Kevin Bridges thanks Irvine Welsh for firing his interest in reading as debut novel is launched
Kevin Briges has hailed Irvine Welsh as one of his biggest inspirations – as he launched a debut novel which he says helped him get through the pandemic.
Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Bridges credited Welsh's own debut Trainspotting with firing an enthusiasm for reading when he was a schoolboy growing up in Clydebank.
Bridges told the sell-out audience at the festival how he has drawn on his own experiences of life in a working-class community and his struggles with mental health difficulties in his book, The Black Dog.
Bridges drew inspiration from the horror novelist Stephen King and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino when he was trying to put together his own novel, which focuses on two writers from the same working-class community whose lives are very different paths.
Bridges said: "In the book, I thank my mum for always encouraging me to read and my dad for always encouraging me to write.
“My dad was forced to quit work as he had a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. He suffered from a bit of depression when he was on benefits. I remember seeing how much he struggled.
“But he started going to a creative writing class with other guys who were on incapacity benefits. I remember going to a showcase of the work they had and my dad recited some of his poems. I was only 10 or 11 but I was dead proud of him.
“My mum was always saying ‘read this book.’ God love her, she would recommend books she had enjoyed like, Enid Blyton. It couldn’t quite relate to it.
“To me, Irvine Welsh was the first guy who made reading seem like fun.
“Because my brother John was 10 years older than me he was like a third parent or a like a cool uncle.
“He had a copy of Trainspotting. What gripped me was thinking ‘I should not be reading this.’ I was only 11 or 12 at the time.
“I remember going ‘woah, this is mental.’ I just enjoyed the swearing at first then I really took to it. He’s been one of my biggest inspirations creatively.
“He just made that world seem accessible and he was somebody I could relate to.
“I’m quite sure I speak for a lot of people from my background in saying that Irvine Welsh got us into reading.
“I would love it if he read my book. I’ve never actually met him. I have slid into his DMs. He told me he was at my show at the Fringe a few years ago. I was delighted he was at least aware of me.
“The guy is a master. I would totally forgive him if he chucked it in the bin.”
Bridges said he wanted to portray the “compassion, humour, friendship and intelligence” of people in working class communities.
He said: “Just because somebody speaks like me doesn’t mean they are stupid.
“When I started out in comedy in 2004 there was a lot of ‘he’s just a ned.’
"Comedy I would say was fairly middle class. It was a kind of student thing and was something you did in the evenings after uni classes or whatever.
“I never knew I was working class until I started stand-up. I just thought everybody else was like me.”
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