Canongate looks at new direction as it turns 40

Alasdair Gray is among the authors attending Canongate's birthday bash tonight. Picture: Jane Barlow
Alasdair Gray is among the authors attending Canongate's birthday bash tonight. Picture: Jane Barlow
Share this article
Have your say

“WE’RE turning 40 at just the right time,” says Jenny Todd, associate publisher at Canongate Books – and she’s right.

The anniversary comes at a point in publishing history at which there’s a sense of rebirth in the air for those publishers who are willing to grasp the nettle and explore the opportunities new forms of dissemination and multimedia projects bring.

And Canongate is certainly the kind of company whose forward-thinking ethos lends itself to such experiments, as their 40th birthday party in Edinburgh tonight will demonstrate.

There will be authors present, of course, including Canongate stablemates Matt Haig, Alasdair Gray (Lanark was the imprint’s first real success three decades ago), Michael Smith and Michel Faber, and a clip from the Scarlett Johansson-starring film adaptation of Faber’s Under the Skin will also be shown.

Other films, including an interpretation of Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts directed by Tilda Swinton, will sit alongside appearances by musicians including former Arab Strap vocalist turned writer Aidan Moffat, RM Hubbert and Rick Redbeard. Canongate has worked with Redbeard’s record label, Chemikal Underground.

There will also be live art from the Too Much Fun Club, a performance from classical pianist James Rhodes, an immersive installation by The League of Gentlemen’s Jeremy Dyson, after his similarly constructed West End hit Ghost Stories, and MCing by performance poet Lemn Sissay.

“It’s a mini festival to celebrate storytelling in all its forms,” says Todd. “Although as a publisher we love books, we’re passionate about storytelling above all else. Our list reflects that – we publish novelists, musicians and so on, a lot of our authors are artists in many different fields.”

“It’s not consciously a rebranding, but I guess it is,” she continues. “What we are as a publisher in the digital age has evolved. What we felt with the anniversary was that it’s an opportunity to look back over our history, but that more importantly it’s a chance to actually say something about who we are now, and where we think we’re going. It’s a more meaningful message, really. And obviously the change towards digital has changed the role of a publisher in recent years, and we feel we’ve moved and adapted to that. We think we’ve done that well and we want to communicate those forward-thinking ideas.”

• Canongate Presents The Other Side is at the Jam House, Edinburgh, tonight