NTS history and Gutter magazine latest National Library of Scotland events
Kirstin Innes finds out about a new events programme set to revolutionise the National Library of Scotland
Eagle-eyed readers of the Around Town listings may have already noticed that change is afoot at the National Library of Scotland. Over the last few months, there have been an increasing number of interesting, well thought-out, exciting and downright noisy evening events occurring in a building traditionally associated with academic study, historic archives, and of course silence. Recently, human rights activist Peter Tatchell has used the archive to give a talk about his inspirations and young writers Doug Johnstone and Alan Bissett gave a performance-come-jam-session. There’s even more to come over 2010. It’s all the work of Duncan Welsh, the new(ish) events programmer at the National Library, who is excited about the possibilities, and wants people to start thinking about the building differently.
‘The Library is a really inspiring place to come into: we really are the keepers of Scotland’s history,’ he says. ‘I want to use that position to encourage new forms of writing, new ways of looking ahead. I just felt that we had something really unique: this enormous archive, numbering over fourteen million materials. We can play on that: there might be other venues within Edinburgh running events, but we’re able to base all of our events around items that no-one else has. We’re increasing the footfall into the library, which is in itself is great, but hopefully that will increase the number of people looking around and signing up for library cards. And all of these events will be free where possible: that’s really important, too.’
A good example of this is the current programme around the Curtain Up: 40 Years of Scottish Theatre exhibition: there has already been one booked-out panel discussion with the original cast of John McGrath’s legendary play The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil, with upcoming events looking at the formation of the National Theatre of Scotland and the importance of the Traverse.
‘We wouldn’t necessarily always be associated with theatre,’ says Welsh, ‘but I think it’s really important for us to draw attention to those other aspects of our archive, show we’re not just representing the literary community, but all walks of life across Scotland.’
Next for the library: AL Kennedy and Janice Galloway have both signed up to talk about their inspirations, and Welsh is planning new recurring performance night, in collaboration with the excellent new magazine of Scottish writing, Gutter. It’s going to be called A Night In The Gutter, which gives you an idea of a tone not usually associated with a library.
‘Gutter is a wonderful publication, and I think it’s really important that the library start making these associations with the new wave of authors coming through. we’ll be inviting some well-known literary figures to host each night, showcase newer writers who’ve been featured in Gutter, and really get people thinking of us as a place they could come in the evening.’
The Birth of the National Theatre of Scotland, Tue 9 Feb, A Night In The Gutter, Thu 22 Apr. See www.nls.uk/events for more.