Leading Scottish artists set for Blabbermouth event

Iconic extracts of work by Iain Banks, Dame Muriel Spark, Robert Louis Stevenson, JM Barrie and Lewis Grassic Gibbon will be performed as part of a 12-hour celebration of Scottish culture being staged in one of Edinburgh’s most historic buildings on Wednesday.

"Blabbermouth" performance by National Theatre of Scotland artists. Picture: Colin Hattersley
"Blabbermouth" performance by National Theatre of Scotland artists. Picture: Colin Hattersley

The National Theatre of Scotland will be bringing together some of the country’s leading musicians, actors, artists and writers for the marathon event charting hundreds of years of written and spoken word.

Songs by The Proclaimers, The Waterboys, Billy Connolly, Michael Marra and Primal Scream, poems by Norman McCaig, Edwin Morgan, William McGonnagall and Liz Lochhead, and sketches made famous by Billy Connolly, Rab C Nesbitt and Francie and Josie will all feature in Blabbermouth at the Assembly Hall on The Mound.

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The 19th century building was home to the Scottish Parliament in the early devolution years before the Holyrood building was completed.

Among those performing at the event, to be hosted by Taggart star Alex Norton, will be be actors Peter Mullan, Gerda Stevenson, Douglas Henshall, Colin McCredie and Tam Dean Burn, comics Jonathan Watson and Hardeep Singh Kohli, Deacon Blue singers Lorraine McIntosh and Ricky Ross, and award-winning author Janice Galloway.

Around 60 artists in total are appearing at the event, which will start at lunchtime and feature some 120 pieces, some of which will be set to live music created by a “house band”, which will also feature guest appearances from singers like Karine Polwart and Annie Grace.

Highlights are expected to include union leader Jimmy Reid’s rectorial address to students at Glasgow University in 1972, the poem Edwin Morgan penned to mark the re-opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the classic Burns song My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose and an extract of The Crow Road, one of the late Iain Banks’ best known novels.

Norton said: “It’s a wonderful coming together of actors, musicians and writers. It’s the kind of thing that if I wasn’t in it myself I’d be buying a ticket to see it.

“I was only asked to read a piece at first and the next thing I knew I was being asked to host the whole thing, so I’ll be there for the whole 12 hours.

“I’ve got a feeling it will become one of those things that goes on and on rather than just be a one-off, a bit like the TV show Transatlantic Sessions.”

Tam Dean Burn said he hoped the event would be “an incredible celebration of Scottish culture.”

He told The Scotsman: “In some ways, I felt it should may be happening after Thursday, but it will be injected with a feeling of celebration and will also have a bit of a healing aspect to it, where everyone can come together.

“There is absolutely fantastic material available to us. We could be doing the show for a whole week and still not get through it.

“Maybe we could get together and do it again on a regular basis. The great things is it can be very flexible and doesn’t need too much rehearsal time.

“But if it is a completely unique one-off event then that would be great as well, especially having it in somewhere that is steeped in history like this.”

Graham McLaren, associate director of NTS, said the bulk of performers had specially chosen their own “party pieces.”

He added: “It does feel like I am preparing for a big house party, with all the anxiety that goes with it. I’m nervous that no-one will show up or that someone will get drunk!

“I think we’ll know about 90 per cent of what is going to happen when the event actually starts. It will definitely be a bit spontaneous on the day.”

Blabbermouth, which will be divided up into four different sessions, runs from 12 noon until 12 midnight.