These five distinguished individuals have all provided a distinctive Edinburgh voice across the world in the last 30 years.
“No one has done more for the cause of poetry in Scotland than Tessa Ransford,” wrote the Scottish Review of Books in 2008. In 1984 she founded the Scottish Poetry Library, which originally had two staff members and 300 books, but has since expanded to some 30,000 items of Scottish and international poetry. An acclaimed poet in her own right, Ransford steered the library through its first 15 years and oversaw its move to purpose-built premises in the Canongate before her retirement in 1999. She died in 2015.
One of the UK’s best-selling authors, with worldwide sales topping 30 million, Rankin is best known for Rebus, the detective series which spawned several TV series.
Born in Cardenden, Rankin moved to Edinburgh for university in the mid-1980s and has largely been based in the city ever since. He has also written crime fiction starring another of his fictional detectives, Malcolm Fox, other novels under the pen name Jack Harvey, short stories, and a play.
Best known for his TV roles in The Vice and Rebus, Edinburgh-born Stott is also respected film actor with credits in everything from Shallow Grave to The Hobit. But it’s on stage where the George Heriot’s FP has really built his reputation, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in 1995 in the play Broken Glass.
Stott grew up in Newington, his father was head of the English department at George Heriot’s and his mother taught Italian literature at Edinburgh University.
Irvine Welsh’s ascent from obscurity to Scottish literary royalty was born from an ability to capture the brutal realism of everyday life in some of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Born in Leith in 1957, Welsh moved Muirhouse at the age of four where the wave of crime and drug abuse that consumed the area shaped much of his later work.
When his debut novel Trainspotting was released in 1993, it painted a raw, gritty picture of an Edinburgh rarely seen by the public eye. Welsh’s work shone a light on the underworld of a city known for hosting the largest arts festival in the world.
Alexander McCall Smith
Born in the British colony of Southern Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe), McCall Smith studied law at the University of Edinburgh and settled in the city permanently in 1984. A prolific author of fiction, he is said to write write at least 2,000 words a day even when travelling – rising to 5,000 if at home. His No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series have sold more than 20 million copies in English editions alone.