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  • Alistair Braidwood

This Is The Story: A Preview of the Paisley Book Festival 2024…

This Thursday, 25th April, sees the start of this year’s Paisley Book Festival, which runs until Sunday 28th. With the theme of 'Imagine Something Different', the programme is carefully curated to offer a wide range of events, with something for everyone.

There are a number of themes to the festival, which include The Beautiful Game, Oot and Aboot, and Ireland in Focus, in addition to the annual Family Day and Schools programme, and there's also the Janet Coats Memorial Prize. It may be a cliche to claim there is something for everyone, but it's true nonetheless.

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

In the meantime, here are Scots Whay Hae!'s 10 picks of the Festival to help you get started.

Click the titles to learn more and get yourself tickets. Text from the Paisley Book Festival website.

Two Scottish writers introduce scintillating new historical novels, both of which foreground forgotten figures and bring to life hidden stories from the past. Sara Sheridan is author of more than 20 novels including her recent reimagining of Enlightenment Edinburgh, The Fair Botanists.

Its hotly anticipated follow up, The Secrets of Blythswood Square, turns its attention to 19th Century Glasgow, and the scandalous secrets held in and around the city’s most speculated upon neighbourhood. Ever fascinated by the lost stories of historical women, and having previously written a novel based on the life of Mary Shelley, Glasgow-based author Lesley McDowell’s latest release, Clairmont, recasts the famous literary friendship between Lord Byron and the Shelleys from the perspective of Mary’s 18 year old step-sister.

Andrew McMillan is an award-winning writer from the North of England, best known for his landmark poetry collections physical (2015), playtime (2018), and pandemonium (2021), all of which explore contemporary ideas about masculinity, conceptions of the body, and the experience of growing up different.

This year, Andrew launched his first novel, Pity, which narrates the lives of three generations of men from a South Yorkshire mining town, which was once a hub of industry but now struggles to find a new identity in the wake of seismic social change. Whilst some characters struggle to let go of the past, others learn to navigate new lifestyles, and adopt the new models of masculinity offered by this post-industrial world. We’re absolutely thrilled to welcome Andrew to Paisley to speak about his book in conversation with Rebecca Smith, author of Rural: The Lives of the Working Class Countryside.

Elemental, fierce and full of wonder, the Cairngorm mountains are the high and rocky heart of Scotland. To know them would take forever, to love them demands a kind of courageous surrender.

We’re delighted to host author Merryn Glover, who has lived in mountainous landscapes across the world and whose recent book, The Hidden Fires, follows in the footsteps of Scottish writer Nan Shepherd through her beloved landscape of the Cairngorms. Merryn will be joined by Scottish musician Hamish Napier as they take us on a magical journey through this landscape via music, images and words, in a performance which brings to life both Merryn and Nan’s words from the page.

Part of our Oot and Aboot series, which explores the human drive to get out into nature and the transformational impact it has on us.

Introducing new crime thrillers from two of Scotland’s most exciting novelists, both of which explore how the criminal justice system has served – and failed to serve – women. Ajay Close’s latest book, What Doesn’t Kill Us, reimagines the era of the Yorkshire Ripper – the man of a thousand faces – in an action packed and darkly funny tale in which a police officer is torn between her duty and her loyalty to the women of Leeds. Donna Moore brings us her third novel, The Unpicking, which is set in 19th Century Glasgow, and spans three generations of women who find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

In this event, Ajay and Donna chat to fellow author and ex-police officer Karen Campbell about the events that inspired their books, and whether in light of social campaigns such as the #MeToo movement, we might begin to imagine a better future for women in their dealings with the law.

Join us for a conversation about the challenges of being in the public eye, as we welcome two multimedia artists who’ve staked their claim in the Scottish cultural landscape. TikTok sensation and Scots language champion Len Pennie took social media by storm during the pandemic with her Scots Word of the Day, and has now launched her debut poetry collection Poyums, which moves deftly between English and Scots to advocate fiercely for issues she cares about.

