Scotland’s favourite national pastime: NOSTALGIA

December 15th, 2010 by Karen_Margaret_Raith | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Scotland’s favourite national pastime: NOSTALGIA
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Adrian Searle by David Lemm

Over the past few decades, Scottish literature has become slightly repetitive.  As Liz Lochhead’s quote above affirms, Scots are continuously looking back at the good-old-days.  Kiddies getting milk at school, Ah- Bisto!, the fish man on Tuesdays and working in factories and mines.  Read James Kelman’s The Burn or Gregory Burke’s Gargarin Way, and you will be slapped in the face by a depressing (albeit brilliantly written) anti-Thatcherite society.  Although it has only been twenty years since Mrs Thatcher has been in power, perhaps it’s time to embrace the new literary scene.  Welcome to the spotlight Adrian Searle and Colin Begg, the creators of Gutter magazine.

On the 25th November, these two ambitious young men joined the publishing studies class at Stirling, to promote entrepreneurship and contemporary Scottish fiction.  In reaction to a nameless critic asserting that ‘there were no “young literary Turks” out there,’ Searle and Begg set out to prove that ‘the new writing scene in Scotland is bouncing’ [Hind].  Meeting each other at a Glasgow creative writing course, the double act teamed up to form literary magazine Gutter, which has been compared to industry heavy-hitters MacSweeny.  The magazine concerns quality writing that is well-presented.  Writers have included Louise Welsh, Ewan Morrison and Zoe Strachan.  Searle would love to snag Scottish literary royalty, Kelman, Agnes Owen or Douglas Dunn.  They ardently promote the value of intellectual thought, and aren’t afraid of injecting a bit of Scottish ‘cheek.’  One of their events has been called ‘McSex’ and assessed eroticism in Scottish literature.  Also, the current poem on their webpage concerns the couple of the moment, Prince Will and Kate Middleton.  Excerpts include,

Life may be grim, but bankers and toffs have misery at bay

With this assertion, create a diversion, a Royal wedding day.


So, welcome back the Tories and their Liberal rejects;

We’ve cuts and riots, it’s strangely quiet, but cardboard city’s next.

Searle with modesty maintains that he is ‘playing with publishing’ or as he quirkily deems it ‘micro-publishing.’  From a marketing and design background, he co-founded the Glasgow-based publishing house, Freight, in 2001.  He decided to self-commission projects, in order to have complete control over the creative process.  Freight has churns out rare titles, including The Hope that Kills Us: An Anthology of Scottish Football Fiction, Snacks after Swimming and The Knuckles End: A meaty Collection of New Scottish Writing.  They base themselves around Scottish writers, and the projects are visually stimulating, and have already received several accolades.  Again, Searle refers to the titles unpretentiously as ‘fairly self-indulgent.’  Freight enjoys a sense of humour in the creative process.  When naming the title Knuckle End it refers to an obnoxious assertion that Scotland is the ‘knuckle end’ of England – the leftovers that you might make soup from or throw to the dogs.  Wittily The Knuckle End is broken into two hardbacks joined in the middle by a knee joint: one section is on fictional short stories, the other a cow’s journey from the field to the abattoir.  Artistically, the text employs squint double columns, and uses vernacular typography, created by ‘non-designers.’  Colin Begg? Well, in his spare time – he’s a doctor.  Doesn’t it make you tired just hearing what they’re up to?

Inspirational and informative the talk had the students swigging their lattes and developing formative strategies for our own publishing houses.  Can’t wait to see what the boys are up to next.

PS: Now you’ve finished reading my blog go over to Gutter to subscribe to their mag, and read the rest of the poem On the Announcement of the Engagement of HRH Prince William & Miss Kate Middleton by Carl MacDougall (Parental Advisory Recommended).

Image copyright David Lemm, www.davidlemm.co.uk.

Karen Raith