Interviews

Future Projects from Jenny & Rachel (aka Rally & Broad)

In which Rally (Jenny Lindsay) and Broad (Rachel McCrum) let you know what they’re going to be up to, now that Rally & Broad is drawing to a close. The final tix are flying out the door, pals – Edina  is sold out in advance (but with a limited number available on the door): there are still a few left for Glasgow on Sunday 19th June, with AL Kennedy, A New International, Jonnie Common, Colin McGuire, Roseanne Reid and Georgia Barlett-McNeil!

Once More, With Feeling! Oh yes… xx

R&B

 

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Six Questions For…. JO CLIFFORD!

Jo Clifford is known as one of Scotland’s leading playwrights. She has written about 80 performed scripts in just about every dramatic medium, some of which have been performed all over the world. Rally & Broad are delighted to welcome her to our Glasgow stage this month on Sunday 24 April. Tickets here!  Josephine Sillars interviews her below!

JoClifford

  1. As well as being one of Scotland’s leading playwrights, you are also an actress, poet and teacher! Which medium are you the most comfortable in (and is there anything you can’t do?) 

I’m rubbish at football. And weightlifting is not my strong point. Of the things you list that I can do, I love doing all of them…I guess because acting/performing was something I was blocked in for about 40 years, I feel I have to catch up a lot of lost time. And get the hugest satisfaction and pleasure from…

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6 questions for…Liam McCormick!

‘I’m not weird you’re weird.’

Liam McCormick is a young poet and performer based in Glasgow. He was one of the BBC 1Xtra Words First Glasgow poets and was subsequently selected by BBC 1Xtra to represent the Glasgow scene, performing at The Roundhouse and on-air, and also gaining mentorship from Kate Tempest, George the Poet and Bohdan Piasecki from Jan – June 2016

Our Rally & Broad wunderwummin on the ground in Glasgow, Josephine Sillars, sat down with Liam to ask him some questions…

Rally & Broad ‘First Editions’ – Sunday 2oth March, Stereo, Glasgow.With Stina Tweeddale (Honeyblood), Janice Galloway, Louie (Hector Bizerk) & Jack of Diamonds aka Toby Mottershead! £6 on t’door or a little cheaper in advance here

 

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Liam McCormick: Photo by Bibi June

  1. Recently you were selected by BBC 1Xtra to represent Glasgow as part of Words First! How have you been finding the experience, and what are you most looking forward to in the next few months? 

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6 Questions for…Malachy Tallack & Chrissy Barnacle!

Malachy & Chrissy will be performing together as part of our Ampersand Sessions on Sunday 21st February at Stereo, GlasgowStereo, Glasgow, as part of an amazing bill including Emma Pollock, Katie Ailes & Catherine Wilson (Loud Poets), and Jenny Lindsay & Heir of the Cursed (formerly Genesee). Tickets just £5 in advance or £6 on the door! ‘mon down!

In the meantime, our intrepid wummin on the ground in Glasgow, Josephine Sillars, asked Malachy and Chrissy a few searching questions…

  1. I’m very excited to hear what your collaborative piece is. Without giving too much away, what can we expect to hear from you both?

Malachy: We’ve written a couple of songs together before, and we’ll probably be playing at least one of those on Sunday. Hopefully we’ll have a new song or two for the occasion as well

Chrissy: Harmonies and hooks, I hope. With minimal choruses.

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6 questions for…Ryan Van Winkle

Ryan Van Winkle is a poet, live artist, podcaster and critic living in Edinburgh. His critically praised first collection, Tomorrow, We Will Live Here, was published by Salt in 2010 and won the Crashaw Prize. He was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson fellowship in 2012 and was listed as one of Canongate’s ‘Future Forty’ in 2013. His poetry / theatre experiment ‘Red, Like Our Room Used to Feel‘ was one of the top ten best-rated shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012 and in 2015, his second collection ‘The Good Dark’ won the Saltire Society Book of the Year. His poems have appeared in New Writing Scotland, The Prairie Schooner, The American Poetry Review, AGNI and The Australian Book Review. He was born in Connecticut and says ‘Tomato’ like an American.

We are utterly delighted to have Ryan as our headline poet at Rally & Broad’s ‘Hangover Special’ at The Bongo Club on Friday 22nd January. Ahead of this, Rally & Broad Officer-In-Chief Josephine Sillars asked him a few questions…

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1. Your latest collection, The Good Dark, recently won the Saltire Society Poetry Book of the Year! How does it feel to have won, and do you have a favourite poem from the collection?

