Today the first details are announced for Muriel Spark 100 – a year-long, nationwide programme of literary and cultural events and activities marking the centenary of one of Scotland’s finest and most internationally respected writers, Dame Muriel Spark.
Led by Creative Scotland and the National Library of Scotland in collaboration with a host of partner individuals, groups and organisations, today’s news coincides with:
- the launch of a dedicated centenary website www.murielspark100.com
- new funds for artists and groups to develop and present new work as part of the centenary year
- a call out by Muriel Spark 100 organisers to anyone with plans to mark the centenary, to be in touch.
Events and activities already confirmed include the re-publication of all 22 of Spark’s novels by Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd (from Nov ‘17); the unveiling of Spark’s extraordinary archive at a landmark National Library of Scotland exhibition (Dec ‘17-May ‘18); leading Scottish writers Ali Smith, Val McDermid, Janice Galloway, Kate Clanchy and Louise Welsh reflecting on Spark’s career in a new BBC Radio 3 series (Jan ‘18); an international conference bringing together fans and academics to explore all aspects of Spark’s writing (Jan/Feb ‘18); Edinburgh Spy Week’s spotlight on the ways in which espionage, secrecy and spying play out in her work (Apr ’18) and a specially commissioned BBC Scotland/BBC4 documentary about the author’s life and work (early ‘18).
Commenting, Muriel’s great friend Penelope Jardine said:
“Muriel’s contribution to Scottish Letters is one of manifest originality, brevity of wit, with the musical composition and rhythms of a poet. Something unforgettable sui generis.”
The initiative has been welcomed by Scotland’s Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop: “I’m really excited about the forthcoming celebration of Muriel Spark 100. Dame Muriel Spark was one of Scotland’s literary giants and, to this day, her work continues to inspire generations of readers and writers and resonates with audiences across the country and beyond.
“I commend Creative Scotland, the National Library of Scotland and all the other partners involved for delivering such an engaging and varied programme of activity and I am looking forward to attending some of these events next year.”
Many plans are still being progressed. From book and film festivals, literary and art education institutions to libraries, galleries, museums – big and small – unique collaborations are being forged and new perspectives are being developed in response to Spark’s life and work. As details are confirmed they will be announced through the newly launched website www.murielspark100.com and posted through the following channels: @MurielSpark100 / #murielspark100 / facebook.com/murielspark100
Muriel Spark 100 Chair and Creative Scotland Head of Literature, Publishing and Languages, Jenny Niven said: “The centenary of Dame Muriel Spark’s birth is both a landmark moment and an unparalleled opportunity to permanently influence the way in which this leading figure of Scotland’s cultural history features in the public imagination.
“There is so much to explore in Ms Spark’s work, from her incisive commentary, to her startling poetry, to her ability to effortlessly weave folk tradition with biting satire. It’s a particularly interesting time too to consider her legacy, as a Scottish writer who was fiercely international in her approach and who broke through a great many barriers in her career.
“It’s testament to her range and relevance that so many Scottish organisations will engage with her work and legacy throughout 2018 and we are looking forward enormously to this varied and unusual programme. Creating space for contemporary writers and artists to reflect on Muriel Spark’s influence on them is also very important to this project and we hope to see some really exciting and ambitious proposals through the small grants fund in her name.”
National Librarian Dr John Scally said: “The opportunity to celebrate the life and work of Dame Muriel Spark is as exciting a prospect as opening one of her books for the very first time. She is one of Scotland’s finest ever writers and her reputation extends far beyond these shores. It is fitting therefore that the National Library of Scotland and Creative Scotland are marking the centenary of her birth with Muriel Spark 100 – a yearlong programme of activity that promises to be lively, varied and engaging.”
SMALL GRANTS SCHEME
Awards of up to £1,500 are available to support people and projects across a range of art forms. The deadline for proposals is Monday 4 December 2017, with selected projects being announced in early 2018. Further details, funding guidelines and application form are available on Creative Scotland’s website here: www.creativescotland.com/murielspark100fund
MORE WAYS TO JOIN IN…
For those looking to develop events or who would like to mark the centenary in some way – from exhibitions to readings, talks to screenings – contact Muriel Spark 100 Project Coordinator Sabrina Leruste at email@example.com who can offer advice on promoting events as part of the Muriel Spark 100 programme and making connections with relevant counterparts. Information on a cross section of programme highlights so far:
NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND – THE INTERNATIONAL STYLE OF MURIEL SPARK
Fri 8 Dec 2017 – Sun 13 May 2018
National Library of Scotland, North Bridge, Edinburgh
A major new exhibition revealing unique insights into Muriel Spark’s extraordinary life and work. Featuring personal artefacts never before seen by the public The International Style of Muriel Spark will showcase the National Library of Scotland’s Muriel Spark Archive which is one of the most comprehensive personal records of a writer’s life ever assembled.
