My story, ‘Protect Yersel wi Fire’ features in PUSH 19 and includes an illustration by Alloa-based artist Karen Strang. Not only am I pleased to have a collaborative project published in a mag that’s becoming increasingly popular, I’m delighted that PUSH has taken a story written in Falkirk Scots, given that its audience (in the main) is London-based football and music fans.
I’ve seen little bits of Scots in PUSH – Michael Pederson’s ‘Limelight Bar, Meadowbank’, for example – but I believe ‘Protect Yersel wi Fire’ is the first story to feature that is Scots throughout. Also, it’s about the referendum and I – perhaps wrongly – felt that English people wouldn’t be particularly interested in reading about a Scot’s disappointment at still being part of the union.
So this got me thinking about a few things. First off, like it or lump it, we’re still a union. In my experience, most English people are either pleased Scotland is still part of the UK or they’re completely indifferent. If you excuse the generalisation, the latter are usually London-based as London is pretty much its own entity, to the extent that folk from Newcastle and ‘The North’ (as it’s inaccurately referred to in the media on a regular basis) often feel just as cut off as folk in Stornoway.
PUSH and its readers, however, are a different breed. The mag is underground poetry and fiction at its best – it celebrates the many voices the UK has to offer and is not scared to print material other publications may shun. I believe it’s this that has made it the powerhouse it has become, thanks to founder and editor Joe England’s open mind and general frustration with the mainstream press.
Most websites offering advice to authors looking to become published recommend manuscripts be written in ‘Standard English’ (whatever that means) as regional dialect narrows the audience thus impacting marketability and sales. James Kelman recently signed with Edinburgh-based Canongate, claiming that ‘London publishers are “elitist” and don’t get Scotland’. Whilst this is referring to the mainstream press, his comments and frustrations are understandable.
As far as my recent experience is concerned though, the underground and less mainstream press may have had a slight change of heart – between PUSH publishing ‘Protect Yersel wi Fire’ with Karen’s illustration and a recent email from a West London-based publisher saying they loved the first chapter of my novel (also written in Scots) and are keen on reading the full manuscript once it’s ready.
In my opinion, Scotland made the wrong decision in 2014, but in the lead up to the vote I found it excruciating that some folk thought Yes voters were either anti-English, SNP lovers or both. No political party is perfect – I think that’s obvious in contemporary times – so I tend to vote for the party I dislike the least these days. I would’ve been happier with a Labour-run indie Scotland than an SNP majority that’s part of a union run by the Tories – but anyway, it’s done . . . for now. ‘Protect Yersel wi Fire’ deals with some of these irritations, whilst showing compassion for our neighbours and highlighting how, regardless of nationality or political persuasion, music can unite us.
PUSH 19 will be available soon from the PUSH website.
Some of Karen’s other work can be viewed on her Facebook page, here.
‘Protect Yersel wi Fire’ first appeared in issue five of Falkirk litzine, [Untitled].