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There are literary events all year round in Edinburgh so when festival season arrives, choices shoot through the roof. That being said, it’s important to know what’s worth seeing and what’s best to avoid. I’m happy to say that Blackwell’s Writers at the Fringe is a lovely showcase for Scottish performers to give a taste of their work both new and unpublished.
I happened across the third event in the series, with four authors and an acapella choir. The evening started with poetry from Meg Bateman. Living in the West Highlands, Bateman writes medieval Gaelic poetry anthologies, and read from her first collection written in English Soirbheas. With her soft, musical voice, Bateman transported the audience from the busy street of the Scottish capital taking the listener to the fresh woodlands of Skye. Each flower in the fields of her home holds a special meaning for her and gives a different emotion. Primroses, bluebells and bracken, snow piled high on hawthorn, she is inspired by her homeland. The vaulted beauty of Scottish woodland, painting the colours of Scotland with her intricate knowledge of language, Bateman tells tales through the theme of transparencies in life.
Poetry made way for prose as debut author Catriona Child read from Trackman, her novel about the healing power of music and the way songs bring back memories or can change someone’s mood. Following this with an extract from her yet-to-be-named second novel which is still a work in progress, Child read a very emotional scene of a woman collapsing on the floor with the narrator looking on entirely unsure of what is going on and what she needs to do to help her.
The third writer to stand was action crime writer Liam McIlvanney, born in Aryshire now living in New Zealand. Reading from his upcoming novel Where The Dead Men Go he returns to character Gerry Conway, an investigative journalist he introduced in his first fiction novel, All The Colours Of The Town. McIlvanney is inspired by real people and organisations he remembers from his homeland and his strong Lanarkshire accent hasn’t weathered from years abroad. Once again, the story is set in the streets of Glasgow and against a topical background of the forthcoming referendum and Commonwealth Games showing how he is able to draw inspiration from one country while living on the other side of the world.
Fitting in a spoken word event around two Edinburgh Book Festival appearances, James Robertson read from his latest novel The Professor of Truth. Taken inspiration from the Lockerbie bombing, the novel is narrated by English Literature lecturer Dr Alan Tealing and starts 21 years after he has lost his wife and young daughter in a plane bombing. Giving two readings, The Professor of Truth is a beautifully written heartbreaking human story of grief and bereavement.
Quite a tonal change, eight-piece acapella group The Wild Myrtles took the floor. Singing five songs, the classical feel and traditional song choices lighten the mood after the emotional reading from James Robertson. These women clearly enjoy what they do and ended the evening on a relaxed note with a version of popular song, Mr Sandman.
The whole event kept to an hour and a half, leaving a good half an hour for browsing and chatting to the authors. With two more Writers at the Fringe evenings to come this August, if you’re looking for a free spoken word event, a sense of calm away from the hustle of festival crowds then head to Blackwell’s on South Bridge on Thursday evenings.
An avid film and literature fan, Eleanor has knowledge ranging from Charles Dickens to Rian Johnson. She has reviewed film, theatre, TV and books since 2008 in alternative e-zine, Push To Fire to Edinburgh Festival Fringe paper, ThreeWeeks. She has lived in Durham, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh and Bristol. She is currently working on her first young adult fiction novel.