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by Norman Warwick and Catherine Smith

The cleverly named Aye Write festival (left), after a covid hiatus, was back for 2022 with a live programme of over two hundred events held across three weekends, from 6th to 22rd May. I´m told by a reader, Catherine Smith, that it was a festival of all things literature, including discussion and debate!

There was a score and more of intriguingly titled creative writing workshops and author-talks available throughout the three weekends of the Aye Wright Festival of creative writing in Glasgow.

These included A Potent Mix Of Myth And Mystery which saw a panel of three, Jennief Saint, Susan Stokes Chapman and Rosie Andrews in a discussion chaired by Lee Randall, and I would definitely have liked to attend  Rock ´n Roll Excess delivered by  Ian Winwood and Michael Hann, and I am absolutely certain that a session titled How To Be Right Not Wrong, as facilitated by James O´Brien., would have proved very useful. All of these sessions ran for an hour but were only a small sample of gatherings dotted around the Aye Write Festival area. I also reckon a seminar called The Real Stanley Baxter (right), a much loved Scottish comic, as described by Brian Beacom and Ford Kiernon might have been both enlightening and entertaining.

On the following day, Saturday 7th May, aspirant writers could have learned Tips From a Publisher from Scott Pack and I love the title of My Mess Is A Bit Of A Life delivered by Georgia Pritchett.

On Sunday 8th May there was a similar sixty-minute session on Writing Television Drama, and John Niven chaired a question and answer session with Tracy Thorn, of Everything But The Girl following her great book, My Rock And Roll Friend (left).

Later in May, on Friday 13th you could have found out What You Need To Know About Dialogue from David Pettigrew and on the follow day you could have attended a Songwriting Workshop conducted by Gareth Williams, whilst on Saturday 14th Mark Hodkinson and Alistair McKay both explained How Music Saved My Life And, because I am a well-rounded individual, I am sure that not only would I have enjoyed all the festival events with a musical connotation but also I would have enjoyed learning about A Woman´s Game: The Rise, Fall And Rise Again of  Women´s Football, as told by Suzanne Wrack.

The Book Of Sea Shanties (right) would definitely have interested me and was delivered by Nathan Evans on 19th May.

The Aye Right Festival wasn´t only about workshops and talking shops, of course.

Guest speakers included tv presenter Chris Tarrant, former Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable, clever comic Miles Jupp (left) and tv´s Doctor Hilary Jones speaking about Life On The Frontline, and of course there were top line authors such as Joanne Harris, Val McDermid and Ian Rankin there as well

Notwithstanding its stellar guest list, however, the Aye Right Festival seems unafraid to ask itself the  tougher questions, such as What Have We Ever Learned From Book Festivals?

This tip of the iceberg evidence we have supplied here surely suggests that the Aye Wright attendees of these and countless other events would have been able to respond with ´quite a lot actually´, including how to write Short, But Perfectly Formed Stories, another promising title for yet another workshop delivered during the festival.

Another author meeting an audience at the Aye Right Festival was Helen Lewis (left), author of Difficult Women, subtitled “a history of feminism in 11 fights”.

After graduating, Helen gained a post-graduate diploma in newspaper journalism from London’s City University. Subsequently, she was accepted on the Daily Mail‘s programme for trainee sub-editors, working in the job for a few years, and later joining the team responsible for commissioning features for the newspaper. At the New Statesman she recruited new bloggers, including Sarah Ditum, Glosswitch and Juliet Jacques, and edited its website. She was appointed the Women in the Humanities Honorary Writing Fellow at Oxford University for 2018/2019, and served on the steering committee for the Reuters Institute for Journalism at Oxford University, where she delivered a lecture on “The Failures of Political Journalism,” subsequently adapted as a New Statesman cover story.

For five years from August 2006, Lewis ran a networking event, open to all young journalists, called Schmooze And Booze, for which she organised events held in a central London pub every other month. Lewis commented in 2007 that older colleagues, who had worked with each other for quite a long time, all seemed to know each other, while her contemporaries did not.

Lewis was appointed as deputy editor of the New Statesman in May 2012, after becoming assistant editor in 2010. She has written about the harassment of women online and trolling. Since July 2019, she has been a staff writer at The Atlantic,] where she has written about the Royal Family, “social Munchausens”, internet culture  and British politics.

