I started writing this entry in a Dundee pub called the George Orwell, a cosy neuk not far from the art college. I was waiting to meet my pal Lydia, whom I’d first met there in 2015.
Appropriately, the Orwell had been a gathering spot for a social event called the Literary Lock-In. Despite that title, it was held during regular pub hours and was an opportunity for writers and readers to mingle and drink without attending a formal reading or performance.
At another venue, which varied from time to time, there also was a silent reading party where participants would bring their own novels, read them in each others’ company, then chat afterwards.
These events, and many others, were run or supported by the University of Dundee under the banner of Literary Dundee. However, the department closed when its head Peggy Hughes moved to Norwich Writers’ Centre. We were left with something of a vacuum to fill.
Five years on, the literary scene has morphed into a different creature.
Last year, a couple of street poets began performing at locations around the city centre, an event that became monthly, then moved into a café for the winter. We also have a playwrighting evening that frequently ties in with the exhibitions at the aforementioned art college. There is also an arts collective set up by self-described queer writers and artists that runs a number of workshops.
While it’s lamentable that the lock-in and the silent reading no longer exist, I’m glad that the scene as a whole is still as strong as ever, and I look forward to what the next five years bring us.