 

Thanks very much. There’s many great books published every year so it was surprising to be nominated and jaw-dropping to hear I’d won. Of course, it feels wonderful to be acknowledged but, mostly, I hope it means a few more people might find their way to my book and to the others on the shortlist. However, that was all the way back in November, so I felt dreamy for a few days and then thought – shit, now I have to write another book.

I don’t really have a favorite poem but I do seem to read ‘Summer Nights, Walking‘ a lot.

2. One of the many projects you have worked on over the past few years was Reel Festivals / Highlight Arts, of which it is the belief that the arts can be used as a tool to promote unity and solidarity with communities and individuals from around the world. How important is this idea in your own literary work?

Thanks to Highlight Arts (nee Reel Festivals) I’ve been privileged to work with brave & talented poets as well as translators &organizers from Iraq, the High North, Pakistan and Syria. I help with literary programming and translating activities which meanspart of what I do is bring poets from the UK together with poets from these regions to work on new translations face to face. It is a very intimate process & I’m proud to facilitate it alongside committed translators and organizers all of whom believe that the creation of good art (and access to it) is paramount. So, while we do have this very beautiful & idealistic objective – the practice itself is tactile and based on making and sharing work. The artists who work together, we feel, have a tangible relationship which can be presented on stage (or in film or books) offering a glimpse into another culture and, importantly, the bonds between friends, artists and peoples.

What I end up thinking about and learning about is how people are wildly kind, generous and loving all over the world and that the differences between people across cultures are far less significant than our similarities. It turns out that kids skip school in Damascus, that radio stations in Erbil play recognizable hits, that there’s people everywhere who enjoy a good boogie. It is always astounding to see in how this kind of common ground, obvious whenever one sits across from another person, helps us to empathize with those whose experiences are wholly unique.

So, with my own poems I feel that the very act of writing something is an act which attempts to bridge a gap between individuals &that requires empathy, imagination and honesty. So, my work doesn’t exist to explicitly ‘promote unity and solidarity with communities and individuals from around the world‘. But might be fair to say that my work with Highlight Arts has been informed by my efforts as a writer – as someone who attempts to use language to close a distance between myself and a reader. I believe, and have witnessed, how we can connect with people whose experiences are outside our own, and these experiences can inform the way we speak and act in our own lives. Art, like the range of human emotions, spans generations and cultures. Anyone who has experienced musicians during a jam session will have seen this and it is the same when poets or visual artists work together. We have a cultural bond with each other which transcends.

Which sounds ridiculously lofty and not at all something I think about when I’m writing a poem. The poems themselves are largely personal affairs, often an effort to explain something of myself to myself.

3. In 2012, you wrote in the Edinburgh Review that ‘for many working in the Edinburgh arts scene, it has been and remains a fight’. In your opinion, is this still the case in 2016?

As a poet I’m fortunate to work in one of the quieter art forms. Writers don’t take up much space or need much in the way of resources which is why Edinburgh is such a great city for us. There’s plenty of events and opportunities on every level – from the grassroots to the professional.

However, as someone whose helped to organize live and loud stuff – theatre and gigs at the Forest and with Forest Fringe etc – it is a hard city to work in. Partly, people say, that’s because of Edinburgh’s population size and therefore limited audience – though I think the number of sold-out, high quality events happening regularly kind of refutes that notion. Personally, I think running an autonomous space here takes a lot of effort and money. So, I think musicians, theatre makers, and independent venues supporting local talent have a harder time than necessary in the city, especially the city centre.

From what I can see, Hidden Door, Out of the Blue, Leith Late and groups like ‘Desire Lines’ and ‘Music is Audible’ have made a real effort to sustain a dialogue between the city and the artists and organizers who choose to work in it and increase its profile, economy and livibility. I think some individuals on the council get it and are listening but I’m not sure what steps they can take to redress thefact that it is fraying and onerous at the moment to run an autonomous space in the heart of the city.

3. As well as your published work, I have heard from a reliable source (Broad) that you have put on some superb one man one shows. Are there any challenges to writing a performance piece that differ to written poetry?

I’m sure it is different for other poets but, for me, I can’t write specifically for performance. That’s not where my head is when I’m writing a poem. Often, I’m writing to myself or to a loved one, I’m writing to a small worry, a tiny sense of an idea. If I wrote specifically for performance I would totally ruin things by drifting to the polemical, the comedic, the prosaic and didactic. So, I try not to let the performance into my head too much when I’m writing something and I prefer to re-contextualize poems I’ve already written simply for the page into whatever performance or commission I’m working on. That can’t always be done, of course, like withViewMaster – I did set myself a challenge to write a 10 minute poem for each slide.

And that was daunting but I kept in mind something the poet Mario Petrucci once said to me when I was struggling to write to spec. He said something along the lines of, ‘when you’re writing for a commission, just write about what you want.’

