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Janet Paisley

Well, it was supposed to happen at the new East End HQ of the Glasgow Women’s Library, but instead it happened at the CCA. Builders and deadlines, eh? Very much our gain, with a spellbinding performance from the great Janet Paisley, introduced by Magi Gibson.

The male dominated view of history was successfully challenged by Janet’s elucidation of her carefully researched historical novels, such as White Rose Rebel and Warrior Daughter. Janet’s own personal struggle to write against the odds of male domineering made for a powerful tale indeed; fueling her classic play, Refuge, about the traumatised lives of those in a women’s shelter fleeing the domestic abuse and repression which threw such a shadow over lowland Scotland in the twentieth century.

Janet read from several of her stories and poems in English and in Scots, the latter being a tongue which she has championed since her discovery that all of her friends and family spoke a language which they did not know how to write down. Janet’s many insights included the need to write a play as many times as the play has characters, the importance of reading your poetry aloud, the curious anomaly of how characters in books never have distractions, and that the average earnings of a Scottish writer, from their writings, is only £4000 per annum.

Magi Gibson concluded by drawing our attention to books available at Glasgow Women’s Library, such as Evelyn Reed’s Women’s Evolution and Jean Markale’s Women of the Celts – for those interested in pursuing the perspective of Janet’s work, that societies have existed in prehistory which were neither male-dominated, hierarchical, or unequal. These ideas can inform all our views, as to what kind of future we should be constructing in Scotland now.

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