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  • Alistair Braidwood

Who Are You Calling Cosmopolitan Scum?: It’s the Scots Whay Hae! Edinburgh International Book

Scots Whay Hae! went to Charlotte Square with the aim of putting together an Edinburgh Book Festival podcast and the results of that trip are now ready for all ears. We were worried that things would be a bit disjointed, but we soon realised that this year’s Festival was going to be dominated by the 50th anniversary of the 1962 International Writer’s Conference, and the attempt to recreate or at least reflect the level of debate that occurred in Edinburgh half a century ago with a 2012 version. A theme emerged.

First off we were lucky that at least one person we know involved in books was up before midday, and it was our old friend and regular contributor, Ronnie Young. For the price of a coffee, which is more than most get, Ronnie chatted about his thoughts of this year’s Book Festival as a whole, his own personal highlights, and then he got to talking about the 2012 International Writer’s Conference and particularly James Kelman’s refusal to take part (which was the talk of the literary steamie that particular morning). Ali and Ronnie then began to start chatting like a Scottish Statler and Waldorf about how things were probably better in the days where literary giants threw insults at each other and strangers down the stairs, when the rain stopped play.

After the reappearance of the sun, Ronnie made way for two of the Cargo crew, previous podcast guest and Cargo MD, Mark Buckland, and Editor-in-Chief, Gill Tasker, who just happens to know far more about the original 1962 conference than most, having just worked on and published the original conference proceedings (see below), which have been edited by Angela Bartie and Eleanor Bell. For those who are not aware, the role call of writers attending in 1962 include Muriel Spark, Henry Miller, Hugh MacDiarmid, William Burroughs, Norman Mailer, Alexander Trocchi and many, many more.

Tales are told of spiked drinks, physical violence and good old fashioned name calling. 1962 saw a clash of cultures, ideologies, movements and egos, and the story behind it is just fascinating. It is no overstatement that this was where the Edinburgh International Book Festival began and for anyone in love with not only writing but also the people who write, and who in turn shape our lives, then this is a must read. And if you’re a fan of any of those writers mentioned above then it also contains fantastic black and white photos of them all.

Gill and Mark also talk about the collection of poetry, short prose, non-fiction and even cartoons that is Elsewhere, a collaboration between Cargo, McSweeney’s and the Edinburgh International Book Festival which features too many famous writers to mention here so I’ll flag up a few of those that readers and listeners of Scots Whay Hae! may find of most interest. They include Alasdair Gray, Louise Welsh, Alan Warner, Don Patterson, Rodge Glass, William McIlvanney, Denise Mina etc, etc, and the book, which can be broken down into four separate books, was one of the talking points of the festival. I should note that the Elsewhere launch was one of the booziest do’s of the festival, and is possibly the reason for their many mentions on this podcast! In truth, Cargo and Scots Whay Hae! have become good friends, and we love it when our friends become succsesful.

You can listen to the podcast, and subscribe, by going to our iTunes page or by RSS. But we always like to leave you with a little something extra on Scots Whay Hae! and while we were in Edinburgh we also popped up to the National Library to record Alan Bissett’s one man show The Red Hourglass. We’ve also shot it on video and hopefully you’ll be able to see highlights of that soon. As a taster, the podcast ends with a short audio clip of Alan’s show. If you do get the chance to see it we highly recommend you do so.

There will be some other treats from our trip to Edinburgh to follow but in the meantime we hope you enjoy listening to the above as much as we did recording it.


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