The Young Team author Graeme Armstrong persevered for years before his 'quick-fire' success – Brian Ferguson

There have been lots of strange yet inspiring things about Scottish culture since the last year.

Graeme Armstrong's book based on his teenage upbringing in Lanarkshire and his experiences of gang culture is being adapted for a new drama series.
Graeme Armstrong's book based on his teenage upbringing in Lanarkshire and his experiences of gang culture is being adapted for a new drama series.

One of them has undoubtedly been a resurgence in the country’s screen sector, with new projects starting to film or be confirmed almost every other week.

The other has been the emergence of new names onto the landscape at a time when live events have been in cold storage.

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So it was intriguing this week to report on a major new project which straddles both worlds and has an exciting newcomer at its heart.

Just over a year ago, writer Graeme Armstrong published his debut novel, which was inspired by the years he spent embroiled in gang culture in his native Airdrie, Lanarkshire.

Now he has clinched a deal with one of Scotland’s leading production companies, Synchronicity Films, to develop The Young Team into a major new drama series.

That may seem like the stuff of dreams for any writer and something of an overnight success for an author virtually unheard of at the start of last year.

But the reality is that Armstrong, now 29, spent around seven years working on The Young Team before it was ready to be published last March.

Graeme Armstrong's debut novel was released just over a year ago.

And this week’s announcement is just the latest chapter in a journey that began when he was a 16 year-old gang member and was given a copy of Irvine Welsh’s own debut novel, Trainspotting.

Armstrong, who became involved in a local gang when he was 13, has credited the book with saving his life.

He started to harbour dreams of becoming a writer, stayed on at school to get grades good enough to study English at Stirling University and wrote three books, despite struggles with drug addiction and alcohol abuse.

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The quality of his work was good enough to secure him a place on a creative writing course, where his mentors included Janice Galloway and Kathleen Jamie.

His three novels were gradually edited down to one before Armstrong’s book was released to widespread acclaim.

There were more plaudits for the book this week with Synchronicity Films founder Claire Mundell hailing it for its depictions of a “disenfranchised and much demonised section of working-class youth” and Adrian McDowell, the director attached to the adaptation, describing it as “the most exciting novel that I have ever read”.

The immediate impact and huge acclaim for The Young Team have remarkable echoes with the success of Douglas Stuart and his debut novel Shuggie Bain, which was nominated for a Booker Prize before it was even released in the UK and has been snapped up by American producers for adaptation into a series shortly after winning the prestigious literary honour.

Stuart may have been living as a fashion designer in New York when he wrote Shuggie Bain, but his book, which has been lauded for its depictions of working-class Glasgow in the 1980s, still took more than a decade of dogged determination.

There is an important and justified debate going about ensuring that the arts world is more accessible than ever as it emerges from the pandemic.

While cultural institutions should rightly be challenged to do all they can to make that happen, the success of Armstrong and Stuart should also provide ample inspiration that there is no real substitute for perseverance.

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