A CROSS-ARTFORM series that will bring together writers and artists to celebrate Scottish literature is set to launch.

Figures of Speech will begin on Friday, May 20, with the series of events created by Edinburgh Unesco City of Literature and the Scottish Storytelling Centre marking Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022. We asked some of those involved to share with our readers their favourite Scottish book and song.

Val McDermid, author

1. My favourite Scottish book would be The Collected Poems of Norman MacCaig. His love of the Scottish landscape and his sensitive exploration of human relationships never fails to move me.

2. My choice of song would be The Road and the Miles to Dundee. This was the song my father always sang at family gatherings and like the best songs, it tells a story.

Nicola Meighan (below, left), broadcaster

The National:

1. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully recover from David Keenan’s hallucinatory excavation of post-punk Airdrie, Coatbridge and surrounds in This Is Memorial Device, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Are Memorial Device really a fictional band? They’re certainly wild and visionary and this requiem to memory, music, friendship, obsession and outsider art makes for a magical trip.

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2. Rather than choosing one song or line, I’m inclined to shine a light on Kathryn Joseph’s lyrical lexicon, which is vividly bound to the human condition — blood and bones, love and grief, strength and fragility — and makes for a musical language that is visceral, stunning and entirely her own. No-one writes like her, but she speaks for so many of us in her words and songs.

Arusa Qureshi, writer

1. Trumpet by Jackie Kay. I read this book for the first time while at university and was bowled over by the musicality and beauty of Jackie Kay’s writing. Trumpet is a story about identity but also about love, grief and the blurring of the public and private spheres. It’s a heartbreaking read, based on the real life story of a transgender American musician, but its poignancy is amplified by the way in which Kay writes her characters with such care and respect.

2. The Leanover by Life Without Buildings. Any Other City is one of my favourite Scottish albums and this song is perfect to me for its combination of the band’s skittering art-rock instrumentation and Sue Tompkins’ charismatic speak-singing. The lyrics are repetitive, strange and chopped up so you feel a bit disorientated when listening but there’s a real sense of playfulness too, which I love.

Katie Ailes, poet

1. The Adoption Papers by Jackie Kay. I read this book at a moment in my life when I was discovering and exploring the complexity of my own biological origins. The empathy and nuance Kay brings to this collection made me feel instantly welcomed and accepted.

2. Nomad by Hamish Hawk. Hamish has long been one of my favourite Scottish musicians and it’s been such a joy to see his career skyrocket recently! As an immigrant/expat, I love how this song celebrates travelling and the joys (and sorrows) of developing relationships with people and places around the world.

Amanda Thomson, artist

1. Between Mountain and Sea: Poems from Assynt by Norman MacCaig. A collection of MacCaig’s poetry which serves as a repository for his deep engagement with the North West. Within these poems of care, thought and close observations of mountains, sea, lochs, hidden lochans, birds, beasts and people are contemplations of time, mortality, vulnerability and moments of social history and encounter so beautifully rendered they take your breath away.

The National: Norman MacCaig was popular among the festival starsNorman MacCaig was popular among the festival stars

2. An Hour with Thee by Scottish harpist Rachel Newton from her album Here’s My Heart Come Take It. Rachel has crafted the words from a poem by Sir Walter Scott into the most beautifully poignant, tender love song, which even today speaks to time passing, hard labour, toil, class divisions, the lack of care of the ruling classes and what gives respite. Also, though, if I may give a shout out to the humble tune, and a recommendation to listen to some of the incredible trad music players and bands out there like Lauren MacColl, Duncan Chisholm, Westward the Light and so many more, and how they capture the essence of the Highlands so wordlessly and beautifully.

Jessica Gaitan Johannesson, writer

1. Trumpet by Jackie Kay. I read this wise, inquisitive, quietly revolutionary novel while studying literature and transatlanticism, trying to find a literature of the “in-between”. It continues to reveal layers of complication and light in how we define ourselves and are defined – especially as ethnically, racially mixed and queer people.

2. All Souls Night by Loreena McKennitt. My first encounters with Celtic music weren’t thanks to Scottish musicians, but because of a Canadian multi-instrumentalist. Many years later, I’d find myself celebrating Samhuinn in Edinburgh and realise that the journey started with this song. It’s a nice reminder that belonging is never pure or straight.

Tendai Huchu, author

1. Pippa Goldschmidt’s excellent novel The Falling Sky is a wonderful example of the genre lablit. Realistic depictions of science at work, as opposed to headier science fiction. Goldschmidt’s gorgeous prose and working knowledge of astronomy creates something truly authentic and unique.

2. Holy Ghost by Young Fathers is sonically wild. It has all the hallmarks of the best rap bars, a certain lyricism, playfulness and great punchlines.

There’s these great turns of phrasing which surprise the ear. This band is way out there and they are doing something radically different.

Roseanne Watt, poet

1. A Choreographer’s Cartography by Raman Mundair. I adore her Shetland poems especially. As delicate as lace, as beautiful too.

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2. Sunshine on Leith by The Proclaimers.

It reminds me of moving to Leith with my partner after we’d spent a long set of months couch-surfing between friends’ sofas (ah, the housing crisis...) “While I’m worth my room on this earth, I will be with you” just hit a bit different during that time.

Jenny Colgan, author

1. Lanark by Alasdair Gray. It gave me such an upside down view of my own country when I first read it and I loved it so much especially the erratum slip.

2. Songwise it’s just Sunshine on Leith, because it’s perfect.