• Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Looking back at a semester of literature

ByMaisy Hallam

Dec 7, 2019

Each year, the autumn months take the ready-rich tapestry that is Edinburgh’s literary scene and take it to new heights. The last four months have been an unrelentingly busy time indeed.

Let’s start with the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, which celebrated its 31st year this October on the theme Beyond Words. This two-week event showcases the best of traditional folklore and the most hauntingly lovely spoken word performers from Scotland and beyond. There’s no doubt that the literature scene in Edinburgh could ever be the same without its abundance of storytelling performances, the Scottish Storytelling Centre standing proud on the Royal Mile as a reminder to us all of this cultural heritage traditional in Scotland and indeed all Celtic regions. We published a beautiful array of reviews from across the Storytelling Festival, from a talk by George Orwell’s son to a series of ‘inspiralling’ tales about the Corryvreckan whirlpool.

In November, Edinburgh saw the return of the Radical Book Fair, run by local favourite Lighthouse Bookshop. Four days of events ran non-stop across that chilly November weekend, inspiring minds and inflaming passions. The literary lovers of Edinburgh saw horror fiction take a feminist twist as Scottish writers took to the stage to read their women-focused horror stories – not a damsel in distress in sight. We heard from artists using their love for the creative to bite their thumb at the patriarchy. We heard from infinitely many authors of new books, celebrating not only writing from Scotland but writing that hopes to change the whole world. Is there a place for radicalism in Edinburgh’s literary scene, we asked our readers? You better believe there is.

Most recently, Book Week Scotland passed us by – another yearly event, Book Week Scotland aims to celebrate the joy of books and reading all over the country. Scotland’s best playwrights, poets, storytellers and wordsmiths came together this November to share ideas and experiences.  Among some of the most radical were an exploration of LGBTQ+ themes in Scottish literature, how written violence against women has become sickeningly gratuitous and nothing short of misogynistic, and a slam poetry performance about reconciling BAME and Scottish identities for those who don’t know what they can call home.

And finally, Scottish literary mag Extra Teeth was launched last week. The first edition features the likes of Kirsty Logan, Martin McInnes, and Jess Brough, and many more, celebrating the diverse range of authors and writing styles across Scotland. For the first time, Extra Teeth accumulates all this raw creative talent in one place, in the digestible form of a contemporary zine.

Outwith Edinburgh, what else have book-lovers seen this semester? The Booker Prize winner – or should I say, winners – were announced in October to great controversy. Viewers were outraged that Bernadine Evaristo, first woman of colour to ever win the Booker Prize should have to share her victory with Margaret Atwood – an esteemed author to be sure, but she even claimed herself she didn’t have any desire to win. This blatant disregard not only of the judge’s rulebook but of the gravity behind Evaristo’s win, the historical impact of a woman of colour winning the prize for the first time and the kick in the teeth that comes with having to share that accolade with an already esteemed white author – well, it left the community enraged at the decision, to be sure.

All in all, it’s been a wild time in the literature world, and here at The Student we’ve been working hard to cover it all. Between reviews of local storytelling events, interviews with local literature heroes – Eris Young, trans activist and writer-in-residence at Lighthouse, to name one – and an uncountable number of poems of the week, we’ve had a great semester.

Illustration: Frannie Wise

By Maisy Hallam

By day, Maisy is Literature Editor for The Student and a fourth-year student of Linguistics and English Language at The University of Edinburgh. By night, she is an environmental activist and avid crime fiction reader. Follow her on her slowly developing Twitter, @lostinamaiz.