The Siren Awakes Book Launch – Linda Jackson review by Pat Byrne
What a Night!
There was a fantastic turn out at Avant Garde on Monday for the launch of The Siren Awakes – the first of three memoirs about life as a young singer, growing up in Paisley by Linda Jackson.
I had been really looking forward to the even as I had already caught a taster in Balloch House Hotel a few months back, when Linda was the guest of Alexandria Writers’ Group. Linda is not only an accomplished writer but a fabulous singer. She seamlessly combined both talents to create a very different type of book launch.
I’ve only just had a chance to dip into the book but Linda’s reading of excepts created a vivid image of her home life growing up in a working class family in Paisley. Linda lived with her parents and brothers, in a typical tenement with a toilet in the close and bed recess in the living room, where she slept with her brother.
The audience was completely drawn into the child’s world, her uncertainty, fears and her fascination with the adults in her life. This included a sinister neighbour and her extrovert father with his dark curly hair and penchant for performance. The wee Linda adored her dad and was enraptured peeping out from the bed recess to watch him sing at family parties. By themselves the descriptions would be more than satisfactory but Linda complements these snapshots of life with song. In this case mimicking her father’s deep voiced dramatic rendition of a popular ballad.
As a child she was small and frail ‘the runt of the litter’ and her aunts and mother were on a mission to get some muscles into her wee skinny legs. Ice skating appeared to be the answer and the episode where Linda is sent off to Paisley ice rink to learn to skate raised a lot of laughs. However, it’s not all fun for the wean. You feel her anxiety stepping into a strange environment and her worry as she watches the class begin without her as two kind-meaning older girls take an arm each and whisk her round the rink.
There’s a lot of pathos, and some horror, as the memoir unfolds but no trace of indulgent sentimentality. The later section is full of laugh out loud humour, particularly when Linda is on the road gigging with her hippie pal Margo. The unsophisticated teenage duet travel the length and breadth of the country with many adventures along the way – sleeping in train station waiting rooms, befriending a tramp and escaping through a window when their act doesn’t match audience expectations.
There was no problem with the audience at Avant Garde, who were completely engrossed in the readings and thoroughly entertained by the music. Linda kicked off with the signature song ‘Sirens’ from her CD (to be released Spring 2020). She dedicated her beautiful version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Little Green’ to her daughter Kirsten. It was a book launch like no other with dancing and the Linda Jaxson Band raised the roof with ballads, blues and rock n roll.
Charlie Gracie, Poet
Mention should go to Charlie Gracie, who entertained with some of his wonderful poetry including from his new collection The Darty Mountains. The author, Maggie Graham and poet Lesley Benzie did a fine job as hosts – not just helping the event flow but also conveying their genuine affection and respect for Linda.
Additionally, Glasgow’s writing fraternity was out in force. I enjoyed the company of Samina Chaudry and Janet Crawford, who’d travelled through from Falkirk. Also good to see Jim Ferguson, Brian Whittingham, Dini Power (thanks to Dini for some super photos), Craig Munro, Margaret McGrath, Irene Goodheir, Jenne Gray, Donal McLaughlin, Maria Venditozzi and Angela Lombardi.
I recognised other faces, many pupils of Linda’s Creative Writing Classes; yes, apart from being a writer and musician, Dr Linda Jackson teaches creative writing. She is also the name behind Seahorse Publications, which amongst other things is responsible for the reprinting of Wild Fire by the wonderful Janet Paisley R.I.P. The relaunch of this book will be celebrated at CCA, Sauchiehall Street, on 3rd December,2019.
I know I’m going to really enjoy reading the book. Apart from following the life of the young songstress, Linda captures a time and place perfectly – making a valid contribution to Scotland’s social history.
Pat Byrne, 6 November, 2019
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Thanks to Dini Power for photography.
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