alan bissett

Because The Night…(Glasgow edit)

Rally & Broad ‘Because the Night…’ at Stereo, Glasgow, on Sunday 31st May. With Caroline Bird, The Last September, Alan Bissett (and friends), Hailey Beavis and Marianne Macrae. And all ye who came. All photos by Chris Scott.

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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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Because The Night…Rally & Broad in Glasgow in May (& it’s our 50th Show!*)

Rally & Broad: Because the Night…Sunday 31st May, Stereo, Glasgow. With Caroline Bird, The Last September, Marianne MacRae and Hailey Beavis. Tickets £5 on the door on in advance here

…belongs to us…

Hola, comrades.

George Orwell reckoned you get the face you deserve at 50…

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From oor very first show in Edinburgh in October 2012. Look at those fresh wee mugs…

In May 2015, we’re celebrating our FIFTIETH SHOW!

Well, sortof – in all honesty, we’re not entirely sure if the 50th show is in Edinburgh or Glasgow and actually, it might well be our 57th, but pedantry bedamned, frankly. We’re going to have a party. There might be cake. Because The Night…belongs to us. In all its forms and dreams and terrors. Come raise a glass with us…

With some of our favourite old faces (they’re not old. It’s just…aye, ye ken…) and some utterly delightful new ones

CAROLINE BIRD!

CarolineBird

Caroline Bird is one of the most dynamic, incisive, astounding performance poets in the UK, while also being a playwright, performer and much more. The Hat-Stand Union (Carcanet) is her fourth published collection of poetry, and she’ll be reading from that, and new work besides. Also, she is an excellent drinking companion. We can testify.

‘Bird is irrepressible; she simply explodes with poetry. The work erupts, spring-loaded, funny, sad, deadly – you don’t know if a bullet will come out of the barrel or a flag with the word BANG on it.’
Simon Armitage

http://www.carolinebird.co.uk/

ALAN BISSETT!

AlanBissett

Author, playwright, theatre-maker, performer, activist. We never know what Alan is going to bring to the R&B stage, and we love him for that. We don’t know what he’s planning this time either. Come and see….

Bissett is a terrific performer, capable of terrifying, high-speed transitions…[has] wit, sharp political intelligence, and an ability to entertain his growing army of fans.’ (Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman)

http://alanbissett.com/

THE LAST SEPTEMBER!

TheLastSeptember2

The Last September are on an exciting detour into fresh musical territory, inspired by indie, folk, rock and the odd spaghetti-western thrown in for good measure. Come hear tunes from new album Volcano!

‘…tight, driven and energetic’

http://www.thelastseptember.co.uk/

MARIANNE MACRAE!

858720_10152637770660235_2108050673_oSurreal tales and poetic meanderings through the off-kilter of the everyday. Marianne is one of our new favourite voices on the spoken word scene in Scotland. Did you hear the one about the squirrel?

https://twitter.com/mariannemacrae

…and HAILEY BEAVIS!

HaileyBeavisR&B

Exciting and innovative artist, singer-songwriter and performer, Hailey Beavis is not only lyrically delightful but utterly captivating on stage. An R&B favourite and a must-see act!

http://www.last.fm/music/Hailey+Beavis

And all the usual spraffing and raffling with your resident comperes, poets, players-with-words, Jenny Lindsay & Rachel McCrum. Come celebrate with us. Ours is a slab of Victoria Sponge and a glass of warm beer.

xx

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‘Dance While The Sky Crashes Down’ (Edinburgh)

Rally & Broad present…’Dance While The Sky Crashes Down.’ Friday 20th March, The Bongo Club, 66 Cowgate, Edinburgh. With RM Hubbert, Alan Bissett, Lynsey May, Elyssa Vulpes and the 2015 Scottish Slam Champion. Doors at 7pm. £5.

You know we always love to dance. This month, we’re kicking up our heels while we watch the sky fall down, sequins and silk in hand. Whether it’s utopia, dystopia or just good old fashioned apocalypse, we’re dancing through it all. Come waltz over the rubble with us.

See you at the front? Ours is a swirl of radiation and star dust.*

It’s a particularly lush bill of delights this month. Joining us…

RM HUBBERT!

RMHubbert

Prolific Glasgow-born songwriter and guitarist who, in his own words, “writes music about love, death, friendship, mental illness and occasionally a dog called D Bone”. He is the winner of the Scottish Album of the Year Award 2013 (forThirteen Lost & Found); was short-listed for the SAY Awards in 2014 (for Breaks & Bones) and his live performances “provide the rare spectacle of a noisy rabble falling instantly silent to marvel at both his technical ability and the emotional impact of his music” (The Scotsman)

http://www.rmhubbert.com/

ALAN BISSETT! 

AlanBissett

Speaking of prolific: Alan Bissett is a novelist, performer, activist, theatre-maker, playwright and essayist – a man of many literary talents and firm Rally & Broad favourite. His Collected Plays from 2009 – 14 are released this month by Freight Books and demonstrate why Bissett is one of Scotland’s brightest, multi-award-winning literary and theatrical talents.

http://alanbissett.com/

LYNSEY MAY!

LynseyMay_Walking_M

Lynsey lives, loves and writes in Edinburgh. She was born to be wild but she didn’t realise and got into the habit of keeping receipts paying her taxes on time. Her stories are where the wildness runs free.

lynseymay.com

ELYSSA VULPES!

ElyssaVulpes

…dreams and firelight, shadow and rock and roll. Late night tales of witchcraft, mystery and desire from battle-scarred survivors of the Love Wars…

http://www.elyssavulpes.com/

...and the 2015 Scottish Slam Champion BRAM E. GIEBEN!

BramEGieben

Scotland, hail your champion! Rally & Broad were both in attendance at the Scottish Slam Finals at the end of February, and such a night it was. We are without fingertips. The rightful winner, in the midst of glorious competition, was none other than Bram E. Gieben and we are delighted to have him (back) on the Rally & Broad stage.  Self described poet, performer, rapper, musician, novelist, journalist, record producer, ex-Chemikal Poet, Post-cyberpunk miserablist and crime junkie, it’s all held in one furious balance. Come and marvel.

http://www.bramegieben.co.uk/

* and with due credit given to Jason Webley, where the title of this month’s show has come from.