The Saltire Society Literary Awards took place in Edinburgh last night, with a diverse range of awards celebrating the excellence of Scottish books, from poetry to history, with some live acts for the occasion. Hosted by one half of the wonderful Rally & Broad, Jenny Lindsay, the evening featured some of her energetic poetry – one, an excellent 1984-inspired work, and another – an ode to Edinburgh (and the first time I’ve heard the city referred to, lovingly, as a cobbly codger). There was also the musical interlude of Blue Rose Code, blending music, poetry and some hometown pride.
The awards begin with Lenore Bell being awarded the International Travel Bursary for Creative Writing, who will be going to Brooklyn to research the book she’s working on, charmingly noting “there’s only so far Wikipedia and Pinterest can take you in your research”. Barbara Leonardi also received the Ross Roy Medal for her PhD thesis, An Exploration of Gender Stereotypes in the Work of James Hogg.
Scottish History Book of the Year went to Scottish Gods, Religion in the Modern Scotland 1900-2012 by Steve Bruce, who joked that it’s nice to have become a historian because they’re serious and respected, taking a quirky jab at sociologists such as himself in the process.
Literary Book of the Year went to How To Be Both by Ali Smith, a fascinating sounding book that’s divided into two parts that interlink, but can be read in either order and is said to be a highly rewarding read. Poetry Book of the Year was Alexander Hutchison’s Bones & Breath, a collection that brings pleasure from poetry through topics like power and beauty, mischief and humour.
Scottish First Book of the Year went to Niall Campbell’s Moontide was deemed a “remarkably powerful first collection” of works, but more so represented the extremely high quality of new talent coming through in Scotland, which shows no signs of slowing.
Publisher of the Year Award, presented by Sara Hunt of Saraband (winner, 2013), went to Sandstone Press for their excellent work, but also offered two commendations from the category to Freight Books and Berlinn. Adrian Searle, who recently spoke at Stirling Uni’s Visiting Speaker sessions proved as witty when accepting speeches as doing talks, so that was fun (and well deserved, as Freight came across an excellent and exciting company from that talk!).
The Scottish Book of the Year Award went to Research Book of the Year winner, The Scottish Town in the Age of Enlightenment 1740-1820 by Robert Harris and Charles McKean. The first speech was given by Andrew, Charles’ son, who commented on how his father would have been proud to see this; the latter saw Robert Harris thanking people extensively, but also commenting on how Charles viewed history differently, not merely looking at the written word for his sources, and brought a richness to the project that it would have otherwise lacked. More so, he called for more recognition of the importance of archivists, as they can be the first to face cuts, but hold the country’s history within them.
Deemed to be truly accessible and “a pioneering study of Scottish urbanisation”, it seems a more than worthy winner to top off the night. A lot of exciting work seems to have gone on in Scotland in this last year, with a few hat tipping the referendum for being an extra driving force in creativity and passion, and it’s fair to say that there’ll only be more go come from talented publishers and authors alike. Excellent evening, of which this blog likely will not do justice to.