In September 2018, Lewis interviewed Jordan Peterson for GQ, in a video which has been viewed more than 50 million times. Lewis later described it, in a review of Peterson’s second book, as “easily the most viral moment I’ve ever had”.

In November 2019, April 2020, October 2020, April 2021 and November 2021 Lewis was a panellist on BBC’s Have I Got News For You, fitting in easily with the wit and wisdom of the weekly banter.

Rachel Cooke, (right) Reviewing Helen´s book, Difficult Women, in The Guardian in 2020  Rachel Cooke wrote that

¨Helen Lewis begins this book with a question. What, she asks, does it mean to be a “difficult woman”? You may not be entirely surprised to hear that I didn’t really need to read on to know the answer to this. Like many, if not most, of my closest friends, I’ve been a difficult woman for more than three decades now. Naturally, then, I find it strange and slightly alarming for a writer to feel she has to plead, as Lewis goes on to do, for understanding in the matter of the “complicated” woman. Surely this should go unsaid. If it’s entirely human to be multifaceted – for some aspects of your personality to be trickier and darker than others – isn’t it also beholden upon you to be sympathetic to such quirks and flaws in other people?

But this is where we are. Twenty-first-century culture has, as Lewis notes, a tendency – you might call it a mania – for disapproving of both contemporary and historical figures on the grounds that aspects of their lives or work are distasteful. Those considered to be too unpalatable are quickly written out of the story (AKA cancelled); others are carefully repackaged, their sharper corners having been, as she puts it, carefully sandblasted. More insidious still is the question of likability. Why do women have to be nice? When I was publicising my book about some female pioneers of the 1950s, I grew used to the moment at literary festivals when someone in a nubbly sweater and unlikely earrings would announce to me in a tight, little voice that, for all their achievements, she simply didn’t like any of the women whose lives I’d spent so long researching. I grew to despise this. I don’t even like the people I love all the time.

The women in Lewis’s book are all “difficult”. But this is their superpower. It makes them brave and bullish; it provides them with the kind of tunnel vision that changes the law and the landscape. They’re wild and interesting and singular, and because of this, there were times when I wanted much more of them (I also wanted to see what they looked like, and I hope her publisher will include photos in the paperback edition).

Difficult Women is a good book – inspiriting and energetic – but it is a diffuse one. Lewis has set herself a huge task, galloping not only through several centuries of women’s history, but through some pretty thorny territory: the vote, divorce, education, sex, abortion. There are times when she can only scoot along the surface. For me, too, there was a problem of familiarity. Younger women, and those less inclined to wear worsted knickers, may not know some of the stories she tells. But if you’ve already read biographies of, say, the birth control pioneer Marie Stopes, or any of the excellent

I enjoyed Difficult Women most when I could feel Lewis’s deep engagement – and when she was telling me something I didn’t know (or only half knew). The essay entitled Safety, about the refuge movement, is very good: searching, and bracing. Lewis wants to know why Erin Pizzey (left) , who in 1971 founded the first women’s shelter in Chiswick, west London, has been all but erased from the record of the long struggle to raise consciousness around domestic violence; her account of the various schisms in the women’s movement of the 1970s – Pizzey, it turns out, fell foul of the thought police – and the way she connects such spats to our present purity politics is clever and compelling. It’s also poignant, Pizzey having been through hard times. Lewis is rightly disturbed by Pizzey’s ongoing support for the men’s movement, but she also has the pluck to ask: what are we going to do to change the behaviour of violent males? Are we making excuses for them if we show concern over feminism’s lack of interest in perpetrator programmes? (Answer: no, we aren’t.)

Even better is the chapter called Love, in which Lewis tells the story of Maureen Colquhoun, Britain’s first out lesbian MP; of Jackie Forster, the editor of the 70s lesbian journal Sappho; and of Forster’s lover, Barbara Todd, who would leave her for Colquhoun, with whom she still lives. If you want bravery, you will find it here, whether in Colquhoun’s work in the Commons (she wouldn’t settle for sex discrimination becoming illegal; she wanted all bodies who received public money to give half of their places to women), or in Forster’s campaigning journalism (under the auspices of Sappho, she raised money for women dismissed from the army for being lesbians, and ran a club for closeted wives), or in the simple fact of their determined openness at a time when most gay public figures remained closeted and homophobia was standard (Colquhoun described Todd as her “partner” in her 1975 Who’s Who entry). It is to the Labour party’s eternal shame that in 1977 it voted to remove Colquhoun as a candidate on grounds so spurious they would be unimaginable had we not just been through the Jeremy Corbyn years (she criticised the party’s record on race).

