Paisley Book Festival 18-27 February 2021

As a proud Paisley buddy I am duty bound to promote our annual book festival. Last year was the first one and it was a great success. There were lots of great events in the town. My personal highlights were hearing Jackie Kay read her poetry (especially the moving ‘Darling’) and going along to a celebration of John Byrne’s 80th birthday.

This year the programme has obviously moved online, but there are advantages, now it’s easier for anyone anywhere in the world to attend.

Although this year’s theme is ‘Radical New Futures’ there’s plenty of online events for those interested in women’s and gender history (and related themes).

All tickets are free though donations are welcome.

Here’s a few highlights:

Kirstin Innes and Outi Smith: Songs for a Scabby Queen

19 February 2021, 5 p.m. 

Tracing the life and death of the charismatic protest singer and activist Clio Campbell, Kirstin Innes’ Scabby Queen was one of the best-received Scottish novels of 2020, praised by everyone from Ian Rankin to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. In this event, the Renfrewshire-based writer teams up with Lochwinnoch singer and composer Outi Smith to tell Clio’s story – and that of the turbulent recent past – through some of the songs that inspired her creation. Presented in association with Lochwinnoch Arts Festival


19 February 2021, 7 p.m. 

Exiles by Victoria McNulty takes a snapshot of Glasgow in the aftermath of the Iraq War, telling the story of a young couple navigating a city riven by militarism, gentrification, boredom and sin. Recently released in print through Speculative Books, it draws on Glasgow’s working class heritage and imagines a post-industrial future, while challenging the perpetrators of state violence at home and abroad. In this event, Victoria performs excerpts from a live adaptation she has created specially for Paisley Book Festival, and has a discussion about the work. “Victoria pulls you in and commands your attention like few poets manage to do. Like Glasgow itself Exiles is political, unflinching and tender” – Matt Abbott

Hags, Hexes and Harpies with Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Rebecca Tamás

20 February 2021, 2 p.m. 

For a long time witches were thought of as entirely evil, tools of the devil. Later, they were reclaimed and cast as innocent healers and midwives. But could the truth lie outwith this simple binary? Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s adult debut novel The Mercies explores self-sufficient womanhood and sexual suspicion, while Rebecca Tamás’s debut poetry collection WITCH is a visceral, darkly funny journey. Join their conversation with author and festival Guest Curator Kirsty Logan to delve into witches, feminism, horror and power. Part of the Understories: Reclaiming the stories we think we know strand curated by Kirsty Logan

Scottish Masculinities with Douglas Stuart, Andrew O’Hagan and Graeme Armstrong

20 February 2021, 8 p.m. 

Join Kirstin Innes as she chats to three Scottish novelists who have shone a light on the complexities of masculine identity, offering parallel lives from Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Glasgow. Andrew O’Hagan’s Mayflies made headlines last year for its sensitive and honest portrayal of male friendship, whilst Graeme Armstrong’s The Young Team draws on its author’s own experience coming of age amidst gang culture and sectarian violence. Douglas Stuart’s Booker-winning Shuggie Bain won hearts with its portrayal of young Shuggie and his mother Agnes, struggling to get by in the schemes and coming to terms with his sexual identity

Working Class Lives in Fiction with Ely Percy and Julie Rea

24 February 2021, 9 p.m. 

Written in a Renfrewshire dialect and set between Paisley and Renfrew, Ely Percy’s new novel Duck Feet follows the life of Kirsty Campbell and friends, and the challenges they encounter at the fictional high school Renfrew Grammar. Published by Monstrous Regiment, and following Percy’s debut novel VickyRomeo plus Joolz, it uses humour to deal with hard-hitting issues such as drugs, bullying, first love, sexuality and teenage pregnancy. At this event to celebrate the launch of Duck Feet, Percy discusses their own Renfrewshire roots, the research undertaken for the book, and their wider interest in working-class Scottish literature with fellow working-class author Julie Rea.

Cal Flyn and Lisa Woollett: What We Leave Behind

27 February 2021, 2 p.m. 

From Inchkeith in the Firth of Forth to the Exclusion Zone at Chernobyl, from the factories of Detroit to a forgotten garden in the mountains of Tanzania, Cal Flyn’s Islands of Abandonment explores the places from which human beings have turned and walked away. Lisa Woollett is drawn to the abandoned, too, but it is the objects we discard that she seeks out in her new book, Rag and Bone. Beach-combing and mudlarking, she documents what others have thrown away, and in doing so, reveals much about our history and culture. Consider what we might learn from the things we leave behind as these authors chat with festival Guest Curator Malachy Tallack. Part of the A Place for Hope: land, loss and the politics of care strand curated by Malachy Tallack

Changing the Future in Graphic Form: Kate Charlesworth in conversation with Val McDermid

27 February 2021, 4 p.m. 

Cartoonist, illustrator and writer Kate Charlesworth has championed diversity in comics and graphic novels since the 1970s, when she first pitched a comic strip featuring two gay men to the Manchester Evening News. Since then, she has published work everywhere from The Pink Paper to the New Scientist, collaborated with the likes of Mary and Brian Talbot to create Sally Heathcote: Suffragette, and most recently brought us a graphic guide to queer history – Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide. In advance of Will Eisner week, Kate chats with Val McDermid about how o use your creativity to unearth hidden histories, and in doing so, create new futures.

Have a wee look at the full programme here –

And for those of you have never visited the town you can hear a wee bit more about it here:

Valerie Wright (University of Stirling)

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