Now, this might be a wild extrapolation (and Mario was certainly more eloquent) but I took that to mean, ‘if you’ve been thinking a lot lately about poverty or loss and you get a commission from the Forestry commission to write about wolves – find a way to shift it in the direction of your concern.’

So, after looking at a reel of Mecca or Tulip Time in Holland for the ViewMaster show, I’d just write about what I wanted. Which, in the back of my mind, was nostalgia, loss & legacy. And forgetting that I had a rough deadline and something in mind for the poem beyond the page was sometimes a challenge to getting actual words down.

4. As an American poet living in Scotland, why have you chosen to make Edinburgh your base?

It was an accident. I ended up here the same way people end up in Cleveland. A very happy accident.

6. And finally, who is your favourite writer at the moment, and is there anything that the Rally & Broad audiences should read up on before seeing you at the show? 

My favorite writer at the moment is Stephen Dunn whose poems are deceptively simple and dauntingly honest. No homework is necessary. 

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Six Questions for…Agnes Torok!

Agnes Török is a spoken word performer, poetry workshop leader, poetry event organiser and happiness researcher. She is the winner of multiple Poetry Slams in three different countries and two different languages. Török has been featured as a TED speaker, on The Today Programme and BBC Radio Scotland. Her two acclaimed one-woman spoken word shows ‘Sorry I Don’t Speak Culture’ and ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It Take This Survey’ have been awarded the Best International Spoken Word Show Award (2014) and the Best Wellbeing Show Award (2015) at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (PBH). She’ll be performing at Rally & Broad on Sunday 22nd November at Stereo, Glasgow with ‘Said the Joker to the Thief…’ and in the meantime, took the time to speak with R&B’s wonderful Josephine Sillars.

  1. Your latest Fringe show, ‘if you’re happy and you know it – take this survey’ has been described as the ‘science of happiness’. What makes you happy?
Lots of stuff! People, mostly. Good people and good books. Writing and performing poems. Wine doesn’t hurt either.
2.Your poetry deals with themes ranging from personal to political. Do you believe in ‘art for arts sake’ or do you feel that poetry has a responsibility to challenge people?

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Six Questions for…Alan Bissett!

Alan Bissett is one of Scotland’s best known writers, novelists, playwrights, performers, and activists, with Very Good Reason. We’re absolutely delighted to have him back for Rally & Broad ‘Because The Night...’, at Stereo, Glasgow, on Sunday 31st May with Caroline Bird, The Last September, Marianne MacRae and Hailey Beavis (tickets here). Oh yes!

With Rally & Broad at Festival of Politics 2014. Photo credit: Robb Macrae

With Rally & Broad at Festival of Politics 2014. Photo credit: Robb Mcrae

Ahead of May’s show, we sat down to ask him six questions about writing, labels, politics, art, activism and all the rest. And boy, did we get some cracking answers…

1. Novelist, playwright, performer, activist – that’s a lot of strings to yer bow! Which one is twanging hardest for you at the moment?

To be honest, it’s getting harder to tell the difference between them. Obviously at one level, if you are sitting down to write a novel you are a novelist, when writing a play you are a playwright, and so on, but otherwise it all bleeds into one. I only became a ‘performer’ in the first place because I was doing so many readings from my novels in schools, libraries and festivals that after a while you just memorise it and it tips over into theatre. Some of the activism has felt ‘performed’ – not because you’re not being truthful but because you have to engage a political audience in exactly the same way that you engage a theatre audience. So for example, I just got back from Wigtown, where I was billed as ‘stand up’, which involved me improvising a comedy set that included storytelling, banter, politics, plus bits from my novels and plays – which I think might form the basis of a future tour. I can’t really see the joins anymore. Let’s just call it all ‘blethering’.

2. Cutting straight to the mustard. Post Indy ref – what is the role for artists? And, with hindsight, what role do you think artists played in the referendum?

I think artists played a huge role in the indyref, both within, say, National Collective and beyond it. I’m not going to kid myself that the opinions of artists were as important to the general public as those of politicians or economists, but we did add another dimension that was more colourful and imaginative, and we were able to frame the debate in certain ways – through poetry, theatre, songs or illustrations – that allowed people to understand differently and see themselves inside the magnitude of what was going on. The numbers people can’t do that, which is why they often had to rubbish us – ‘oh you’re just people who make up silly stories and draw pictures, what do you know?’ Well, we gave the whole thing an emotional layer that is often more powerful than talking about GERS figures.

