Big Lit 2019: beauty, humour & silence

What a few days Big Lit 2019 was! 1st to 5th of May.

Everything I went to was interesting: some things enlightened me, others blew me away. Henry Bell’s autobiography of John McLean is set to lift this hero of Scotland further into folks’ hearts and minds. Karin Fernald‘s depiction of the life of Florence Nightingale was immense. Bernard MacLaverty graced Saturday with a wonderful talk and readings from Midwinter Break. Rosemary Goring spoke with such ease, Alan Taylor was funny and smooth. And (of course) Chrys Salt wove her magic words and positive presence in among the whole thing.

And all the time at Big Lit, volunteers rush to make the readers and other contributors welcome and to guide the listeners and foot-tappers easily from one event to the next. The hospitality of Chrys Salt and her husband Richard McFarlane is open-hearted; the support of key Big Lit people like Hilary Hawker and Ken Smyth is genuine and consistent. Soup, salmon, vegan, gluten-free everythings for the performers – all we needed – all thought-through with ease.

A few highlights then. Of course, the chance to share bits of my novel and some poems with a very good-sized crowd at the Crafty Crow. And not only that: to do so with my new friend David Mark Williams (Odd Sock Exchange & Papaya Fantasia), an excellent poet and short fiction writer and a top man. We will now, he and I, travel the country as The Skinny Guys (maybe The Skinny Bartirts for Glesga; maybe The Slender Fellaes for Dumfries).

Another highlight. Sasha Mitchell and Pete Moser made Friday night explode with songs and poems of Sasha’s father, Adrian Mitchell – joy and punchiness and then more joy.

Another. Reading with fellow Dove Tales writers and Angela Shapiro, sharing moving poems and accounts of the Nazi holocaust. Added to by the presence of Heather Valencia who brought insights and poetry from her bi-lingual translation of Avrom Sutzkever’s work.

And more. Discovering poets Annie Wright and Nicola Jackson and listening to Alan McLure‘s lyrics and voice. Shooting the breeze with John Cavanagh and Brian Johnstone after their poetry and music gig. Bill and Caro Barlow’s wonderful puppetry. Chik J Duncan always. Being part of the launch of Southlight 25.

One thing more. Peter Marinker read ‘Birth Was The Death Of Him’: words spoken and stage directions spoken. This was done with all the poise Beckett intended. He held us all for half an hour, pauses announced, words delivered beautifully, until the final stage direction: 30 seconds silence. What a 30 seconds that was. In the middle of creative activity and energy, a Beckettian silence.