Since the Aye Write festival began, there have always been opportunities for community writing groups to have a locus within the programme.
In addition, community writing groups have organised writing workshops and a popular poetry slam contest has usually been a highlight of the programme. Attendance has usually been high, with some events over-subscribed.
This year, however, the programme promoted by the new director Stuart Kelly and his team lacks any of these community highlights and those of us who have been in regular contact with library staff are shocked and not a little disheartened by the callous disregard of the thriving local creative writing scene.
True, there are writing development courses, each with a fee, set up by local university extramural departments, but these are hardly community-led events.
I remember on several occasions when a participant in ne of the events has approached me to reveal that that had been their performance debut. Along with a feeling of achievement, there has always been the possibility that their involvement might be a spur to future development as a writer/performer.
The adulation of family members and friends who often attend with them was always heart warming, as was the enthusiastic rapture of their fellow debutants.
The Federation of Writers has always viewed the event as a vehicle to introduce participants into the vibrant spoken and written word scene in Glasgow and further afield, often providing an introduction to the many writing groups that are dotted around the country.
Stuart Kelly is a fine, considerate man and I understand that the organisers of Aye Write have had financial considerations to contend with, as well as struggling with competing demands of professional authors and agency organisers of events.
There are, for example, three useful workshops organised by worthy agencies involved in literacy, refugees and adult learners. There may even be a perception that Aye Write ought to be a proper literary festival, not a people’s celebration.
Whether it is an accidental or deliberate slight, it doesn’t much matter: to ignore the valiant creative writing community is a terrible mistake and diminishes the festival overall.
It’s too late for any of the community groups to get involved in the programme which is already out in print, but it is to be hoped that next year, if there is to be an Aye Write festival, that it includes the very characters from whom that colloquial title got its import and colourful meaning.
Marc R Sherland
President of Scottish Association of Writers
Ambassador & Events Convenor for the Federation of Writers (Scotland)