Sarah Grant is a writer, director and performer based in Glasgow, who is committed to creating body positive, sex positive and inclusive female-led stories, and whose latest book, Fat Girl Best Friend, dives into the treatment of plus size women on screen.

Join the conversation as these writers discuss stereotypes, marginalised identities, the importance of visibility, and imagining something different from the mainstream in conversation with actor, writer and producer Louise Oliver.

Join us for an hour of music and poetry with Glasgow-based intersectional cellist Simone Seales alongside former Young Person’s Laureate Cecilia Knapp. Simone is a classically trained musician who is interested in how we experience emotions in different ways, and who uses their musical talent to find moments of radical joy through an improvised intertwining of music and poetry. Cecilia was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best single poem in 2022, and her recent books, Peach Pig and Little Boxes, both consider themes of grief, sacrifice, and navigating a difficult world whilst looking for hope and possibility.

In response to the festival theme – Imagine Something Different – these multi-talented artists have worked together to create a brand new collaborative performance, and in this event they will read, play and perform their work before having a conversation about it with TV and radio presenter, Gemma Cairney.

Following on from his hugely successful novel, Mayflies, which was turned into a BAFTA award-winning BBC drama series last year, Ayrshire author Andrew O’Hagan joins us to introduce his brand-new novel, Caledonian Road.

Described by Andrew himself as ‘a big compendium, a book for everybody’, the story involves a fascinating circus of characters surrounding a central disgraced hero, a working-class Glasgow boy turned aristocrat, whose fall from privilege in a world of scandal and secrets speaks to the very nature of how we live today.

Join Andrew in conversation about what inspired the new book and the research that went into it with Alistair Braidwood, critic and broadcaster of the popular Scots Whay Hae! podcast.

Get ready for dark and witchy tales in this scintillating event chaired by the wonderful Kirsty Logan with two of Scotland’s up and coming horror writers. Camilla Grudova was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for fiction with her debut novel Children of Paradise, and now returns with a spine tingling collection of short stories, The Coiled Serpent, filled with uncanny occurrences and queasy bodily encounters.

Queer tarot card reader and witch Genevieve Jagger showcases her hot-off-the-press debut novel, Fragile Animals, in which an ex-Catholic woman travels to the Isle of Bute seeking solace, but ends up discovering something wholly more frightening and alluring.

Following on from a hugely successful event at the 2021 festival, we’re delighted to welcome back author of The Young Team and festival favourite Graeme Armstrong to chat with fellow authors Alan Bissett and Brian Conaghan on the theme of Scottish Masculinities.

All three authors have written books that focus on the pitfalls and challenges of growing up male in Scotland today. Brian’s most recent novel, Treacle Town, is about a young man stuck in a world of brutal gang violence, sectarian vendettas and personal tragedy, until he discovers an unlikely escape route. Alan’s latest book, Lads, is a toolkit for teenage boys on respect and consent, helping them call out bad behaviour and giving them the confidence to be their best selves.

This year, all three authors have been working on a project with young people in Renfrewshire schools – come along to hear what they’ve learnt so far with Renfrewshire school librarian Kenneth Naismith.

At nearly 30, Steph’s adult life has followed a clockwork pattern of contraceptive pills and pomegranate seeds. Weighed down by the looming expectations of her age, fertility and motherhood, Steph tries to ignore the pull of the underworld. But as the music builds and pleasure grows, is it any surprise that she finds herself yearning for the seeds?

Playwright and poet Imogen Stirling and producer and multi-instrumentalist Susan Bear present a brand new fusion of poetry, theatre and live drum and bass, which was originally commissioned by Push The Boat Out festival and the National Theatre of Scotland. Contemporising the Greek myth of Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, this performance delves into female choice, sexual autonomy and ownership with unbridled, sensuous joy.

This 30-minute performance will be followed by a discussion about its themes chaired by Beth Cochrane.


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