Book boss aims to keep writers in Scotland
Former Edinburgh Book Festival director Jenny Brown is to take over as head of the Scottish Arts Council‘s literature department in April. She says she is determined to try to stem the flow of Scottish writers heading south with lucrative book deals from London- based publishers. Big-selling Scottish authors like James Kelman. Irvine Welsh and A. L. Kennedy are all published in London.
‘There. certainly still seems to be this swing towards going south for a lot of writers.‘ said Brown. who presented television arts show Swirls/r [looks and last year co-ordinated Readiscovery. Scotland‘s book campaign. ‘lt's certainly not an ideal situation because we‘d obviously prefer to see Scottish writers who are writing about their own culture being published by Scottish publishing firms. Most writers have to think in financial terms. but organisations like SAC are helping to reverse the process by making conditions a bit more comfortable for writers in Scotland by providing grants and bursaries.‘
Lorraine Fannen. director of the Scottish Publishers Association. believes the sheer financial muscle of London publishing houses. which are often part of multi-national media
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Literature director Jenny Brown calls Frank Muir’s bluff empires. makes it hard for Scottish writers to stay with Scottish publishers. even if they wanted to. ‘llowever their careers need not suffer if they stay here.‘ said Fannen. ‘Writers like Canadian author Margaret Atwood stayed loyal to her roots and has; become internationally famous. l‘rn afraid it‘s down to the writer at the end of the day. No one can twist their arms.‘ Jamie Byng. joint managing director
of independent Lilinburgh publisher Canongatc. believes there is some cause for optimism. ‘It used to be the case that a writer would barer get a month‘s salary as their first advance in Scotland. but that‘s changing as interest in Scottish literature increases.‘ Byng said. ‘Sales of Scottish books in Iingland are steadily rising. so there‘s no reason why we can‘t compete on equal terms with them. People like ourselves should be willing to up the stakes and pay more to retain our writer's.‘
However \Valter Cairns. retiring as SAC literature director in April. is more cautious. ‘lt is a fact of life that the hotrses down south can offer far more money to writers.‘ he said. ‘Scottish writers themselves are taking advantage of the current interest in Scottish language and urban realism by commanding those high fees. It is very difficult for the Scottish Arts Council to completely change this state of affairs.‘ (Mark Bain)
I Another new face on the Scottish literary scene is journalist and broadcaster Jan l’airley who has taken over from Shona Munro as director of the bi—annual lidinburgh Book Festival. ()ne of her ambitions is to make the festival a yearly event.
Training shoes are symbol of youth identity
Sociologist Steve Miles took an unusual approach to his research into youth culture - he spent several weeks working in a sports shop to study the significance of trainers. ‘Trainers are probably the most symbolically loaded type of consumer goods you could think of,’ he said. Miles, a sociology lecturer at Glasgow University, is looking at the way young people create their identity through brand name clothing, rather than through a readily identifiable style like punk or mods which have tended to characterise subcultural ‘tribes' in the past. Trainers in particular have become a desirable item which are used to separate one group from another. To exasperated
parents fielding demands for the latest trainer designs, the differences between brands are invisible to the naked eye. But before the jury of playground peers, a stripe in the wrong place can lead to conviction of heinous fashion crime.
Miles is presenting the results of his research at a conference at Glasgow University, which has been organised to consider the changing way young people are adapting to adulthood. ‘The transition from school to work has changed enormously,’ said conference organiser Dr Andy Furlong. ‘The collapse of the youth labour market means it’s no longer possible to leave school at sixteen and go straight into full-time employment. Kids are staying
on at school because they don’t know what else to do. They’re scared to leave.’
Miles added: ‘As a sense of community and the family breaks down, what young people buy takes on more significance. We don’t know the long term impact. Will these things have the same significance when they are older. If the latest brand of trainer is important now, will the latest model of caravan or camcorder be equally important when they’re older.’ (Eddie Gibb)
Youth Research - Issues for the 21st Century is at The Grosvenor hotel, Glasgow from Fri 26-Sun 28 Jan. Call 0141 330 4667 for further details.
Max Ernst: the Surreal thing
Gallery goes gaga for Dada
‘Without Surrealism there wouldn’t have been Monty Python,’ said Richard Calvocoressi, keeper of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. With the news of a recent bequest of over 130 works by world famous surrealists, the Edinburgh gallery is building up an internationally important collection of this subversive and influential art movement.
Gabrielle Keiller, a champion golfer and avid collector of 20th century art, left her collection of works by Dali, Duchamp, Max Ernst and Magritte. The Keiller collection, which also includes manuscripts, letters and books, is the ‘most important bequest to the gallery in its 36-year history’, according to Calvocoressi. Last year 26 Surreal works from the Penrose collection were bought by the gallery with National Lottery money.
Cocking a snack at convention, defying stylistic conformity and famed for its melting watches and moustachioed Mona Lisas, Surrealism has ‘influenced our whole visual culture’, according to Calvocoressi. ‘From cinema, advertising and television, its effect has been profound,’ he said. ‘lt’s accessible, touching our unconscious life of dreams, phobias and desires.’
Over the last eight years the Gallery has pursued a policy of collecting Surrealist and Dada art, but with its purchase grant suffering from Government cuts, further acquisitions are unlikely for a while.
The Keiller collection is currently being catalogued and will go on display next year. (Susanna Beaumont)
Listening, not talking is way forward for drug campaign
Last week the leaders of Scotland’s three main opposition parties joined Scottish secretary Michael Forsyth to admit they were ‘losing the battle’ against drugs. Latest figures show that 139 drug addicts. or suspected addicts. died in 1994 and all agreed that something must be done. The result was the launch of a consultation exercise. though it looks rather as if the way forward has already been agreed before responses are gathered. Adopting a reef-knot logo. Scotland Against Drugs was proposed as an umbrella slogan to be adopted in all future anti-drug efforts.
This is. essentially. a corporate identity. though it is unclear whether
Scotland Against Drugs was launched by politicians, but the people at the frontline must be allowed to run the show if it is to succeed, argues Eddie Gibb.
those agencies which are being asked to adopt it regard the idea as helpful. The diversity of drug initiatives. from Calton Athletic‘s strict drug-free regime for reforming addicts to the harm reduction work of Crew 2000 at raves. are different responses to the complex reasons for drug-taking. It is worth asking if a universal slogan which brands every scheme may be counter-productive.
The language of the politicians was combatative — fight. battle — and there is a danger that in the determination to present a united front. valid differences
in thinking are swept under the carpet.
Adopting the SM) logo on every drug- related leaflet or poster runs the risk of turning it into a meaningless badge of
If it is to succeed. SAI) must be clearer about its objectives. Are the reasons that people use ecstasy and heroine and 'l‘ernazepam so similar that they can be tackled as part of the same campaign'.’ Privately some experts in the field express concern that Scotland Against Drugs may be too close to the now discredited ‘Just Say No' message.
Having started this potentially valuable process. the politicians must keep a low profile to allow those with direct experience of drug abuse — both users and professionals ~ to consider the best way forward. ()theiwise people will continue to die or suffer the misery of addiction. The only response then. as the clamour for something In I); done grows louder once more. would be to launch yet another initiative.
4 The List 26 Jan-8 Feb 1996