Off the Shelf

Peggy Hughes of Literary Dundee on five events that excite and inspire

I’m always on the spy for events that dress to impress: events that stimulate my imagination as a fan and reader, but that also make me question my own impulses as a literature programmer. A writer who reads their work and shows their inner workings well – as for instance International Literature Showcase writer Max Porter did with huge grace, candour and humour at this year’s Wigtown Book Festival – is unbeatably good. But as Jarred McGinnis wrote in his thought-provoking piece: ‘Every book is different’ and ‘Literature is everyone's’ so it’s very exciting to see programmers and makers push the boundaries to create unique and memorable experiences for everyone – authors, performers and listeners all. Here are just a few events that have tilted my windmills recently…

Golden Hour Presents

Golden Hour was among the first literary cabarets that swept Edinburgh, an early noughties pre-cursor to Neu! Reekie! and Rally & Broad, hosted by poet Ryan Van Winkle. It featured a line-up of writers interspersed with short films and music on a stage in an old church. With Golden Hour Presents Van Winkle has added singer / songwriter Hailey Beavis to the producing mix, to reboot and return with their best and most experimental foot forward: in its first outing, ‘WHITE’, a group of writers and artists were invited to respond collaboratively to the eponymous theme. Edinburgh’s Leith Theatre and everybody/thing in it were blanched white and cumulatively led to a riotous crescendo of colour and noise on stage and off. Have a look at some pictures here.

WHITE at Edinburgh's Leith Theatre as part of Golden Hour Presents

Silent Reading Dundee

From noise to silence: why shouldn’t the shared experience of a literary event also offer a space for the magical, intimate act of reading? Silent Reading Parties started in Seattle, spread from the US to the UK and landed in Dundee thanks to organiser Mariel Symeonidou. Once a month, Silent Reading Dundee turns up the lights, turns down the music, and invites people to drink together and read to themselves for an hour, with optional book-related chat afterwards.

Silent Reading in Dundee


Festivals normally bring people together in real space and time, but ScotLitFest, much like ILS, invited you to the discussion and debate no matter where you were, via Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo and Google hangouts. This virtual book festival took place in June, bringing together a host of the best and brightest Scottish authors as part of The Saltire Society‘s 80th anniversary celebrations. Its carbon footprint was non-existent, its ambitions were huge and its potential reach and afterlife infinite. Hello, The Future? Is that you?

WTF: Wigtown the Festival 

WTF is what happens when you hand the reins to the teenagers you’re trying to reach: Wigtown Book Festival opted to involve local young people in designing and delivering a festival for their peers. Now in its fifth year, Wigtown's YA programme features an array of entertaining, thought provoking and creative free events aimed at 13-to-25-year-olds, devised by 13-to-25-year-olds. Simply wonderful.

WTF - Wigtown's YA programme

Alpha by Barroux

This August, Barroux presented the world première performance of Alpha, a son-et-lumière dramatic realisation of his powerful graphic novel. The English version of the graphic novel itself has a fascinating backstory, coming into being from a translation workshop at the festival in 2015. This performance, with added translator Sarah Ardizzone and actor Thierry Lawson, tells the story of a West African migrant who leaves Ivory Coast to find his family in France, through theatre, live drawing and a powerful score and is memorable for telling a powerful story well, and for using the multimedia available so subtly in order to do so.

Alpha by Barroux

Photo credits:

WHITE: Chris Scott
Silent Reading Party: Silent Reading Dundee
Wigtown Book Festival: Colin Tennant
Alpha: Edinburgh International Book Festival.