Nicola Sturgeon to appear at Muriel Spark centenary celebration

Nicola Sturgeon is to read from the work of Muriel Spark at a special 100th anniversary celebration of the Edinburgh-born author's life and legacy.
The life and legacy of Muriel Spark will be celebrated at the Usher Hall in her home city of Edinburgh.The life and legacy of Muriel Spark will be celebrated at the Usher Hall in her home city of Edinburgh.
The life and legacy of Muriel Spark will be celebrated at the Usher Hall in her home city of Edinburgh.

The First Minister will appear alongside author Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin, and actress Maureen Beattie, at the Usher Hall later this month.

Spark’s only play, Doctors of Philosophy, will be performed on stage for the first time since 1963 at the event, which is being staged by the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

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It has joined forces with the Royal Lyceum Theatre, whose artistic director David Greig will be directing extracts of Doctors of Philosophy, and publishers Birlinn, who are re-releasing all 22 of Spark’s novels.

Although it has not been revealed what the First Minister has chosen to read, McCalll Smith will be performing a poem he has written specially for the occasion.

The Usher Hall celebration is expected to be one of the highlights of a year-long programme of events marking the centenary of the Edinburgh-born author. Others include a major exhibition at the National Library of Scotland, which is largely drawn from the writer’s vast personal archives

The book festival’s celebration, on 31 January, is heading for a sell-out, with all seats in the stalls and dress circle already snapped up.

Book festival director Nick Barley said: “Muriel Spark was a one-off: a writer of international importance but who always recognised her Edinburgh origins.

"Her ideas still resonate strongly with Scottish writers and readers today, as is shown by the First Minister joining Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin, two of Scotland’s world renowned writers.

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"This event shows that Spark’s work is still highly relevant, and that her output was incredibly diverse and always fascinating.”

Meanwhile BBC Scotland has revealed that a major documentary on Spark which was commissioned to mark her centenary will be broadcast on the same day as the Usher Hall celebration. Presented by broadcaster Kirsty Wark, The Primes of Muriel Spark is billed as an hour-long celebration of “a unique voice in 20th century literature.

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A spokeswoman for BBC Scotland said: “With a chameleon like quality, she not only brought innovation to the art of novel writing, but she also transformed her own image: from hopeful school girl poet, to celebrated socialite, editor and celebrated writer.

“The documentary follows her life story from Edinburgh, to colonial Africa, war time London and the elegant Rome of the 1960s. It pieces together the story of her life through her writing, her personal papers and the wealth of BBC archive which spans more than 40 years. It includes contributions from contemporary writers and those who knew her, including her companion Penelope Jardine, revealing the many facets that make up a remarkable life and career.”