye Write showcases the vibrancy of Glasgow’s writing and publishing culture, delivers an ambitious programme of Scottish and international events and highlights the importance of reading for all. The festival is an important contributor to Glasgow’s economy. Including Wee Write children’s festival, it generates a net additional output for the city of almost £475,000.
It’s also hugely popular, as feedback from the 2019 festival confirmed, with 99% of audience members polled rating the experience “very good” or “good” and 95% saying they were inspired to attend further cultural events as a result of attending Aye Write.
Running from March 12-29, Aye Write 2020 spans more than a fortnight and covers three full weekends and several weekdays. Although primarily based at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library, it includes a range of events – such as creative writing sessions and talks – at venues throughout the city.
“I’m really excited about this year’s festival,” said Aye Write programmer Bob McDevitt. “After 15 years it’s still serving up surprises and this year’s programme includes some very special firsts, including our first ever reigning Booker prizewinner, Bernardine Evaristo, who’ll discuss her sensational novel, Girl, Woman, Other.
“Aye Write is a fantastic celebration of books and literature which also offers first-class entertainment and there’s something for everyone to enjoy – whether they’re into poetry, history or are more interested in cookery, music, art, politics or the great outdoors.
“Most importantly, perhaps, Aye Write gives audiences the chance to meet the people behind the books and to ask questions, express opinions and engage in lively debate about some of the most important issues of the day.”
Some of the themes covered in Aye Write 2020 are:
Hailed as “an instant Scottish classic”, Graeme Armstrong’s new novel, The Young Team, is inspired by his own experiences in North Lanarkshire gang culture. Aye Write audiences can catch him with Ben Halls, whose book, The Quarry, is set in a fictional London housing estate. Also on the programme is reigning Booker winner Bernardine Evaristo, who talks about her fascinating inter-generational novel, Girl, Woman, Other, which tells the interconnected stories of 12 black women living in Britain over the last century. Meanwhile, fans of bestselling novelist, Joanna Trollope, won’t want to miss hearing her discuss her new book, Mum & Dad.
FOOD AND COOKERY
In The Vegetarian Kitchen, Bake-off judge Prue Leith talks about the gorgeous plant-based cookbook she’s created with her pastry chef niece, Peta Leith. Actor and singer John Partridge discusses his brand new cookbook, There’s No Taste Like Home, in which every dish is inspired by a personal memory. And Michelin-starred chef, Tom Kerridge, shares recipes and tips for improving health and fitness as he talks about his book, Lose Weight And Get Fit. Delicious incarnations of all three authors’ recipes will be on sale in the Mitchell Library café.
In The Art Of Rest, broadcaster and psychology lecturer Claudia Hammond questions whether constant busyness deserves to be seen as a badge of honour and draws on recent research to extol the virtues of doing nothing. In separate events, needlecraft expert Esther Rutter conducts A Journey Through Britain’s Knitted History and in The Unfashionable Cost Of Globalisation, Lauren Bravo and Tansy E Hoskins examine alternatives to fast fashion.
STAGE AND SCREEN
In The Peculiar Science Of Death In The Movies, Rick Edwards and Dr Michael Brooks ask why Hollywood is obsessed with asteroids, killer sharks, nuclear bombs, and the end of the world. In The Films That Made Me, movie critic Peter Bradshaw talks about his cinematic influences, while in two separate sessions, TV and stage actor Greg McHugh, AKA Gary: Tank Commander, and leading playwright Rona Munro each shares their most important literary influences in one of six events titled The Books That Made Me.
ART AND SOUL
Biographer Blake Gopnik discusses his new book, Warhol: A Life As Art, in which he argues that Andy Warhol has overtaken Picasso as an influencer of 20th-century art. Elsewhere the life and work of radical artist and filmmaker, Derek Jarman, is explored by Peter Tatchell and Karim Rehmani. At another event, Director of the V&A in Dundee, Philip Long and Charles Rennie Mackintosh expert Pamela Robertson discuss Mackintosh’s watercolours.
In Barrowlands Ballads, broadcaster and music obsessive Stuart Cosgrove talks to the artists of Recollective about their mission to capture the sweat-drenched untold stories and electric atmosphere of Glasgow’s famous Barrowland Ballroom. And In Songs From The Last Page, songwriter and composer Gareth Williams turns the last lines of favourite books into brand new songs.
Catch a different side of well-known UK politicians by joining Sir Oliver Letwin as he discusses Technology And The Threat Of Disaster or former Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson as he describes his own journey from 22-stone diabetic to a leaner, healthier, version of himself in Downsizing. Steve Richards explores the lives of the men and women who’ve inhabited 10 Downing Street over the past 50 years in The Prime Ministers. And in How To Argue With A Racist, geneticist Adam Rutherford debunks some dangerous myths and misconceptions.
THE STATE OF DEBATE
Our ability to debate constructively comes under the spotlight in Nesrine Malik and James Mumford’s event, It Should Be OK To Disagree About Politics. Later, David Lammy MP discusses his book, Tribes: How Our Need To Belong Can Make Or Break Society, and in The Twittering Machine, Richard Seymour examines the impact of social media on our lives.
THIS MULTICULTURAL LIFE
In Voices Of The Windrush Generation, Colin Grant talks about his book, Homecoming, which presents first-hand accounts from those who came to Britain from the West Indies between the late 1940s and to the early 1960s. And in The Corner Shop, Babita Sharma – whose family ran one of those stores – explores the fascinating history of that vital institution.
Aye Write 2020 runs from Thursday, March 12 to Sunday, March 29. For full programme and ticketing information visit www.ayewrite.com