For sometime I'd been hearing the name Mark Buckland in relation to all sorts of interesting events and enterprises in Glasgow. So I thought it was time to find out more about him and last week I met up with him for a chat over coffee and antipasti in Zizzi's, Cresswell Lane.
I was aware that Mark was the inspiration and operator behind Margins Book and Music Festival and I was very interested to learn more about this festival. I was also keen to hear about his publishing company Cargo Publishing. Recently when I went along to a talk by Louise Welsh and Adrian Searle at Glasgow University's Media Week, Adrian was full of praise for Cargo and I reckoned there would be no shortage of topics for discussion when I met up with Mark - I wasn't mistaken.
It was fascinating to hear about Margins Book and Music Festival due to take place, 24th - 26th February, 2012. The programme is tantalising and includes some of Scotland's most exciting writers and musicians: Chris Brookmyre , Alasdair Gray, William McIllvanney, Alasdair Robets, Louise Welsh, Withered Hand and Roddy Woomble and many more.
I wondered how Mark had come up with the idea and it turned out that he was no newcomer to the notion that art and literature can be a heady mix; in his first year as a student at the University of Strathclyde he established club nights which combined arts and djs. These proved to be a great success and in 2011 Mark moved onto organising an event for Aye Write. When this fell through he decided that Glasgow might benefit from another type of book festival and Margins was born with a number of exciting events taking place at Stereo.
This year the festival is much bigger and a highly ambitious series of events has been lined up at the Arches on 24th and 25th February. Of particular note is the production of Alasdair Gray's Fleck in OranMor on Sunday 26th February. Set to be something of a highlight in Glasgow's cultural calendar in 2012. The venue is the spectacular Auditorium - most fittingly this fine literary event will take place against a backdrop of Alasdair Gray's artistic accomplishments.
I was delighted to find that Mark and I are both major fans of Alasdair's work and this amazing building. His enthusiasm for Margins Festival is also impressive and it's not often that you find someone so young taking on such an ambitious event. However, arguably more astounding is the fact that in his early 20s he set up Cargo Publishing - without any prior experience of the publishing business.
That's not to say that he hadn't dipped his toe into entrepreneurial waters as Mark's first enterprise was running his own skateboarding shop. His first job, when he was only twelve, was in Tribal Junkie, Glasgow's cult skateboarding shop which was owned by the dynamic Stephen Byrne, who made a big impression on Mark. It looks like some of Stephen's approach rubbed off as what Stephen and Mark share is an immensely positive approach and an unbounded disregard for barriers - both could definitely be described as get up and go.
Certainly in the world of publishing, often characterised by a certain fuddy-duddyness, Cargo has proved to be a breath of fresh air. It has quickly gone from strength to strength and has firmly established itself in Scotland's book world
I wondered why Mark had started in publishing and he explained that when he graduated with a degree in English from Strathclyde University he found himself in the middle of a recession - a place where there were many talented young writers without a platform for their work. With ?800 he had saved from working as a gardener, Mark founded Cargo Publishing in 2009. Two years later he set up a sister company Cargo Crate and published the first E-book in Scotland.
Cargo now boasts an impressive list of writers including Will Self, Jackie Kay, Roddy Doyle and many more.
The team at Cargo is young, the youngest 21 and the oldest 31, with Mark, the boss, falling somewhere in between. Scotland with its forty-four book festival a year, more than any other country, provides a stimulating environment in which the company has flourished. Cargo continues to thrive and the team have already racked up some impressive accomplishments.
Last year saw many achievements at Cargo. The company was awarded top prize as Best Newcomer in The List Awards. They also moved up from a placing at 66 to 19 in The Lists Hot 100 and their writers Allan Wilson and Sion Sylvester were named in the magazine's 'Hottest New Writers'. Additionally they have enjoyed considerable success at the Edinburgh Festival.
Currently Mark and his team at Cargo have a range of exciting projects on the go - 'later this year we have a great book by Ewan Morrison coming out'. Then they will 'be moving into America', where they have linked up with McSweenys a renowned independent publisher based in San Francisco . They are also set to publish 'Nothing Human Left', 'a pulsating psychological thriller', by Simon Ashe-Browne , winner of the 2011 Dundee International Book Prize with its ?10,000 cash prize.
Mark and I are planning to meet up again before too long, which suits me down to the ground. I could listen to him talk all day.
Pat Byrne, January, 2012