You Write, He Writes, She Writes… Aye Write!

Our aim was to create a programme that highlighted the best Glasgow and Scottish writers as well as bringing international writers to the city.

Feature by Anna Battista | 10 Feb 2007

So many book festivals, so many books. Two years ago, Glasgow added to book festival frenzy with the "Aye Write!" event. The event broke free from the stereotypes to reveal itself as a sui generis festival, thanks to a varied programme that featured readings and debates taking place in the old but still grand Mitchell Library.

The second Aye Write! has the same aims as in 2005: to inspire people to read and write, and to acknowledge how wonderful the two experiences can be. It's definitely set to repeat the success of two years ago, thanks to an ambitious schedule featuring over 120 events. "Our aim was to create a programme that highlighted the best Glasgow and Scottish writers as well as bringing international writers to the city," explains Karen Cunningham, Head of Glasgow Libraries and Director of the festival. "We're delighted with the quality of our 2007 programme which appeals to all who love writing and books – whether that is football, biography, international relations, Islam, poetry, fiction, cinema, crime, romance, politics or philosophy."

Throughout the festival, readers will be able to meet some of the United Kingdom's best-known writers, as well as Glaswegian talents. The event will be officially opened by Glasgow's poet laureate Liz Lochhead, poet Tom Leonard and novelist William McIlvanney, and Glasgow will be well represented with events featuring Bernard MacLaverty, A.L. Kennedy, Janice Galloway, Alan Bissett, Rodge Glass, Nick Brooks and Alasdair Gray, who will also present extracts from his new novel Men in Love.

This isn't an elitist festival though; genre fiction, whether it be crime, romance, chick lit or sportswriting is featured heavily. Aye Write! will also examine current issues: Will Hutton will analyse China's economic transformation and its challenge to Western interests; crime writer and historian Mike Phillips and Clare Short MP will be part of a panel who will debate on whether it is possible to apologise for the past.

The festival will also commemorate the 200th anniversary of the passing of the Slave Trade Abolition Bill with a session on the historic aspects of slavery, forms of slavery today and the value of immigration, featuring authors Louisa Waugh and James Walvin.

Best-selling authors William Boyd, John Burnside and John Banville will also feature in the festival, but two absolutely unmissable events will be the first preview of Iain Banks's new novel, The Steep Approach to Garbadale, and Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan. Named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most important innovators of the century, Ramadan, author of the biography In the Footsteps of the Prophet will highlight the topical significance of Prophet Muhammad's spiritual and ethical teachings.

During Aye Write! there will be storytelling sessions for children and grown-ups, while budding writers will find various helpful workshops to hone their skills. They may also be interested in the One Glasgow, Many Cultures short story competition which also represents a way to celebrate the diverse cultures that make up modern Glasgow.

This year's edition of the festival has also launched Britain's largest ever community-based reading project linking Glasgow with Bristol, Hull and Liverpool. Over 13,000 copies of Andrea Levy's prizewinning Small Island - a novel that explores the themes of identity and racial awareness - and 20,000 reading guides have been distributed free of charge in the city as part of this project.

Those who can't live without literature but need a break from the Mitchell Library every now and then can head to the GFT, where the Glasgow Film Festival will provide a programme featuring film and literature events. Glasgow can be proud of itself: now it has an annual book festival as exciting as any in the world.

Aye Write! Bank of Scotland Book Festival, 16 - 25 February 2007, Mitchell Library, Glasgow.