Friend of fiction

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The Edinburgh International Book Festival held a wonderful commemorative event last week for the late Dr Gavin Wallace, who was head of literature at Creative Scotland until his untimely death earlier this year.

Gavin was a friend to all writers in all languages and a wonderful ambassador for Scotland’s literatures. I was honoured to be asked by festival director Nick Barley to read a poem I wrote in memory of Gavin, but in my introduction I didn’t have time to stress the crucial part that Gavin played in establishing the hugely successful Gaelic fiction scheme, Ùr-Sgeul.

Some 11 years ago, I visited Gavin in Edinburgh, along with John Storey, the founder of the Ùr-Sgeul project, to discuss support for the embryonic publishing scheme.

In those days, he was still at the beloved book-laden offices of the much-missed Scottish Arts Council in Manor Place. Gavin “got it” straight away: he was supportive and enthusiastic and translated that into action. He was a corner-stone in establishing a publishing project which over the past ten years has revitalised Gaelic fiction writing.

The visionary Ùr-Sgeul imprint has now been ditched, for reasons beyond my comprehension, but our debt to John and Gavin remains.

Angus Peter Campbell

An Caol