January is a Janus facing month, and on the 14th the Scottish Writers’ Centre’s decade began with a look back, not to the literary 2019 so much as the Scotland in which Joy Hendry’s eventful tenure at Chapman magazine began. There was no Writers’ Centre, no Poetry Library, no sense of literature being something Scots could do (in spite of the Scots – Norman MacCaig, Angus Calder, Sorley MacLean – who could do it, and did it with truly world class aplomb).
After a rousing journey through the Chapman story, we moved from East to West with Gerry Cambridge’s account of the foundation of the Dark Horse. From Ayrshire caravans and makar’s cottages we were brought to transatlantic controversies and dangerously miffed maybe mafioso would be contributors.
Henry Bell brought is into full contemporaneity with stargazing tales from Gutter, now celebrating its 20th issue in spite of a whole lot of everything being endured. Still bristling with ambition and aspiration, our eyes were very firmly fixed forwards.
After the break a rich discussion ensured around the challenges and rewards of what remains for most Scottish editors a labour of love in the truest sense. Having run as predicted to Shetland time (mia culpa) the immediate future was pleasantly enriched by the sharing of a modest libation, giving some of the speakers, audience and organisers a chance to end the night as we wish everyone’s year to continue – on the front foot, with hope amongst friends.