Full Programme Announced For First Ever Paisley Book Festival



John Byrne celebrates his 80th year with a Big Birthday Bash in his hometown; Kirsty Wark talks about her new novel and her life reporting politics and Nikesh Shukla, editor of The Good Immigrant, is in discussion with Jay G Ying, co-founder of the BAME Scottish Writers Network Festival will open with Radical Renfrewshire, marking the 200th anniversary of the Paisley Radicals -  the inspiration behind the festival.

The Festival Finale will feature a live gig from the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers - aka an all-star line-up of Val McDermid, Christopher Brookmyre, Mark Billingham, Doug Johnstone, Stuart Neville and Luca Veste swapping murder for music

Other highlights include Janice Galloway, Jackie Kay, Kirstin Innes, Jenni Fagan, Chris McQueer, Emma Jane Unsworth and Alan Bissett

From 20th - 29th February 2020 venues across Paisley will host events - from festival hub Paisley Arts Centre to the Bull Inn pub, Piazza Shopping Centre and The Lagoon swimming pool.

To book tickets and for more information please visit the Paisley Book Festival website.


The full programme has been announced for the first ever Paisley Book Festival. The inaugural event - set to become a regular annual festival in Paisley’s cultural calendar- will celebrate Radical Stories and Rebel Voices to mark the 200th anniversary of the Paisley Radicals. It will run at various venues  across the town from 20th to 29th February 2020.


Highlights across the ten days include:


  • A major opening night event celebrating Renfrewshire Rebels, featuring an exclusive reading from Scottish radicalism author Maggie Craig, poetry from Renfrewshire born Jim Carruth, and music from Glasgow-based singer-songwriter Heir of the Cursed (20 Feb)


  • John Byrne returning to his native Paisley for a Big Birthday Bash celebrating his 80th year. Part retrospective of his incredible body of work and part a raucous knees-up, expect readings from John’s plays, old and new, special guests and probably some cake (22 Feb)


  • From wowing the crowds at Glastonbury to closing the first ever Paisley Book Festival in style, the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers - aka an all-star line-up of Val McDermid, Christopher Brookmyre, Mark Billingham, Doug Johnstone, Stuart Neville and Luca Veste - will swap murder for music in a toe-tapping and unmissable live gig (29 Feb)


  • Renowned Scottish broadcaster Kirsty Wark in discussion with Ruth Wishart about her new novel and her life at the forefront of political reporting, as part of the University of the West of Scotland’s Inspiring Women series (22 Feb)


  • Editor of The Good Immigrant - a vital collection of writings by emerging British BAME authors, poets, journalists and artists on the issues of race and immigration - Nikesh Shukla will share a timely conversation with Jay G Ying, co-founder of the BAME Scottish Writers Network (23 Feb)


  • Marking thirty years since the publication of her debut novel The Trick Is To Keep Breathing introduced her as a lyrical, radical new voice in Scottish literature, Janice Galloway talks about her life, work, and anything else that takes her fancy (22 Feb)


  • Scots Makar Jackie Kay reading poems on the festival’s theme of Radical Stories and Rebel Voices, including some new work inspired by the American performer and international activist Paul Robeson (28 Feb)


  • Jenni Fagan, Kirstin Innes and Emma Jane Unsworth - authors of three of 2020’s most anticipated new novels Luckenbooth, Scabby Queen and Adults - get together to chat about the politics of writing rebellious, non-conformist female protagonists (23 Feb)


  • An evening of rebel poetry curated by Scottish culture blog The Fountain, with live performances from Michael Pederson, Hollie McNish and Sarah Stewart (27 Feb)


  • Chitra Ramaswamy and Emily Morris talking about their two very different but equally subversive accounts of pregnancy in a baby-friendly event (23 Feb)


  • Renowned multi-award-winning Scottish writer and performer Alan Bissett introduces some of his favourite Scottish talents in three unexpected Paisley locations Sonnet Youth’s: Scottish poets Kevin P Gilday, Imogen Stirling and Magi Gibson performing in the booths of the Bull Inn and the surreal and funny literary sensation behind Hings and HWFG, Chris McQueer, at legendary live music venue Callum’s Cavern, plus a look at the mountain of working class poetry unearthed from Renfrewshire archives in 1990 by then-Paisley writer in residence Tom Leonard and unread for centuries (28 and 29 Feb)


  • Renfrewshire’s only independent publisher, Jenny’s Well Press, with a night of five Scottish writers – Jim Ferguson, Fiona Lindsay, Tracy Patrick, Dave Manderson and Carl MacDougall – whose fictional characters go against the grain (24 Feb)


  • Paisley-based Fundamental Conduit with a thought-provoking event mixing spoken word, music and performance. Audiences will hear stories about Paisley radicals and their inspiring history, reflecting on the power of  local radicalism and rebellion within our current political climate (25 Feb)


