Aye Write! 2017: Glasgow meets the world

Glasgow's book festival Aye Write! has spread its wings from the Mitchell Library in 2017, just to fit its packed programme into the city – one that includes old favourites like Ian Rankin and Christopher Brookmyre alongside Bowie, fitba and Tim Burgess

Article by Ross McIndoe | 23 Feb 2017
  • Ian Rankin

The brochure for this year’s Aye Write! festival humbly claims that things might 'look and feel a little different this time around.' For the first time, the Mitchell Library-based literary festival has branched out to include the Centre for Contemporary Arts and Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall as venues for the some 200 authors it has assembled, broadening the scope of the festival in the hope of drawing in an even larger and more diverse crowd than ever before.

This desire to strike out into new territory is reflected in a line-up which incorporates writers from the worlds of literature, sport, music and politics, drawing in authors from nations all across the world that range from literary debutants whose works have barely hit the bookshelves to the old hands whose names have adorned them for years. As a dazzlingly diverse city with a charged political history, deep musical roots and fierce sporting passion, for Glasgow’s literary festival to be given the task of reflecting even half of its kaleidoscopic whole would be a challenge. One that Aye Write! 2017 does its very best to rise to.

Nigeria, Afghanistan and Syria at Aye Write!

As much as it acts as a celebration of Scottish literature and culture, Aye Write! also operates as a platform for the stories of authors from all around the world. At a time when the boundaries of national identity are being violently fortified, literature’s capacity to breeze through borders and evoke simple, human empathy is more valuable than ever. The wave of writing tearing out of Nigeria in recent years has been incredible with the likes of Ayobami Adebayo and Chibundu Onuzo (12 Mar) sitting at its crest, both of whom will appear for a Welcome to Nigeria discussion of their latest works.

As one of the most turbulent nations in the world, Afghanistan is represented by both the fictions of Jason Donald and Laura McVeigh (19 Mar) and the very real account of Gulwali Passarlay (9 Mar) whose exile from the country at the age of 12 saw him embark on a 12-month quest for refuge. As another nation that is seldom absent from our television screens but also rarely discussed in its own terms, Burning Nation authors Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami aim to shed a little light on the true state of Syria today (12 Mar).

Music & sport at Aye Write!

Having now grown into the third largest literary festival in the UK, this year Aye Write! has sprouted a whole section dedicated to the city’s love of music with a name that sits some way between fantastic, terrible and inevitable – 'Aye Tunes!'. 

Even with the man himself having now been gone over a year, the shadow of David Bowie looms as large in Glasgow as anywhere else in the world with two events scheduled to offer fresh perspectives on him and his work – drummer Woody Woodmansey sheds light on what it was like to work on four of Bowie’s most acclaimed albums (11 Mar) while respected music critic and author of The Age of BowiePaul Morley lends an expert eye to the seismic impact of the pop icon (both 11 Mar). Also appearing for this new musical appendage of Aye Write! will be Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble (10 Mar), The Incredible String Band’s Mike Heron (18 Mar) and The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess (17 Mar).

On the sporting side of things, Aye Write! diplomatically offers something for both the city’s green and blue halves with past Rangers boss Alex McLeish to appear for a conversation with Graham Hunter (9 Mar), reflecting on his time on both sides of the sidelines. The golden anniversary of Celtic’s European Cup win will be celebrated with a panel of well-informed die-hards – Professor Willy Maley, Celtic View Editor Paul Cuddihy and writer Martin McCardie – assembled to reflect on Scottish football’s highest honour (12 Mar).

With Glasgow having played host to the Homeless World Cup last year, Aye Write! will also proudly launch Home Ground, a new collection of fiction inspired by the tournament which incorporates the work of volunteers, MLitt students and esteemed authors like Alan Bissett and Jim Carruth.

Nordic Crime and Tartan Noir

While it’s known for its love of music and football, the dark underbelly of Glasgow plays a large part in its popular conception, and it’s the novels filled with dark alleys, gunshots and world-wearied detectives which have come to be most closely associated with the mean city. Fittingly then, Aye Write! has assembled a veritable Suicide Squad of criminal masterminds.

Scandi-Crime giant Jo Nesbø will be discussing Harry Hole’s latest exploits in The Thirst (one of two April events, on the 18th), while the king of Tartan Noir Ian Rankin will appear to celebrate the 30th anniversary of John Rebus’s literary conception. His fellow Scottish crime lord Christopher Brookmyre will also be there to talk about his latest novel Want You Gone, (20 Apr) and to introduce the latest entrants into the their hard-boiled world, Helen Fields and Daniel Cole (9 Mar).

With poets, politicians, graphic novelists, children’s authors, journalists, athletes, musicians and much more all present and correct, it’s no wonder Aye Write! 2017 has had to spread itself across the city.

Aye Write runs from 9-19 Mar, across three locations in Glasgow: CCA, Mitchell Library and Royal Concert Hall. Tickets are available from the website http://www.ayewrite.com