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Harry McGrath

Harry McGrath

Harry McGrath is a former Coordinator of the Centre for Scottish Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. He returned to Scotland in 2007. He is Chair of the DotScot registry which was set up to establish a top level internet domain for Scotland, the Edinburgh based Special Adviser to Simon Fraser University's Scottish Studies and advises Scottish Development International on its work in Canada. He writes the only column in Canada regularly dedicated to Scottish affairs and is a book reviewer for the Herald, Sunday Herald and SRB.

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Gain a rare insight into the life and lore of one of the 20th century's most distinguished English-language publishers, John Calder, when his achievements are celebrated at the Traverse Theatre this April. 

John Calder, still writing at the age of 87 now divides his time between Edinburgh and Paris. A champion of radical and hugely influential writers such as Beckett, Miller, Burroughs, Marguerite Duras and Alexander Trocchi among many others, John was also a founding member of the Traverse Theatre in 1963. 

The two-day festival (18-19 April) is a powerful and not-to-be-missed celebration for lovers of Samuel Beckett, admirers of John Calder or fans of Barry McGovern and Hebrides Ensemble. 

On Friday 18th April, at the opening night concert, Scotland's premier chamber music ensemble, Hebrides Ensemble, perform Arnold Schöenberg's Pierrot Lunaire with brilliant young mezzo soprano Anna Huntley. For many years in the 1960s and 1970s John Calder presented Ledlanet Nights, regular festivals of opera, classical and folk music, theatre and literature. One of the outstanding performances marked the Scottish premiere of Pierrot Lunaire in 1964, performed by Pamela Smith with members of the Scottish Baroque Ensemble. This performance celebrates the many unforgettable festivals at Ledlanet and will be introduced by reminiscences from Patricia Hay and John Lawson Graham, two of Scotland's most distinguished singers. 

On Saturday, 19th April, the festival presents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness John Calder in conversation with Alan Taylor (Founder of the Scottish Review of Books and Deputy Editor of The Herald). This will encompass a wide ranging discussion on Calder's life and work, writers, publishing, music, progressive art, freedom of speech and the avant garde. 

The third event in the line-up, A Life in Books , showcases John Calder and Derek Watson reading a selection of prose and poetry from the authors Calder published during his renowned career. 

Rounding off the festival, Ireland's greatest Beckett interpreter, Barry McGovern, fresh from his acclaimed performances of I'll Go On at the 2013 Edinburgh International Festival returns to Edinburgh for this special night to perform an homage to Beckett, Calder's greatest writer and great friend, in Barry McGovern Read Beckett. 

To end the celebration join John and friends at a glamorous fun-filled party in the Traverse Theatre Bar on Saturday night

For full details on the four events browse our website now to learn more. Tickets go on sale at 12pm on Friday, 21 March from the Traverse Box Office. 

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Miha Mazzini’s novel Crumbs was first published in Slovenia in 1987 and ‘sold 54,000 copies in a language spoken by fewer than two million people’. According to Mazzini, the royalties that accrued to him from that initial publication just about bought a dinner for his family and a couple of friends.

Crumbs is set in an unidentified town in Slovenia prior to the breakup of Yugoslavia. The main source of employment is the local foundry. Those who don’t already work there live in a ramshackle settlement on the edge of town hoping for a job and the flat that comes with it. The town and the foundry are enclosed by mountains. It’s a hothouse in every sense.

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The Scottish Poetry Library announced that poet Michael Pedersen has been selected to receive a Rising Star Award from the John Mather Charitable Trust.  

Pedersen, whose book 'Play With Me' was published by Birlinn in July 2013, is a poet, playwright and performer who has been involved in collaborations with an impressive list of artists, film-makers and musicians. Having travelled the world and taught in Cambodia for a year, Pedersen writes verse that gives a vivid idea of what it is to be young, socially aware and irrepressibly optimistic in the melting pot of the twenty-first century.

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Harry and Puma at East Preston Cemetery, Edinburgh

 

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Benefit Reading for the Philippines Thursday 19th December, 2013

Tom Leonard

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Translation Transformed conference in Moffat, south Scotland 20-22 Sept 2013

By Elizabeth Roberts, 

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I will wear your tartan
With the pride and strength
Of my history and tribe.
I will weave in its pattern
The breadth and length
Of five rivers that subscribed
To my wealth, which I will now
Lend to your tartan
and make it mine.

‘Tartan and Turban’ by Bashabi Fraser

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In October, the Scottish Poetry Library will launch Lugs Tae Arthurs Seat, Scotland’s smallest festival. It will feature live music by Wounded Knee, poetry, food and the great outdoors, and will take place at the top of Arthurs Seat.

