The Alasdair Gray Archive – Off Topic

Lately the blog has been really focussed on Simple Minds and in particular the 40th Anniversary of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, Rightly so. I do run this blog primarily as a Simple Minds (ie: Jim Kerr ogling) blog, with broader music topics – general album reviews, gigs reviews and interviews, etc.

Anyone who has spent time here in the past – even in the fairly recent past, knows I love art as well – photography, painting, drawing. And I love books too, though I don’t read much these days (more due to suffering narcolepsy when I read and also being a very slow reader. It makes for an awful combination!).

One of the last books I managed to read in its entirety was Lanark by Alasdair Gray. I even went on and bought a Kindle copy of 1982 Janine and still haven’t read it!

I initially caught the Gray bug due to His Kerrness referring to Lanark in an interview he had with Muriel Gray (no relation, as far as I am aware) in 1984. An interview that I only saw for the first time in early 2020. I looked into Alasdair Gray and sought out a copy of Lanark to read. I decided to go “old school” and bought a copy from a seller on eBay. The book made its way to me from the Isle of Lewis – but the way I held it to read it, the adhesive wore away from the spine and the book fell apart. In the end I borrowed a digital copy from the library to finish reading it. I had to keep borrowing it week and week after week.

Needless to say, not only did I fall in love with Lanark, I fell in love with Alasdair too. And not just his writing. Lanark is still the only thing of his I’ve read so far – apart from an open letter he sent to The Scotsman newspaper about how perhaps we are too hasty to tear down, demolish and rebuild, but perhaps there should be more consideration given to restoration. He talked about Sighthill in particular. I can’t help but wonder what he would make of all the redevelopment work that has gone on and continues to go on around Sighthill right now. And even what he’d make of the housing estate that has been given approval to be built upon the old Ruchill Hospital grounds. Right now, when I look out my bedroom and living room windows, I see a living Alasdair Gray painting. That view is going to change in its appearance in years to come.

And so, yes, I love his paintings, murals and illustrations as much as his writing. I particularly love getting out at Hillhead subway station to view the spectacular mural that spans the wall of the subway’s entrance. If you search my blog you’ll find photos and video of the mural at Hillhead. I’ve still yet to go to the Ubiquitous Chip and the last time I was at Oran Mor, I was not even aware of Alasdair, or his amazing work there.

Sadly, Alasdair passed away at the end of 2019, but he has left such an amazing legacy.

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting the Alasdair Gray Archive, located at The Whisky Bond, just off Possil Road, overlooking the Forth and Clyde canal between Speirs Wharf and Applecross. It really was a wonderful hour I had spent there. I had the space to myself with the curator of the archive, Sorcha, as my personal guide. It is only a small space – not much larger than our living room (if any larger at all) and was arranged to show Alasdair’s office/writing space at one end, his art space at the opposite end of the wall, as well as a display of his bookshelf and illustrations, artworks and prints on the wall opposite.

I was allowed to view certain things and could view the massive “work-in-progress” folio in the top drawer of his artist’s bureau, which was incredible. One hour just was not enough.

I hope to return sometime in the near future to get lost again. I look forward to future “Gray Days”.

You can learn more about the Alasdair Gray Archive by visiting: thealasdairgrayarchive.org

I’m thinking this is a dungeon where all the naughty boys of Glasgow get put.
Below is the layout of archive, showing how Alasdair’s workspaces were laid out in his Hillhead home. Click on the photos to get enlarged viewing options.

An Independent Socialist – A World In Gray

Please do not be fooled by the blurb you see attached to the video! There really isn’t too much talk about the then imminent Scottish Independence referendum. It really is all about the remarkable Alasdair Gray. A man I wish I had been aware of, learned about and began to have some kind of – albeit without any actual personal interaction with – affinity for while he was still living.

There is a sadness I feel that, having moved to this amazing city just a few short weeks before, that Alasdair left us at the end of December in 2019.

Yes, you have to pay to watch the film – documentary – but if you love art, love the murals around Glasgow, have ever read Lanark or 1982 Janine and loved them – see that mural at Hillhead subway station each day (I can’t tell you how many times I have passed it by already and never realised it was there – with great shame) …

Just watch it.

Even as I am still finding my way through Lanark, I take in all the places I recognise. A number of them are local or not very far away. I even found myself reading a letter to a local paper he had submitted about wondering what was to become of Sighthill (the general area, not the cemetery – that wasn’t the topic of Gray’s letter) It is literally just up the road. Just go down to the end of the adjacent street, past the bowling green, round the corner, past the speedway track – up Finlas Street turning into Carlisle Street, until it meets Keppochill Road – and there you are. Sighthill Cemetery. Three weeks ago I didn’t even know it existed! There is NOTHING to mark it out on Google Maps. A few times coming down the A803 from the city centre by car or on public transport I could see there were some graves but I had assumed it was attached to a churchyard – not an actual full cemetery. A cemetery so vast that – as far as I am aware, only the Necropolis is larger (although trying to confirm this with research would indicate Sighthill is larger in acreage so I am a bit confused). Needless to say it is a large expanse and perplexing not to be revealed on a map!

Gray within the pages of Lanark seems to mention a street nearby, Ashfield Street. There is only one Ashfield Street in all of Glasgow. A few Ashfield Roads but no “street”. Only this one. It must be it! And there is talk of Riddrie where he grew up and the area that is now know as Robroyston but was once Garngad – all not terribly far away, further over to the east and north of us on the other side of Bishopbriggs.

But I shall stop waffling and let you watch it! I found it enthralling.