This is a capacious book. Among its pages are some pretty cherishable facts and figures (in the 1880s, women’s undergarments weighed the same as a newborn); quite a lot of sex and, er, non-sex (from Stopes’s masturbation diary to Anne Koedt’s radical 1970 paper, The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm); and some useful provocations (a lot of current feminism, Lewis suggests, is simply “self-help under a thin, sugary glaze of activism”).

I liked this roominess: it speaks of open-mindedness and warmth. But what I loved most of all is her clear respect for those who went before us, particularly the second wave. Not for her the dismissiveness of some younger feminists for older women. Lewis understands that we are all products of our time; that we stand on shifting sands. In this context, respect seems like a rare solid thing and it should be given freely. Enough cudgels are wielded at feminism without us going after those who were, and are, basically on our side.

 Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights by Helen Lewis is published by Jonathan Cape (£16.99). To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p&p over £15

I always fear that any book with the word ´difficult´ in its title is, indeed, going to prove difficult to read and the above review makes the work by Helen Lewis sound interesting and authorative, rather than a light and fluffy disposable paperback. So, we were pleased to hear that one of our readers, Catherine Smith, fortunate enough to live in the Glasgow heartland, would be attending The Aye Right Festival 2022, to hear the talk by Helen Lewis, who´s book she was currently reading.

Here at Sidetracks And Detours there is no one we love more than a roving reporter so let´s hear what our latest contributor has to say. Catherine certainly enthused and said:

´I struggle to write about this because there is so much to get excited about,´ says Catherine Smith (left) . ´As you know, the book was selected as a read by our book club, and our reading of it coincided with Helen Lewis´ involvement in the Aye Right Festival 2022 in Glasgow.

The book club has been running for a couple of years now, and was a real boon during lockdown. We haven´t decided on a name yet, despite the publisher of this article (a  man) suggesting we should now call ourselves A Reading Group Of Difficult Women !

Nevertheless, I and eight other ´difficult women´ from our group decided to first wine and dine in a nearby restaurant to the accompaniment of a baby grand piano before settling in at The Mitchell Theatre where Helen was to be presenting her book. Despite any presumed ´difficulty´, there was a  ´splattering´ of good men among the impressive attendance.

Through her title of Difficult Women, Helen was referring to the host of ´complicated¨ women who appear in her book and/or have left a conspicuous mark on society. Many such women, of course, have been ´airbrushed´ out of history.

Nevertheless, I found Difficult Women  very easy to read, which is not something I can always claim when reading about Feminism. The book has been described in other place as witty, hilarious, rigorous, unforgettable and devastating.

The Chapters are split into fights, and the final chapter is entitled The Right To Be Difficult.

The book somehow made me feel validated about behaving as being seen as ´that diffícult woman´.

I found the text contained a high number of wonderful quoted, my favourite being, ´sexism and feminism are like bacteria and anti-biotics; the latter forces the former to evolve´.

I´ve bought copies of this book for my daughter and granddaughter and recommended it to them as a superb reference book´.

It transpired during our conversation, which took place here on the island of Lanzarote on our patio surrounded by our six prowling cats (difficult women, all of them). It turned out that Catherine is as big a fan of Coronation Street as Dee and I are. We know lots of those strong, difficult women like the tarty Elsie Tanner and later the transsexual Hayley Cropper. The script-writers at Granada seem to create pathways that allow such characters to integrate somehow into the patriarchal, working class community that at first refuses to communicate wioth them. Perhaps real life is not so easy.

However, we three witches in this cauldron of conversation, (actually a reflection of Ena Sharple, (Catherine), Minnie Caldwell, (Dee) and me (uncle Albert Tatlock), regulars in The Rovers´ Return pub on Corrie´s cobbles , shown right with Ken Barlow and Annie Walker and we three played the parts of desultory tap-room philosophers pretty well. We´ve all seen the world, warts and all, in our various careers as social worker, NHS administrator and revenue funded artist.

