Highlights: Paisley Book Festival 2021

Originally launched in 2020 and quickly establishing itself as one of the country’s premier literature festivals, Paisley Book Festival is back again for 2021. And, of course, in order to keep everyone safe, this year’s festival will be delivered digitally. This year, most events are free with some special paid events which will help support the festival into 2022.

Spanning ten days, the event features talks with some of the most interesting and promising voices from Scottish literature and beyond. Paisley’s very own bookish gathering has stretched its arms to embrace all kinds of artists, and as headliners go, you’re not going to go far wrong with Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart and Canadian-born co-founder and director of the Scottish BAME Writers Network, poet Alycia Pirmohamed.

Alycia Pirmohamed

Top of our list for this year’s fest is an event chaired by Kirsty Logan, with author Kiran Millwood Hargrave and poet Rebecca Tamás: ‘Hexes, Hags and Harpies’, an exploration of modern-day womanhood, feminism, horror and dark forces.

Later the same day, Scabby Queen author Kirstin Innes presents a discussion with Andrew O’ Hagan, Graeme Armstrong, and Douglas Stuart, which aims to examine the complexities of masculinity in Scotland.

Graeme Armstrong
Photo credit: Robin Farquhar Thomson

One event not to be missed is ‘The Writer-in-Residence Presents’, featuring Paisley Book Festival’s first writer-in-residence, Imogen Stirling. The Glasgow-based poet and educator, known for her much-lauded show #Hypocrisy, has curated three events at the festival, with this first one taking a look at the work produced by residents of Paisley during Imogen’s tenure there.

SNACK recently spoke with Imogen about her work with the festival: you can read our interview here.

‘The Writer-in-Residence Presents’ will be held on the 21st of February at 5pm.

Imogen Stirling
Photo credit: Sarah Grant

The festival also offers workshops: one that stands out is the Poetry Masterclass with Alycia Pirmohamed, a Canadian-born, UK-based poet who was the winner of the 2020 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award.

Pirmohamed will be keeping in line with the theme of the whole event, Radical New Futures, by helping others ‘create a vision of the days beyond those we’re living.’ This masterclass looks to be essential for any aspiring or intermediate poet, and is surely an opportunity to be jumped at.

The event will be held on 21st of February at noon. Standard tickets cost £8, or £5 for any concession.

Looking at literature from a more fantastical angle, there’s ‘Writing Dystopia’, which features Courttia Newland and Adam Roberts, author of It’s The End of the World: But What Are We Really Afraid of?.

This panel delves into the human obsession with the end of the world. Newland and Roberts have both written this variety of grim speculative fiction in the past, plumbing the depths of what could be, in a world perhaps not too different from our own. Their novels often grapple with the darker side of humanity and the potential end of days.

This panel is chaired by author Katie Hale and will be held from 7pm until 8pm, on the 22nd of February. Free entry (donations welcome).

Courttia Newland
Photo credit: Sharron Wallace

It should be noted, and it’s worth repeating, that all of these events take place online, with the speakers coming to you live over video. This approach means it’s easier than ever to get involved, and with so many free events on offer, we’d advise you to get stuck right in and see where your fancy takes you. There’s pretty much something to interest everyone.

‘Something to interest everyone’: This can be a damning compliment, generally, but not on this occasion. There’s a breadth and attention to detail in the festival programme that is a testament to the experience and hard work of the organisers – especially considering this is only the festival’s second year running.

Paisley Book Festival 2021 runs from 18th February till 27th February


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