This week

The Herald - Arts - - Arts - Keith Bruce

It was a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of one of Scot­land’s na­tional per­form­ing arts com­pa­nies who sug­gested the best end­ing to last week’s con­tri­bu­tion in this slot – my orig­i­nal idea hav­ing been con­fus­ingly cut short due to a pro­duc­tion er­ror. Af­ter I’d cat­a­logued the venue prob­lems in our cap­i­tal city, the clos­ing ques­tion which be­gan (and ended) “Does Ed­in­burgh …” she pithily con­cluded “give a s***?” Which was ar­guably rather more per­ti­nent to the prob­lem than my more mod­er­ate “de­serve the fes­ti­val?”

The mis­take, far from be­ing the dis­as­ter it first ap­peared to my dis­ap­pointed eyes, has in­tro­duced an interactive el­e­ment to my deal­ings with read­ers over the past week. On nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions – well, twice – I have been able to open con­ver­sa­tions with the three-word in­ter­ro­ga­tion “de­serve the fes­ti­val?” and pre-empt the first query of my en­counter. Watch out: this could be­come a reg­u­lar fea­ture where we en­cour­age my read­ers – both of you – to sub­mit snappy sign-off lines far wit­tier than I am ever likely to come up with.

Of course, the live per­for­mance el­e­ment of this rad­i­cal re­vi­sion of the art of col­umn writ­ing is also cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant, even when only three words are in­volved. Just as po­ets have em­braced po­etry slam per­for­mance com­pe­ti­tions and nov­el­ists must now en­ter­tain at lit­er­ary fes­ti­vals as a reg­u­lar part of their job, so jour­nal­ists of­ten han­ker af­ter a live au­di­ence for their opin­ions, be­yond the long-suf­fer­ing col­leagues who have had to lis­ten to them re­hearse this week’s di­a­tribe in the pub. It is at those same lit­er­ary fes­ti­vals that arts jour­nal­ists are now of­ten seen, in­ter­view­ing writ­ers of longer stuff pub­licly and – in­creas­ingly – in­dulging th­ese per­for­mance fan­tasies.

By way of il­lus­tra­tion, it is hard to find a male writer at this year’s Aye Write! book fes­ti­val in Glas­gow who does of a Rock Star Fan­ta­sist.

Al­though, of course, she has ex­quis­ite taste in all things sonic, my col­league Rose­mary Gor­ing harbours no se­cret am­bi­tion to play King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut as far as I am aware. She does, how­ever, have a gig in her own right at Aye Write! this af­ter­noon on the back of her best­selling and widely lauded Scot­land: The Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy. As for me, this evening I shall be pur­su­ing my own rock star fan­tasies with vet­eran in­stru­men­tal sex­tet The Beat Po­ets in the sec­ond­floor ball­room of Sloans, off Glas­gow’s Buchanan Street – a self-pro­moted in­dul­gence to mark my re­cent half-cen­tury. De­serve a party? I should say so. It is an open and en­tirely free event, at which friends, col­leagues and ac­quain­tances will also be able to tap a toe to the ex­cel­lent Easy Orches­tra. You’ll be made most wel­come. Both of you. not share an ob­ses­sion with mu­si­cal per­for­mance, and rock mu­sic in par­tic­u­lar. Hanif Kureishi, Tony Par­sons and Iain Banks have all writ­ten about mu­sic. It seems that Louis de Bernieres doesn’t come to a book fes­ti­val un­less he can bring his in­stru­ment. The Aye Write! pro­gramme has in­cluded se­ri­ous anal­y­sis of 1960s mu­sic, by Joe Boyd and Peter Doggett, and the sounds of the 1970s, by Michael Bracewell and Lavinia Green­law. Nov­el­ist Toby Litt, jour­nal­ist and mu­si­cian Doug John­stone, and bona fide mu­si­cian Roddy Woomble of Idlewild have looked at the re­al­ity and fiction of the lives of con­tem­po­rary mu­si­cians, while last night Belle and Se­bas­tian’s Stu­art Mur­doch was in con­ver­sa­tion with poet Si­mon Ar­mitage, whose latest book, Gig, is ex­plic­itly sub­ti­tled The Life and Times

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