Every year the Edinburgh Festival gets bigger, but this October, the Scottish Poetry Library continues to reinvent the poetry reading with Lugs Tae Arthurs Seat. Over the past year, the SPL has organised events pairing poetry with perfume at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and a webcast that linked a reading by Kathleen Jamie in Edinburgh and Jen Hadfield in Shetland.

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September, 2013 – The Scottish Poetry Library marks National Poetry Day (October 3rd) with readings by a double bill of poets from New Zealand.

National Poetry Day 2013 will culminate in a joint reading by C.K. Stead and Kapka Kassabova. Celebrated author of poetry, novels and memoir, C.K. Stead has published over 40 books and has as many awards to match. Stead is joined by poet, novelist and tango enthusiast Kapka Kassabova, who was born in Bulgaria, began her writing career in New Zealand, and lives in the Scottish Highlands. Poetry doesn’t recognise boundaries and although the day is billed as National Poetry Day, the appearance of two NZ poets at the SPL testifies to poetry’s ability to travel beyond borders.

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Such are the wonders of modern technology, that I was able to use my phone to read Gavin Hewitt’s latest BBC post on Europe outside the Baillie Gifford Theatre before listening to the man himself inside it. The BBC post concerns the recent .3% growth in the Eurozone with Hewitt briefly breaking it down by country – Germany and France strengthening/Greece, Italy, Spain still struggling. From this he draws a fairly obvious conclusion: ‘Confidence in the Euro and the wider European project depends on being able to deliver jobs’.

As it turns out, close-structure, balance and fairly obvious conclusions are Hewitt hallmarks. His lecture began with the issue of youth unemployment in Europe and a series of dire, country-by-country, statistics. He then returned to the early days of Euro-profligacy to remind us of the great building boom in Spain (which resulted, for instance in the building of airports that had no airplanes); Ireland throwing up houses with 300,000 of them never occupied; Greece following the Onassis advice ‘If you borrow, borrow big’. Hewitt examined the origins of the EU project: its attempt to balance German power, the fudging of its own deficit rules to ensure that Italy and Greece got in, the romance of the project against the practical problems of making it work. Eventually, the lecture melded seamlessly with the BBC post and the discovery of ‘some green shoots’. Hewitt concluded that ‘Europe is in a period of profound change and upheaval’ which didn’t have anyone jumping out of their seats.

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Recently the latest edition of one of Scotland’s bright new literary magazines dropped through the letterbox. Its arrival is something I look forward to. The magazine is not light reading - 170 pages dense with new poetry and short fiction, lots of black on white, writers of all ages and at all stages – but is well worth the effort if you want to know who is doing what in contemporary Scottish literature.

Eventually I will work my way through all of it and find (if past editions are anything to go by) good writers, promising writers, and a few whose work I’ll pass over rather quickly. I always begin my exploration, however, in medias res because that’s where the book reviews are. These pages would catch the eye anyway as they are the only part of the magazine that is in colour: a rather fetching and (as it turns out) appropriate sky blue in this edition.

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Donald Smith, Margaret Mackay, Ted Cowan

 

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Jenny Lindsay reading Sandie Craigie

photo: Ryan McGoverne 

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A friend once told me that he had a ‘world famous’ bakery round the corner from his flat in Glasgow. The fact that he couldn’t remember the name of it made me wonder how well known its rolls and pancakes were in, say, the Far East.

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Anais Hendricks is the fifteen year old protagonist in Jenni Fagan’s debut novel. Anais is not the only name she has had, but it is the one she currently goes by. It was given to her by her prostitute foster mother and reinforces her dream of living in Paris where, like Anais Nin, she would adopt a bohemian lifestyle.

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Scottish Poetry Library and Aye Write! join forces

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The Future, Al Gore (WH Allen £25)

Eight years ago someone asked Al Gore ‘What are the drivers of global change?’ He listed what he calls ‘the usual suspects’ but subsequently decided that the question deserved closer attention than he had given it. The Future is his considered response and at 558 pages including 154 pages of endnotes, nobody can say he hasn’t put in the time.

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Lesley Duncan and Alan Riach (eds), The Smeddum Test, 21st Century Poems in Scots: The McCash Anthology 2003-2012 (Kennedy & Boyd £12.95)

The Glasgow University McCash endowment established an annual Scots poetry competition in 1973 and this anthology showcases some of the best entries from the last ten years. In some of those years a theme was set. In 2012 it was Thomas Campbell’s ‘The Pleasures of Hope’.

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Britain’s Last Frontier: A Journey Along the Highland Line, Alistair Moffat (Birlinn £17.99)

Alistair Moffat’s latest idea is to imagine his way along the Highland Line, exploring history, geography, geology, language and culture as he goes. It is a meander on both sides of the line and across disciplines and time. Unfortunately, an introduction by James Naughtie is not a particularly helpful send off. He seems more concerned with making the case for North East Scotland’s exceptionalism (his own village in particular) than setting up Moffat’s potentially fascinating quest.

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