We would all hope we have enlightened the general public and the elected politicians. And yet ´difficult women´ are still so pejoratively labelled. They remain stigmatised by public opinion because they still challenge and / or stand as a symbol of the failures of centuries of patriarchal ideals.

It has obviously been a busy time for all the lovers of literature and / or music living in Scotland, and the good times continue to roll throughout July as well. Glasgow is not the only city North of the border to host great music events. Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Nairn and Stirling  as well as Glasgow are also included in the list below, compiled by Rob Adams of Music That ´s Going Places. We really appreciate his efforts and his willingness to share this information with our readers.

Summer nights can offer bonuses as well as music – like the wonderful views over the Clyde from the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock (above)


Lemon Tree
Sun 10: NYOS Jazz Orchestra with Julian Joseph

The Caird
Sun 10: Havana Swing
Sun 31: The Sellars Brothers

Assembly Hall
Fri 15: Seonaid Aitken Big Band
Sat 16: Fergus McCreadie Large Ensemble
Tue 19: John Scofield
Wed 20: Les Violons de Bruxelles/Rose Room

Assembly Roxy
Fri 15: Jim Mullen
Mon 18: Brian Molley Qrt
Sun 17: Dinosaur
Tue 19: Daniele Raimondi-Konrad Wiszniewski Qnt
Wed 20: John Burgess/Martin Kershaw
Thu 21: Brian Kellock-David Blenkenhorn Trio/Kitti
Fri 22: Classic Jazz Orchestra/Fabio Giachino, David Milligan & Norman Willmore
Sun 24: Brian Kellock & Colin Steele/Sade Mangiaracina Trio

Jazz Bar
Fri 15: Marianne McGregor/Richard Glassby Qrt
Sat 16: Harvest Group/Atom Eyes
Sun 17: Noushy 4Tet/Rachel Lightbody
Mon 18: De Beren Gieren/Jazz Bat Big Band
Tue 19:Greg Taylor Band/Aku!
Wed 20: European Jazz Workshop
Thu 21: Daniele Raimondi & Matt Carmichael/Joe Williamson 
Fri 22: Nathan Somevi Trio/Francesco Zampini Quintet
Sat 23: Rosie Frater Taylor/Archipélagos
Sun 24: Ferdinando Romano Totem/Emma Smith

The Outhouse
Thu 7: Playtime with Anoushka Nanguy

Bar Bloc
Tue 26: STRATA

Blue Arrow
Thu 14: David Bowden European Qrt

Glad Cafe
Tue 19: India Blue/Popko Blink

Beacon Arts Centre Jazz Club
Thu 28: Fergus McCreadie Trio

Isle of Skye
Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
Fri 8: NYOS Jazz Orchestra with Julian Joseph

606 Club
Wed 6: Emilia Martensson
Sun 10: Anita Wardell
Wed 13: Tim Whitehead
Sat 16: Mornington Lockett with Henry Lowther
Thu 28: John Etheridge’s Blue Spirits 

Ronnie Scott’s
Fri 1 – Sun 3: Lee Ritenour & Dave Grusin
Tue 5: Georgia Cecile
Wed 6 – Thu 7: David Sanborn
Fri 8 – Sun 10: Arturo Sandoval
Tue 12 – Wed 13: Cecile McLorin Salvant
Wed 20 – Fri 22: Marcus Miller
Wed 27 – Thu 28: Joey DeFrancesco
Sat 30: Felix Pastorius  

Nairn Community Centre
Sat 9: NYOS Jazz Orchestra with Julian Joseph

Mon 11: NYOS Jazz Orchestra with Julian Joseph

(this list isn’t intended to be comprehensive – other gigs are available)


Our thanks to Rob Adams for sharing this information

The Beacon’s new jazz club hosts pianist Fergus McCreadie’s trio on Thursday 28th July. Fergus is the sole Scottish nominee in this year’s Parliamentary Jazz Awards, whose winners will be announced on Tuesday 5th July, the same night that the trio plays at Lancaster Jazz Festival. Before that, there might still be a ticket available for the massive Love Supreme festival in Sussex, where the trio join fellow Scots including saxophonist Matt Carmichael and Graham Costello’s STRATA from Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd July. .    

