BWS Day 3: Bill Wells, Aidan Moffat and a Viking hoard

Aidan Moffat and support act RM Hubbert
Category: Reading

Book Week Scotland is certainly keeping me busy – today I hopped on a train from Glasgow to Dundee at 10.20am to make it in time for a couple of fantastic events.

First up was Victoria Campbell in Ardler Library, part of the 100 Authors in 100 Libraries series of events. Her book Viking Gold is the story of a young Viking and unlikely hero named Redknee. His father is remembered as a coward, leaving the would-be warrior to prove himself when Ragnar the warlord encroaches. It's also a book about reading, as the desired object of Ragnar's pillaging is a codec – or book – of great value.

Campbell (pictured below) was joined by pupils from two local primary schools – an enthusiastic bunch whose attention was impressively held by Campbell's wealth of knowledge about Viking armour and swordsmanship. The session went down a treat, and the author even brought along her own replica helmet, sword, and axe. (With the warning, "This axe was a present from my mother-in-law, so no jokes about battle-axes!") Fielding questions from her enthusiastic audience with aplomb, she also spoke about her journey from law to writing. 

Victoria Campbell in Ardler LibraryIn the evening I hopped over to the gorgeous Dundee Contemporary Arts centre for an event in 3 parts – all of which this blogger certainly enjoyed in equal measure.

Gordan Legge opened the set with a no-frills reading. He recently returned to writing, he says, as a retirement plan. Legge's excerpts of prose make the most of mundanity, his end-of-the-driveway storytelling style complemented by his relaxed reading stance. The brief extract demonstrated a great ear for dialogue and dialect, drawing you in with its rhythm as familiar as day-to-day life. He disappeared as quickly as he appeared on stage, but one hopes his stories will be back very soon in paper form.

Legge was quickly followed by Glasgow-based musician RM Hubbert (pictured at the top, with Aidan Moffat). Favouring the acoustic guitar, he tickles the strings like he has twelve fingers, storytelling through simple melodies and rhythmic tapping. After his opening piece he announced, "I like to ease into the more depressing aspects of my set," a worrying proposition but one filled, conversely, with pathos and delight.

Hubbert's set included pieces about the best curry he's had (which on this night was replaced with the DCA's braised lamb – with turnip, not parsnips) and about his late ex-father-in-law. Combining dark musical subject matter with an equally dark sense of humour, he's just as well worth hearing speak as play. If one thing is clear from headliners Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat's choice of opening acts, it's that they are two musicians with fantastic taste.

Wells and Moffat took to the stage shortly before I had to make my swift departure for the last train to Glasgow. Watching them play a gallery space is like being invited into their home. The relaxed setting of piano, timpani, Moffat's robust vocals and a muted horn set the scene for story-based songs with all the drama of a film noir and the one-off feeling of a good old house party.

For lack of happily coincidental book recommendations within today's events, I'll direct you to the works of all of the above, plus two books that I picked up at the Ardler book sale for 50p: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall by Spike Milligan. Which should I read during Reading Hour this Friday?

Tomorrow I'll be examining some Sacred Texts – first by reviewing the new Great Expectations adaptation, and then back at Book Week Scotland at the Scottish Poetry Library. See you then!

Nicola Balkind

Nicola Balkind is a writer, editor and avid reader. She contributes to a number of books, blogs, and the BBC Scotland Movie Café, and is the editor of World Film Locations: Glasgow. Read more of her Book Week Scotland blogs here.