Local talent Alan Bissett is the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Writer of the Year 2011. As a playwright, novelist, writer and performer his work often tells its own story about Scotland and identity. He talks to us about what he loves about his city.
What is it about your books and plays that really connects with an audience?
I see a twin duty to entertain the audience and also challenge them a bit. Death of a Ladies’ Man is my most Glaswegian and accessible novel (although watch yourself, it’s a little risqué). Or, if you’re into football, Pack Men is about Rangers fans. Rangers, along with Celtic, are one half of Glasgow‘s footballing giants the “˜Old Firm’. If you want to understand them, start there.
What’s the most exciting thing about working in Scotland right now?
The independence debate. Whichever side of it you come down on – and I am in favour of independence – it means politics in Scotland has become high-stakes. For anyone in the arts, that’s incredibly exciting, as it means issues about Scottish language, identity, history and the future are at the front of everyone’s mind.
As a cultural hub, Glasgow has so much potential for visitors. Where would you recommend?
The Kelvingrove Museum or the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) are obvious ones. There are various, smaller, interesting galleries in the SWG3 area and on King Street. Glasgow’s live music scene is incredible too. You’re bound to find a band you want to see at Nice “˜N’ Sleazy, the ABC, the Roxy or King Tuts (where Oasis were discovered).
What are your top picks for eating and drinking for Glasgow?
The café/bar venues Mono and Stereo are great for vegans, hipsters or artists. Sloanes and the Horse Shoe Bar are the pubs where you’ll find the most traditionally “˜Glaswegian’ atmosphere. In the West End, Tchai Ovna is a wonderful, ramshackle hippy café that serves about ninety varieties of tea. On the South Side, the Glad Café is a hub for lively minds and arty happenings.
What one thing would no trip to Glasgow be complete without?
Oran Mor in Glasgow’s West End. Eat and drink in a roomy, lively bar environment and spot various Scottish actors, writers and directors. In the basement you have “˜A Play, A Pie and a Pint’, which gives you 45-minute long, quality theatre, plus a pie and a pint at lunchtime. If you get the chance, check out Alasdair Gray’s enormous, beautiful ceiling mural on the top floor.