Margins is Glasgow’s newest grassroots book and music festival

Doug Johnstone, Ewan Morrison Tom Leonard and Withered Hand perform

Margins is Glasgow’s newest grassroots book and music festival

Photo: Neil Thomas Douglas

Callum Ritchie finds out about the big names taking part in Glasgow’s newest grassroots book and music festival.

Imagine just starting a festival. Just saying, right there and then ‘there’s a gap in the market, and I’m going to fill it.’ It’s not such a great step for Mark Buckland; when newly graduated from university, he said to himself ‘I’m going to start a publishing company’ and two years later his company Cargo have published a high-profile anthology, two novels, and pioneered e-book/print-on-demand technology in Scotland.

However, Cargo’s latest effort, Margins Book and Music Festival, a cluster of events taking place at Stereo in Glasgow over one weekend and designed to warm literary audiences up for the coming Aye Write! festival, is seriously impressive even by his get-up-and-go standards.

‘There are so many good live literature events going in Scotland now, we thought it would be a good idea to tie them all together, but also bring in writers of different generations,’ he says. ‘It’s about joining new writers together with far more established names: showing off that Scottish – specifically Scottish – writing has never been stronger. And we thought we’d put some live music in there too.’

Over four days, Margins will feature showcases from all of the best-known live literature nights in the central belt – Glasgow’s Monosyllabic, Words Per Minute, Seeds of Thought and Edinburgh’s Golden Hour are all present and correct – alongside much longer readings and discussion nights with more established writers: Doug Johnstone, Rodge Glass, Alan Bissett and Ewan Morrison will all perform, each with new writers like Allan Wilson and Kirstin Innes on their bills. The real surprise is that elder statespeople like Tom Leonard and the recently-announced Scots Makar Liz Lochhead will also be taking part in these events.

‘We’re so excited about Liz and Tom agreeing to take part,’ Buckland says. ‘We wanted to put on an alternative, different book festival, and Tom we felt was someone whose contribution to literature isn’t reconised as much as it should be.’

Indeed, Leonard will be taking part in the festival’s closing event, alongside Morrison and live music from Burnt Island, Where We Lay Our Heads, and Edinburgh lyrical legend Withered Hand, only a few of the live music acts sprinkled throughout the programme.

‘We’re really keen to pull in people who just want to take a chance and see something different,’ Buckland explains. ‘That’s why we’ve kept the ticket prices ultra-low: at £1 a head, we’re definitely not doing this to make money! We just really care about Scottish literature, and allowing more and more people to be exposed to it.’

Although the event is run by one publishing company, it’s not, as some events can be, entirely a showcase for their own books, either: Johnstone, for example, will be promoting his Faber-published new novel Smokeheads which you can buy on the night.

‘These people are good writers. I don’t care who they’re published by,’ says Buckland. ‘It’s about a passion for the writing; it’s not a competition.’

Margins Festival, Thu 17–Sun 20 Feb, Stereo, Glasgow. Events at 4pm & 7pm, all tickets £1, full listings

Margins Book and Music Festival

A hip young festival of music and books.


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