Our ‘role’ afterwards? Well, I don’t think anyone can or should proscribe what any artist’s ‘role’ is. But clearly the whole process is ongoing. We don’t have an indyref to bind us together, which is why it’s probably the right thing that National Collective folded and also why we’re now seeing divisions emerge during the movement, some based on sound political principles, others on ego. But I think the artists will continue to try and make sense of it all in their own ways, sometimes individually, sometimes collectively. There have been very fine works created during the white-heat of the campaign, but we’ve yet to see a true masterpiece emerge. I think there could be several in the offing, but we’re still in an extraordinary state of flux so it’s hard to pin things down. Soon as your pen touches the page the material is dated.

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3. What do the words ‘Scottish culture’ mean to you?

Well, Scottish culture is different things to different people, obviously, and it should feel inclusive. I might think Allan ‘rivers of blood’ Massie has lost the plot as a political commentator, but I can see that he has written some very fine novels which deserve to be taken seriously as works of Scottish literature. However, I can certainly say that the Scottish culture which means the most to me is the kind which feels oppositional and rebellious, which is a clearing a space beneath the hegemonic Anglo-American culture (some of which is obviously very good, but hegemonic nonetheless) to articulate the language, themes and stories of working-class (or other marginalised) Scots. Unless Scottish writers themselves do this then we”ll just have this homogenous Hollywood/BBC culture, and an entire people’s consciousness will go with it. This is what Hamish Henderson called the ‘carrying stream’ of the folk tradition, and it applies as much to Eddi Reader as it does to Irvine Welsh. That’s the stuff that’s really valuable to me.

4. So, the seeming rise and rise of the spoken word/performance poetry scene in Scotland. Do you see yourself as part of it? And if so (or if not), what are your thoughts on it?

Oh I don’t know. I’ve been on the ‘scene’ for about fifteen years now and when I started out there was a lot less of what would now be called ‘spoken word’. Rebel Inc had done some great stuff creating a buzz for live events in the Nineties, and Liz Lochead was a stand-out before then, but that had died away by the time my first novel, Boyracers, came out in 2001. Back then the ‘poems and pints’ vibe in the back room of a pub was more the thing, but people weren’t really expected to be ‘performers’ and to be honest I found some of it quite boring. I always felt it was being rude to the audience to expect them to listen to you for twenty minutes and not even make an attempt to be entertaining. I mean, with the best will in the world the human brain doesn’t work that way!

I was like: we’re really missing a trick here, and I resolved to make my readings more of a theatrical experience, which is why I stood out back then. I got involved in nights like Discombobulate with the poet Magi Gibson and the comedian Ian Macpherson in Glasgow in the mid/late Noughties, which was really about consolidating that ethos across a whole bill, and which was eventually replaced by Kirstin Innes’s and Anneliese Macintosh’s Words Per Minute. I think both contributed to the current crop of very, very strong spoken word nights we now see, like Rally and Broad and Neu Reekie! which really have perfected the form.

Things have truly changed now and evolved into ‘spoken word’, where writers are expectedto be good performers and boring acts just aren’t programmed. There’s a level of professionalism about younger writers – in terms of the way they present themselves onstage – that’s much more in tune with what live audiences want. I’m certainly not a rarity anymore. As for being part of the current ‘scene’? No, I’ve probably been around for too long for that to be the case. But I definitely approve of this generation of stage-ready younger writers, who all seem really politicised too, so I don’t feel estranged from it either. If the current spoken word scene was Britpop, then Irvine Welsh would be John Lennon and I’d be Paul Weller.

5. What’s coming up next for you?

I’m touring a comedy set around Falkirk, called What the F**kirk? which is about, you guessed it, Falkirk. Having spent so long looking at the things on the national level during the indyref I want to really focus in on the local: asking what it means to have a ‘home town’ and trying to work out whether or not community still exists. It’s definitely feels like my first ‘post-referendum’ statement, which is going beyond the Yes/No binary.

After that, in Spring 2016, it’s the big one: my play about the ex-Rangers manager Graeme Souness, written in verse. We’ve tried sections out in front of test audiences and it provokes big reactions. I can’t wait.

Beyond that I’d like to try a stand-up tour. I should also get around to writing another novel, but I have to wait until my theatre slate is clear and the right idea presents itself. You need to keep doing things that no-one will see coming. There’s no point in releasing a novel just for the sake of releasing a novel. Why miss the chance to fuck with people’s expectations?

6. And finally…Because the Night…belongs to who?!

…vampires, of course! *

*Team Gary Oldman in Dracula 1992. [excellent choice…Ed]

Alan Bissett’s Collected Plays is out now with Freight

(http://www.word-power.co.uk/books/collected-plays-2009-2014-I9781908754448/)

What the F**kirk? will be touring Falkirk venues from 3rd-14th June

(https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/falkirkcommunitytrust)

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