  • Breaking the Mould: Creating Disabled and Low-Income Access to Publishing - award-winning author Ever Dundas joining Stuart White, founder of Write Mentor; Briana Pegado, director of Creative Edinburgh; and Lynsey Rogers, Writing Communities Coordinator at the Scottish Book Trust, to dissect diversity in the publishing industry and what positive changes are being made to open the gates (22 Feb)


  • Coffee house Bianco e Nero hosting a free drop-in Pop-Up Poetry Shop celebrating Paisley’s rich poetic history, from Robert Tannahill to Tom Leonard.Come along to have a go at writing creatively - either poetry or prose - , browse books, poems, Paisley maps and photographs (dates throughout the festival)


  • Inspiring family events for wee rebels including acclaimed Kenyan-Scottish storyteller Mara Menzies telling thrilling tales of people who stood their ground (22 Feb); Luke Winter and his typewriter in residence at the Piazza Shopping Centre writing on-the-spot stories from audience suggestions (22 Feb); Campfire Club: Rousing Rebels, weaving new stories and old around the inside campfire (23 Feb); Bookbug in the Bath, a splashing good reading story session in the water at The Lagoon, in both Gaelic and English (26 Feb) and Lari Don introducing Fierce, Fearless and Free - her new collection of myths and legends about girls who escape ogres, defeat dragons, save villages, and never wait for a prince to save them (29 Feb)


Paisley Book Festival will also host the inaugural Janet Coats Memorial Prize, created in honour of the Paisley-born wife of publisher James Tait Black who herself released two volumes of nature-inspired poetry in the late 19th century. Shortlisted from open submissions from Scottish poets on the theme of climate change, the two winners - one for a poem written by an adult and one by an author under the age of 18 -  will be announced at a ceremony at the festival on 28th February. The deadline to submit poems is 5pm on Friday 13th December.

Tickets to all events go on sale 10am Friday 29 November online at paisleybookfest.com , by calling 0300 300 1210 or in person at Paisley Arts Centre. The Paisley Book Festival hashtag is #PBF2020

Paisley Book Festival is funded by Renfrewshire Leisure and Renfrewshire Council through Renfrewshire Council’s Future Paisley programme.



Victoria Hollows, Chief Executive of Renfrewshire Leisure, said:

“We are delighted to bring the Paisley Book Festival to life for the first time.  Renfrewshire Leisure’s Arts and Libraries teams have worked with the Producers to create a programme that we are proud of and excited to share with audiences.  Our aim is to establish the festival as a key part of Scotland’s cultural calendar.  We would like to thank our partners Renfrewshire Council for the funding and support offered through the Future Paisley programme which has made the festival possible”.

Rikki Payne, Arts Manager for Renfrewshire Leisure, said:

"The Radical Wars provide the historical backdrop for this event but we’re really keen to explore what radicalism means now. Faced with the challenges of climate emergency, rising inequality and political division, radical thinking and writing has never been so important. The Paisley Book Festival  provides a space to foreground those issues and to hear and read the diverse voices confronting them head-on”.

Keira Brown, Co-producer of the festival, said:

"We are excited to reveal a rich and diverse cultural programme for the inaugural Paisley Book Festival, with a variety of events that open the space for debate and reading, from our discussion with Kirsty Wark in conjunction with the University of West of Scotland to our BAME Writing Masterclass with Nikesh Shukla. There is something for everyone in Paisley in February 2020”.

Jess Orr, Co-producer of the festival, said:

“What better time to establish a new festival in Renfrewshire that celebrates readers, writers and the value of creativity and fresh ideas than in 2020, 200 years after the everyday people of Paisley rose against the establishment and demanded better for their communities. From readings, workshops, spoken word, storytelling and even live performances around the town, we hope everyone will find something to inspire them in Paisley Book Festival's inaugural programme”.


Media Contact

For interviews, images etc please contact Ruth Marsh on 07824468396 / ruth.marshpr@gmail.com

Notes to editors:

Future Paisley is an ambitious approach to cultural regeneration that harnesses the power of culture to support positive social change.  It is the legacy of Paisley’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 which has energised the town to focus on a positive future.  It complements a wide programme of investment over the coming years, including £100m investment into civic and cultural infrastructure, and the delivery of ambitious City Deal projects.


Jess Orr has a background in book festivals. From programming strands of book events and managing a range of projects at the Edinburgh International Book Festival as well as establishing  Open the Door: Scotland’s first festival dedicated to Scottish women’s writing at the Glasgow Women’s Library, getting none other than Ali Smith on the bill.

Keira Brown has an in depth understanding of the commercial side within the book industry, and the long-term impact of book events. She has a local knowledge of the creative writing and spoken word scene in Paisley as well as her experience developing and spearheading the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize for Booktrust.

 For more info on the radical wars of 1820 and Paisley’s role in them see


Information about what’s on and new developments in Paisley can be found at: https://paisley.is



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