If you’ve opened this newsletter in time, it should still be possible to catch saxophonist Brian Molley (right) and his quartet at the Beacon (Thursday 30th June). Brian’s latest album, Intercontinental, has had fantastic reviews, including 5 stars from The Scotsman, and his quartet is also playing in Braemar on Saturday 2nd July and in Edinburgh on Monday 18th July

Playtime have returned to their spiritual home, The Outhouse in Edinburgh, and are currently bringing an exciting programme to the Broughton Street Lane bar’s intimate loft space. Their next guest, on Thursday 7th July, is trombonist Anoushka Nanguy (left), now established with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra as well as nu jazz collective corto.alto. Playtime also feature with trumpeter Laura Jurd on Monday 18th July


Sidetracks And Detours now publish the jazz itineraries from Jazz In Reading, Ribble Valley Jazz and Blues and from Music That´s Going Places, as well as from individual contributers such as Alan Lawless, currently seeking to revive what was the long-running Jazz On A Sunday eventsand which gives a pretty comprehensive guide to live jazz in the UK. However, if we are not yet. We also regularly print jazz news items reported on his Hot Biscuits jazz radio programme by Steve Bewick, still covering The Greater Manchester area, even as his show floats around the world in a mix cloud. If, however, you feel your own local jazz scene, wherever that might be in the world, is conspicuous by its absence from these pages, please feel free to send is your news in Word format via e mail attachment, and we will do our very best to include it.

The primary source for this article was  first published in The Guardian, an excellent and positive information stream those of us who love the arts.  We are also grateful to Catherine Smith, a reader of Sidetracks And Detoursfor sending us the comprehensive review we have included in this article. She has now taken on the voluntary role of our Girl Reporter From Glasgow, and if she trips over any arts event of interest she will try to let us know.

In our occasional re-postings Sidetracks And Detours are confident that we are not only sharing with our readers excellent articles written by experts but are also pointing to informed and informative sites readers will re-visit time and again. Of course, we feel sure our readers will also return to our daily not-for-profit blog knowing that we seek to provide core original material whilst sometimes spotlighting the best pieces from elsewhere, as we engage with genres and practitioners along all the sidetracks & detours we take.

This article was collated by Norman Warwick, a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.

Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve Bewick, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Four.

As a published author and poet Norman was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (for which he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.

From Monday to Friday, you will find a daily post here at Sidetracks And Detours and, should you be looking for good reading, over the weekend you can visit our massive but easy to navigate archives of over 500 articles.

The purpose of this daily not-for-profit blog is to deliver news, previews, interviews and reviews from all across the arts to die-hard fans and non- traditional audiences around the world. We are therefore always delighted to receive your own articles here at Sidetracks And Detours. So if you have a favourite artist, event, or venue that you would like to tell us more about just drop a Word document attachment to me at normanwarwick55@gmail.com with a couple of appropriate photographs in a zip folder if you wish. Being a not-for-profit organisation we unfortunately cannot pay you but we will always fully attribute any pieces we publish. You therefore might also. like to include a brief autobiography and photograph of yourself in your submission.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sidetracks And Detours is seeking to join the synergy of organisations that support the arts of whatever genre. We are therefore grateful to all those share information to reach as wide and diverse an audience as possible.

correspondents                                Michael Higgins

                                                            Steve Bewick

                                                            Gary Heywood Everett

                                                            Steve Cooke

                                                            Susana Fondon

                                                            Graham Marshall

                                                            Peter Pearson

Hot Biscuits Jazz Radio                      www.fc-radio.co.uk

AllMusic                                            https://www.allmusic.com

feedspot                                              https://www.feedspot.com/?_src=folder

Jazz In Reading                                  https://www.jazzinreading.com

Jazziz                                                 https://www.jazziz.com
Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues                https://rvjazzandblues.co.uk

Rob Adams                                         Music That´s Going Places

Lanzarote Information                        https://lanzaroteinformation.co.uk

all across the arts                                 www.allacrossthearts.co.uk

Rochdale Music Society                     rochdalemusicsociety.org

Lendanear                                           www.lendanearmusic

Agenda Cultura Lanzarote

Larry Yaskiel – writer

The Lanzarote Art Gallery                  https://lanzaroteartgallery.com

Goodreads                                        https://www.goodreads.

groundup music                                  HOME | GroundUP Music

Maverick                                             https://maverick-country.com

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