Jenny Niven: 'Muriel Spark was versatile, funny, dark, precise and completely original'

Jenny Niven – 'Spark was versatile, funny, dark, precise and completely original'

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Events taking place as part of Muriel Spark 100, a 12-month celebration honouring a writer who truly was the crème de la crème

Muriel Spark 100 is a year-long programme which marks the centenary of the birth of one of Scotland's greatest writers. 'Spark was versatile, funny, dark, precise and completely original,' says Creative Scotland's Head of Literature, Languages and Publishing Jenny Niven. 'Her contribution to Scottish writing can be felt in so much contemporary work. She was also a fascinating person. From her incredible circle of influence to her fascination with aesthetics and style, there is so much that is worthy of exploration.'

Among the highlights are a major exhibition at the National Library of Scotland, based on Spark's archive. 'It's a big moment for the library, as hers is the largest archive of any writer they've ever acquired,' says Niven. 'Her letters are extremely revealing, and so for that deep-dive into her work the exhibition will be unparalleled.'

The NLS will also host The International Style of Muriel Spark, where personal items like handbags and dresses will be on display alongside private correspondence, notebooks, manuscripts and diaries. 'She was an exemplary literary stylist but she was also very concerned with her own style,' adds curator Colin McIlroy. 'We thought it would be nice to have at least some reference to that as well as the fact that dress and style are so important in her books.'

Spark's connections with Edinburgh will be explored through exhibitions, readings, talks, screenings, tours and workshops. For those outside the central belt, festivals all over Scotland will be exploring Muriel Spark's work. 'StAnza [the St Andrews poetry festival] have commissioned a range of contemporary writers to write new poetry based on quotes from Spark's work, which will be presented in readings at the festival,' says Niven. 'There's also a series of BBC radio documentaries with Val McDermid, Louise Welsh and AL Kennedy exploring her life and work, as well as documentaries for both BBC and Sky Arts.'

For Niven, Muriel Spark 100 is a corrective to the historical domination of Scottish literature by male writers. 'I do think if the centenary programme asks the question of why we value the contributions of women differently, then it's a significant achievement.'

Muriel Spark 100, various venues, nationwide,

The International Style of Muriel Spark

A virtual journey to the places Muriel Spark called home, with archive material and personal artefacts illustrating her life and work.

Muriel Spark Centenary Symposium

A two-day academic symposium on the work of the writer, with five panel sessions and two 50-minute lectures.

Muriel Spark – A Centenary Celebration

A display of printed items and artworks associated with Muriel Spark, to mark her 100th birthday.

Mistress of Unease: The Poetry of Muriel Spark

In a broadcast talk, The Art of Verse, Muriel Spark insisted, 'Although most of my life has been devoted to fiction, I have always thought of myself as a poet' and that 'for creative writing of any sort an early apprenticeship as a poet is a wonderful stimulant and start'. From this starting-point, former Edinburgh Makar…

The Gallery Book Lounge: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The NGS book group for lovers of art and reading returns with Muriel Spark’s 1961 short novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the legendary tale of the Edinburgh schoolteacher who devotes her middle years to her ‘girls’. Led by artist Katharine Aarrestad, this session marks the centenary of the birth of Muriel Spark.

Muriel Spark: A Centenary Celebration

Alan Taylor discusses his funny memoir about Muriel Spark, Appointment in Arezzo, with Candia McWilliam and Zoe Strachan, two novelists who have written new forewords to brand new editions of Muriel’s classic novels Robinson and Memento Mori respectively.

Stories from Scotland's Audacious Women

A shared reading and discussion session with stories and poems by some of Scotland's most audacious women. They range from a fearless performer from Edinburgh's Cowgate, and a forgotten poet from Nairn, to Muriel Spark whose centenary it is this year.