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  • Alistair Braidwood

Radical Renfrew: A Preview of the Paisley Book Festival…

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

This Thursday (18-02-2021) sees the start of this year’s Paisley Book Festival, which runs until Saturday 27th Feb. With the theme of ‘Radical New Futures’, the programme is carefully curated to offer a wide range of events, with something for everyone.

You can peruse the full programme at your leisure, and get tickets, at, keep up to date with what’s going on with Facebook, Twitter @BookPaisley, and Instagram @PaisleyBookFest.

You can also hear co-producer Keira Brown and writer-in-residence Imogen Stirling talking all about the festival on the SWH! Podcast. Click here to listen & learn…

Below is the SWH! preview with our 10 picks of the festival, as well as links to find out more and order tickets, but it only scratches the surface of what’s on offer so make sure you investigate for yourself.

Opening Event: Radical New Futures Feb. 18, 2021, 7 p.m. – Tickets: Free

Join us to launch this year’s festival as we give a taste of what’s in store over the next ten days. We’re joined by poet, playwright and performer Hannah Lavery, whose recent works The Drift and Lament for Sheku Bayoh both call for accountability from a society that remains determined to look the other way.

We also welcome writer Laura Waddell, whose recent book, Exit, is a wide-ranging exploration of exit signs and what might be on the other side. Finally, we hear from Renfrewshire local Alan Bissett with his new novella Lazy Susan the unusual format of which explores many possible futures for a young social media influencer on the party scene.

Kirstin Innes and Outi Smith: Songs for a Scabby Queen Feb. 19, 2021, 5 p.m. – Tickets: Free

Tracing the life and death of the charismatic protest singer and activist Clio Campbell, Kirstin Innes’ Scabby Queen was one of the best-received Scottish novels of 2020, praised by everyone from Ian Rankin to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

In this event, the Renfrewshire-based writer teams up with Lochwinnoch singer and composer Outi Smith to tell Clio’s story – and that of the turbulent recent past – through some of the songs that inspired her creation. Presented in association with Lochwinnoch Arts Festival

For a long time witches were thought of as entirely evil, tools of the devil. Later, they were reclaimed and cast as innocent healers and midwives. But could the truth lie outwith this simple binary? Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s adult debut novel The Mercies explores self-sufficient womanhood and sexual suspicion, while Rebecca Tamás’s debut poetry collection WITCH is a visceral, darkly funny journey.

Join their conversation with author and festival Guest Curator Kirsty Logan to delve into witches, feminism, horror and power. Part of the Understories: Reclaiming the stories we think we know strand curated by Kirsty Logan

Join Kirstin Innes as she chats to three Scottish novelists who have shone a light on the complexities of masculine identity, offering parallel lives from Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Glasgow. Andrew O’Hagan’s Mayflies made headlines last year for its sensitive and honest portrayal of male friendship, whilst Graeme Armstrong’s The Young Team draws on its author’s own experience coming of age amidst gang culture and sectarian violence.

Douglas Stuart’s Booker-winning Shuggie Bain won hearts with its portrayal of young Shuggie and his mother Agnes, struggling to get by in the schemes and coming to terms with his sexual identity.

You’re probably familiar with tired cliches around gaming culture: that video games are violent and damaging, that they’re for children, for the lazy, and for those without purpose. Glaswegian writer, video gamer and mental health advocate Joe Donnelly is here to tell you that video games can, in fact, save lives.

They saved his. Join Joe as he chats with fellow gaming enthusiast Calum Rodger about his new book Checkpoint published by 404Ink, which explores the healing effects that digital worlds and narratives can have on our wellbeing, and the thousands of eye-opening games just waiting to enthral players old and new.

A dram, an open fire, a scandalous tale… Cosy nighttime gatherings at the pub are beginning to feel like distant memories. Imogen Stirling’s Big Night In recreates a night of good company and good stories, with a lineup of brilliant creative voices performing to you from their living rooms.

Pour a drink, toast to the good times and settle in for an evening of exhilarating poetry and music from Dean Atta, Iona Lee and Emme Woods. Presented by Digital Writer in Residence Imogen Stirling

Charlie Gracie, Donal McLaughlin & Mairi Murphy are three local writers with strong Irish roots. One emigrated to Paisley as a child, whilst two are second generation. The childhoods of all three coincided with the Civil Rights movements in the US & Northern Ireland, creating an awareness of different forms of discrimination and the struggle for basic human rights.

In this relaxed reading, hear how these experiences have informed the stories & poems of these authors about emigration & immigrant experience. Expect to be moved & entertained by the day-to-day-ness of moments highlighted, and hear their vision for a different, better future.

The Second Life: Celebrating Edwin Morgan with New Voices Feb. 24, 2021, 7 p.m. – Tickets: Free

Since April 2020, The Edwin Morgan Trust has been celebrating the centenary of one of Scotland’s greatest poets, Edwin Morgan, with an array of online content, and a number of community partnerships and collaborations. In this event, Edwin Morgan Centenary Project Manager Siân McIntyre showcases three writers and artists who have received grants to develop new work through The Second Life programme, which provides opportunities for new voices to engage with Morgan’s life and work.

Vlad Butucea, Sekai Machache and Sasha Saben Callaghan chat with Siân about what it has meant for them to give Morgan’s work a ‘second life’.

Working Class Lives in Fiction with Ely Percy and Julie Rea Feb. 24, 2021, 9 p.m. – Tickets: Free

Written in a Renfrewshire dialect and set between Paisley and Renfrew, Ely Percy’s new novel Duck Feet follows the life of Kirsty Campbell and friends, and the challenges they encounter at the fictional high school Renfrew Grammar. Published by Monstrous Regiment, and following Percy’s debut novel VickyRomeo plus Joolz, it uses humour to deal with hard-hitting issues such as drugs, bullying, first love, sexuality and teenage pregnancy.

At this event to celebrate the launch of Duck Feet, Percy discusses their own Renfrewshire roots, the research undertaken for the book, and their wider interest in working-class Scottish literature with fellow working-class author Julie Rea.

The Fountain’s Evening of Quarantine Dreaming Feb. 25, 2021, 9 p.m. – Tickets: Free

Don’t miss this energetic evening featuring some of the UK’s finest performers, including Scottish-Algerian poet, Janette Ayachi, performing from her work-in-progress Lonerlust, poet and author Salena Godden reading from her debut novel Mrs Death Misses Death as well as ex Melody Maker music journalist, Heath Common, reading from Viral Verses, a collection compiled to raise funds for the NHS during the pandemic.

Curated and presented by The Fountain, a cultural review with a Scottish voice, the night concludes with Adam Stafford and music from Fire Behind The Curtain, a frenetic and yet melodic LP that that documents mental health struggles plus new material.


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