Dublin Writers Festival – The Jekyll and Hyde Inheritance

I’ll be in distinguished company at at The Dublin Writers’ Festival this Monday where I’ll be joining John Burnside, Donnie O’Rourke, Richard Holloway and Kevin MacNeil. We’ve all been invited to respond to Robert Louis Stevenson’s concept of ‘dual nature’ which he explored so brilliantly in The Strange case of Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde. Join us, if you can, at 7.30pm on the 23rd at the Samuel Beckett Theatre.


The Crack Team!

The University of Abertay

I turned ethical hacker for a day at the University of Abertay in Dundee. You can hear what happened in The Crack Team on BBC Radio Scotland.

Create a new computer virus that can’t be detected by anti virus software or hack into a website or a mobile phone. That’s the type of task that might be set in the Ethical Hacking lab at Abertay University in Dundee where students are taught how to attack computer systems in order to protect them. I can’t claim to have picked up any new hacking skills, but I’ll be making sure my anti virus software is up to date and creating complex passwords from now on.

Panic Patterns on the Radio

Zoe Strachan and I have adapted our play Panic Patterns for radio. The director is Gaynor Macfarlane and we were very lucky in persuading the original cast, Selina Boyack and Veronica Leer to revisit their roles.

Panic Patterns will air on Wednesday 8th June at 2pm on Radio Scotland, and will be available on listen again for a week after that. The blurb reads:

‘An edgy contemporary thriller by two of Scotland’s best novelists. Ornithologists Jacq and Fay are on a remote island in the far north of Scotland investigating sudden changes in bird migration patterns. Fay believes these changes signify apocalyptic disaster. Jacq thinks her younger lover is overreacting. But they were meant to leave the island three days ago, the boat coming to pick them up still hasn’t arrived and their radio has been dead for a week. Can they really be witnessing the fallout from the end of the world?’

It’s not often you get to revisit a piece you’ve already written and this has been a very happy collaboration.


 I’m very much looking forward to Scottish Opera’s production of Rigoletto directed by Matthew Richardson which will be coming to the Theatre Royal in Glasgow and the Festival Theatre Edinburgh for selected dates in May.

I’ve written an essay on the opera for Scottish Opera’s Website and you can find it here!

Blockade Runners and Minstrels


Frederick Douglass

I’m working on a fascinating feature for BBC Radio 3 with producer Louise Yeoman.

At the start of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared a blockade of the Confederate coastline, cutting off supplies to Southern states, and preventing their exports from getting out. The policy was to prove a golden opportunity for enterprising Glasgow and Liverpool shipbuilders and brokers, some of whom made fortunes from enabling the breaking of the blockade, with steamships specially adapted for the purpose – blockade runners. Their involvement was to significantly lengthen the conflict at a huge cost of lives and made British involvement an essential factor in a war where she had declared herself neutral. It’s a history that many of us who live in the centre of modern Glasgow are unaware of.

At the same time there was a rise in racist black-face minstrel acts across Britain. The programme explores whether these two factors were connected. Were those making fortunes from prolonging the civil war and in effect supporting slavery salving their conscience with the thought that slaves were not worthy of, or able for, freedom?

Dr Eric Graham whose book ClydeBuilt: Blockade Runners, Cruisers and Armoured Rams of the American Civil War helped inspire the programme has written a brilliant article on the Clyde’s connection with the Civil War for the Glasgow Herald.

Blockade Runners and Minstrels will be broadcast on Sunday 1st May at 9.30pm, and will be available via i-player for a week afterwards.

Free Hetherington Reading

Free Hetherington

I will be hosting an evening of readings from some established and up and coming writers at the Free Hetherington on Friday 8th April at 7.30pm. They are Laura Marney , Alan Riach, Alan Bissett , Dan Leaman, Amy Burns and Laura Tansley. The event is free, but why not bring along a contribution to the Hetherington’s pantry? I’m advised they already have three jars of sauerkraut, but in my opinion you can never have enough pickled cabbage at an occupation.

You can discover more about what’s happpening at the Hetherington on their events page or learn about the issues involved through Newsnight Scotland.

Realm of the Census

BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting three short stories inspired by the 2011 census next week , including  my ‘Realm of the Census’, which will be read by Rebecca Elise on Thursday 24th March at 3.30pm. The producer is Eilidh McCreadie. The other stories are ‘The Sufragette’s Party’ by Beatrice Colin and ‘Everyone Who Lives Here’ by Kathryn Simmonds.  The stories will be available on listen again for a week after the broadcasts.