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