The writer’s boxed archive covers the period from the 1940s until her death in 2006, taking up some 46 metres of shelving — just short of the height of Edinburgh’s famous Scott monument. The early records of wartime poverty that chart the struggles of an unknown author are joined by scores of diaries, fascinating letters including those with literary giants, world leaders and film stars, diaries, photographs, newspaper cuttings and school magazines all of which illuminate the inspirations behind Spark’s literary style, her love of fashion, and the significance of the places where she lived.
Colin McIlroy, Muriel Spark Project Curator, National Library of Scotland commented: “Muriel Spark was a self-confessed hoarder. She kept everything from school magazines to shopping receipts, photographs, desk diaries and letters from some of the biggest names in 20th century literature. This is what makes her archive so fascinating. The exhibition will allow us to showcase items never before seen by the public and, in the process, shed new light on an incredible life. It will illuminate her literary style, her love of fashion and the significance of the many places around the world in which she lived.”
PUBLICATION OF NEW EDITIONS OF ALL 22 MURIEL SPARK NOVELS
Publication dates: Nov 2017 – Sep 2018
Each book is priced at £9.99 (hardback).
In a bold publishing move, all 22 novels written by Muriel Spark are being re-published by Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn ltd. Each novel will be published in a striking and collectable hardback centenary edition, carrying a series preface by editor Alan Taylor and an introduction by such well-known writers or critics as Ali Smith, William Boyd, Alexander McCall Smith, Candia McWilliam, James Wood, Andrew O’Hagan, Joseph Kanon, Zoë Strachan, Allan Massie, Kapka Kassabova, Dan Gunn, Ian Rankin, and Richard Holloway. Supported by Creative Scotland and The Muriel Spark Society.
The first four novels – The Comforters, Robinson, Memento Mori, and The Ballad of Peckham Rye – will be published in November 2017. A Far Cry From Kensington will be released early in January, with the next four – The Bachelors, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Girls of Slender Means, The Mandelbaum Gate – on the anniversary itself, 1st February 2018. The remainder will be published over the course of the following six months, finishing in September 2018.
“The Polygon team are delighted to republish all 22 of Muriel Spark’s quite perfect novels in striking, collectable, affordable editions. With the support of Creative Scotland and the Muriel Spark Society, and the drive of series editor Alan Taylor, all of them are being re-issued by Polygon between November 2017 and September 2018, putting her writing exactly where it should be – right at the heart of the celebrations for her centenary”
– Jan Rutherford, Birlinn Ltd.
Alan Taylor added: “Everyone knows that Muriel Spark was the author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which is undoubtedly one of the twentieth century’s great works of fiction. What too few people also know is that she wrote 21 other novels, all of which are infused with her trademark blend of fun and profundity, original thinking and peerless style.
“Now, for the first time, readers have the opportunity to read Spark at her sparkling best, in a uniform, covetable, hardback edition which even those of slender means can afford.”
BBC RADIO 3 AND ONLINE – ALL MISS BRODIE’S GIRLS?
Sun 29 Jan – Thur 2 Feb 2018
22.45-23.00 every night on BBC Radio 3 and online on the BBC Website and on i-player
Every night from Sunday 29 January until Thursday 2 February, leading Scottish writers Ali Smith, Val McDermid, Janice Galloway, Kate Clanchy and Louise Welsh will reflect on different aspects of the career of Muriel Spark in a series of essays on BBC Radio 3.
BBC SCOTLAND/BBC FOUR – MURIEL SPARK DOCUMENTARY
Early 2018 (exact date tbc)
Early in 2018, BBC Scotland and BBC Four will screen a documentary on the life and work of Muriel Spark. Presented by Kirsty Wark, the programme will explore the writer’s extraordinary life and work.
MURIEL SPARK CENTENARY SYMPOSIUM
Wed 31 Jan – Fri 2 Feb 2018
University of Glasgow, Senate, Carnegie & Melville Rooms, University Avenue G12 8QQ
Booking information available soon
At the end of January, the University of Glasgow will host a 2-day symposium exploring all aspects of Spark’s writing. Film screenings and creative writing workshops are being planned alongside talks and discussions from Spark fans, distinguished academics and Scottish and international writers including Zoë Strachan, Louise Welsh and Ali Smith. Themes will cover humour, satire and transgression, faith and surveillance, writing and gender in Spark’s work.
Dr Helen Stoddart, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, University of Glasgow said: “The Muriel Spark Centenary Symposium at the University of Glasgow will be a celebration and a critical consideration of Scotland’s most cosmopolitan writer. Spark’s books and characters feature deep spiritual insight and slashing satirical comedy, the latter often portraying the petty confidence tricks that people employ. From the 1960s, when ‘condition of Scotland’ fiction was being demanded by the critical and cultural establishment, she gave the world instead, ‘condition of the human soul’ writing.”
