THEY are a collection of “woolly” individuals with iconic status in Scotland and throughout the world.
Now the knitted Broons are becoming the latest stars of the Scottish literary festival circuit as demand grows for talks about a technical volume of knitting patterns featuring the family.
The patterns’ snappy lines include instructions, incomprehensible to most people, such as “4th row:P 5th row; K3, inc in next, K1, inc in next, K8”.
Forthcoming festival appearances for the knitted Broons who made their debut in Knit Your Own Broons by Jackie Holt and Ruth Bailey, include the Aye Write! festival in Glasgow next month, the Aberdeen May Festival and Off the Page, also in May, in Stirling.
An event at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh on 30 March was sold out within days. The authors are due to give a talk and run a workshop about the famous family, who live in a tenement flat at 10 Glebe Street, in the town of Auchenshoogle (sometimes called Auchentogle) – Maw, Paw, Hen, Daphne, Maggie, Horace, the Twins, the Bairn and Granpaw.
The comic strip family made their first appearance in the Sunday Post on 8 March, 1936, and were created by artist Dudley D Watkins and writer RD Low.
Holt, a former costume designer who has been involved in large-scale stage productions such as 125th Street at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London’s West End, as well as working at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre, said: “We always hoped the book would be a success but were slightly surprised to be invited to book festivals.
“I know this is a book, but what we’ve written is technical information on how to knit these little creatures.
“But as soon as we start telling people about the knitted Broons they say ‘that’s amazing’ and talk about when they first started following the family’s adventures. They are so much part of people’s lives and it stirs up memories.”
Holt said one of the main challenges was identifying the defining characteristic of each Broon and then transforming it into knitted form.
“Because I do costume I’m good at clothes and I had good old trawl of personalities. With Joe we tried to capture the way he stands, his cockiness and swagger. With Daphne it was the way her skirt is a little too short; with Horace it was his little knitted slipover and spectacles.”
Holt’s added attention to detail included finding the right colour of wool to match clothing shades from earlier eras.
Bob McDevitt, festival programmer for Aye Write!, said: “The festival already has a reputation for bringing slightly more unusual sessions to the Mitchell Library and the Knit your own Broons session will be a perfect blend, appealing to Aye Write! fans, knitting aficionados and the legions of fans of The Broons.”
A spokeswoman for the Aberdeen May Festival, which last year included talks from writers such as Denise Mina and Tony Parsons, said: “The Broons are a Scottish institution and many of our visitors will remember them fondly. We are sure the May Festival workshops will inspire potential knitters and teach experienced ones something new.”
A spokeswoman for Stirling Council, said: “Off the Page is an important event in Stirling’s cultural calendar. We try to have something for everyone and an event like this really fits the bill for grown-ups and bairns. It’ll be braw.”
Jackie Cromarty, who manages the NLS’s events programme, said the library kept a collection of Broons annuals in its massive collection of literary treasures.
“Our popular events programme attracts some of Scotland’s best-selling authors and is often a place where a few yarns are spun. What could be better then than offering people the opportunity to knit their own Broons character?
“People may know the National Library as the home of important papers by literary giants such as Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns but we are also proud to have Broons annuals from the 1940s onwards among the 24 million items we hold.”
Knit Your Own Broons, £9.99, Black and White Publishing