The inaugural Byres Road Book Festival boasted an impressive set list of poets and writers for such a new and budding festival, a product of the partnership between Byres Road and Lanes Business Improvement District, Glasgow Life, Waterstones and Oxfam. Between the 23rd and 26th of September the festival had poetry readings, author talks, writing workshops and book-binding classes featuring some of Scotland’s finest writers and publishers.
“Murder with a Smile” on the Friday night featured a panel of comedy-crime authors, Aline Templeton, Douglas Skelton, Matt Bendoris, and leader of the discussion Kaite Welsh, who between them conducted a hilariously infectious rapport entertaining the audience throughout. When asked what makes their novels specifically so funny, Douglas Skelton replied “it’s in our Glasgow DNA – we’ll always find a way to wisecrack our way through something!”
Booker Prize nominee Graeme Macrae Burnet and Infinite Ground writer Martin MacInnes held a late night interview in Waterstones. While the books they wrote are thrilling to read, the talented authors did not showcase their enigmatic writing style in person, making the interview lacklustre and repetitive at times.
“Poetry Busking” was the highlight of the festival by far, featuring eight poets all based in and around Glasgow. Each would perform to the audience in the Oxfam bookshop, giving emotional readings of poems about war, feminism, love, and the city of Glasgow itself. Katie Ailes, a PhD student at Strathclyde, performed her poem “For My Daughter” – a powerful protest piece which rejects the sexist expectations and labels given to women. Ailes was thrilled to take part in the initiative and commended the impressive line-up for the festival.
Saturday kicked off with a cheery discussion on forensic soil tracking from crime novelist Lin Anderson, who has worked in collaboration with Professor Lorna Dawson, an expert in the field, on her latest novel. Oxfam set the scene for a murder mystery game hosted by crime author Russel McLean, scripted by Ann Cleeves and later in the day Douglas Lindsay spoke about how his book The Long Midnight of Barney was adapted into a feature film starring Robert Carlyle. Later, award-winning novelist Denise Mina discussed her work in graphic novels and comics.
The events on Sunday delved into the aesthetics of books with Oxfam holding workshops on origami, screen printing, and a pop-up venture, The Depressed Cake Shop, aiming to raise awareness for mental health issues.
Deborah Murray, project manager for the festival and the Byres Road and Lanes business improvement district, said: “The West End has long been home to, and associated with, a large number of writers, and Byres Road is the heart of the West End. Many of our current crop of writers feel a strong affinity with the area, and virtually everyone we approached about this inaugural event was delighted to be involved, and agreed straightaway.” This new and exciting festival helped to foster an atmosphere for literary discussion and offered many opportunities to meet and speak with renowned local authors and poets.