APPOINTMENT IN AREZZO: A FRIENDSHIP WITH MURIEL SPARK by ALAN TAYLOR
Publication date: from mid November, £12.99
Alan Taylor, longstanding friend and travel companion to Muriel Spark, editor of the Birlinn novels re-edition series, well-known literary journalist for over 30 years and author of many books will publish in November 2017 Appointment in Arezzo: A Friendship with Muriel Spark.
An intimate, fond and funny memoir of one of the greatest novelists of the last century, this colourful, personal, anecdotal, indiscrete and admiring memoir charts the course of Muriel Spark’s life. With sources ranging from notebooks kept from his very first encounter with Muriel and the hundreds of letters they exchanged over the years, Appointment in Arezzo offers an invaluable portrait of one of Edinburgh’s premiere novelists.
EDINBURGH SPY WEEK 2018 – SECRECY, SPIES AND MURIEL SPARK
April 2018 (exact date of talk to be announced soon)
National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EW
Edinburgh Spy Week is an annual week of public events focusing on spy fiction and film and the ways in which secrecy and spying run through our culture, organised by the University of Edinburgh with the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh Filmhouse, and Blackwell’s. To tie in with the centenary, Spy Week 2018 spotlights the role of secrecy in the life and work of Muriel Spark. Spark was recruited into the Black Propaganda Unit of MI6 during WWII: ‘I played a small part’, Spark wrote, ‘but as a fly on the wall I took in a whole world of intrigue and method’.
The week of events will explore the ways in which this ‘world of intrigue and method’ play out in Spark’s writing, in which espionage, secrecy and spying often takes centrestage.
Dr Simon Cooke, Department of English Literature, University of Edinburgh, said: “The idea of the event is to explore a pervasive cultural concern. While Spark wasn’t a spy out in the field, she had a career in political intelligence and she did meet a lot of people who were spies. It was a small part of her life in some ways, but if you look at her fiction, the notion of secrecy occurs with some frequency. Books like The Mandelbaum Gate, The Hothouse by the East River and Territorial Rights are, in many ways, spy novels.
“There are a lot of ways in which secrecy and secret agents have a very powerful pull on the imagination and what we want to do is respond to that and try to give interesting discussions, screenings and lectures by some of the key people who are thinking through these ideas.”
GLASGOW WOMEN’S LIBRARY EXHIBITION IN COLLABORATION WITH GLASGOW SCHOOL OF ART – MAKING SPARKS
Jun-Aug 2018 (exact date to be announced soon), Glasgow School of Art
Since its inception in 1991, Glasgow Women’s Library has been collecting Muriel Spark’s work. Vintage gems in Spark’s cover art collection, many of which have been donated from Spark fans looking for a new home for their beloved books, will make up an exhibition that will show a colourful timeline of interpretations of Spark’s novels over the years.
Taking inspiration from these cover images, a group of first and second year students from Glasgow School of Art are working to create their own exhibition of illustration, and graphics. Showing from summer 2018, this will run alongside the cover art exhibition.
Adele Patrick, Lifelong Learning and Creative Development Manager at Glasgow Women’s Library said: “The Muriel Spark centenary is a hugely important event for Scotland as it provides us with the opportunity to honour one of our great literary talents. As one of only a few 20th century Scottish women writers to have her legacy recognised in this way, it poignantly and positively reminds us about the wider array of women writers from history that we risk forgetting.
“We are delighted to be working with long term collaborators Glasgow School of Art on a programme where young designers will mine the Glasgow Women’s Library Muriel Spark collection to create new illustrative interpretations.”
ARTS SCHOOLS ENGAGEMENT PROJECT
Nationwide, throughout 2018, Muriel Spark 100 is collaborating with Scottish arts schools to invite Illustration, Design and Animation tutors and lecturers to involve students in developing new work based on, or influenced by Spark’s work and/or life.
Glasgow School of Art, Edinburgh College of Art, Gray’s School of Art and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design are already on board with the project which will offer participating students opportunities to present their work through a variety of platforms as part of the Muriel Spark 100 programme.
Tutors and lecturers who would like to involve students in the project are invited to contact Sabrina Leruste, Muriel Spark 100 Project Coordinator for more information, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline for submissions: Friday 30 March 2018.
WALKING TOURS – WALKING SPARK
From spring 2018, throughout Edinburgh
Edinburgh City of Literature Trust will be partnering with Mercat Tours to launch Muriel Spark walking tours from Spring 2018. The tours will set Muriel Spark’s work in the context of the city, exploring the places that influenced and inspired her. Further details and booking information be announced soon.