Balloch Open Mic – One From The Archives


Alan Riach – One from the archives . . .

The June 2019 Open Mic drew a large crowd. George Gibson’s review says it all.

Sometimes when you invite a guest headliner along to the open mic, no matter their reputation, you’re not sure what you’re going to get, except it’s probably going to be good. This was the case on the evening of the June Open Mic.

Alan Riach, Professor of Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow, presented us with a compelling autobiographical series of intimate anecdotes and writings from his books “Homecoming “ and “The Winter Book”. He covered being born in Scotland, moving to Kent with his Father’s job, going into academia, a 14-year spell working in New Zealand and arriving back in Scotland on New Year’s Day 2001. Even the bus journey on his first day of work in Glasgow became an event involving a bus chase. A lot of ground to cover in 35 minutes but we didn’t feel rushed by his easy style. He went from being unknown to being known in a short period of time.

Alan’s enjoyment was obvious as the crowd quickly warmed to him. While he was looking through his books for the poem he wanted to read, he filled the moment’s pause by giving us one of the outstanding stories of the evening, about Norman MacCaig attending a poetry reading, where the great Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean was taking a few minutes to leaf through his notes to find the poem he wanted to read, and MacCaig was heard remarking loud and clear, “I came here to listen to you read your poems, Sam, but I didn’t think it was going to be silently to yourself.” Such anecdotes brought an extra dimension of gentle humour to the evening. At the end we felt Alan could easily have gone on and we would have been happy if he had.

When an evening goes this well it’s often harder to review because there’s nothing to criticise. People, including me, tend to feel nothing’s that good. However this one was and that memory will be the one that stays with us. While we were leaving I said to Alan that he would be welcome to come back. He replied that he would be glad to. It was a memorable evening for everyone. Watch this space.

On the Tuesday morning I dropped Alan an email to thank him for coming. He responded saying he had enjoyed the evening and thought that those who read were a great collection of writers. My impression is that he’s not being polite. He is, after all, the University of Glasgow’s Professor of Scottish Literature.

Review by George Gibson

A perennial comment re the Open Mic was the relaxed atmosphere and the welcome everyone received. Ann MacKinnon summed it up in a wee poem.

Walcome tae Balloch

When ye get tae the Balloch Hoose,
ye feel richt at haim.
'Come awa in,' they say,
'Sit ye doon - here's a wee dram.'

The warm welcome caudles ye,
the craic is rare
ye aye gan hame
wi a smile oan yir face. 

Ann MacKinnon

Multi-talented and Versatile – Laura Turnbull Fyfe
Newtopia: Women With Fierce Words, Paisley Book Festival

This section: Blog: Balloch Open Mic, Books, Talks, Poetry and Creative Writing Events

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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