IT is perhaps the sort of caper you would associate more with his best-known alter ego.
Actor Nigel Planer – famously Neil in the cult BBC comedy The Young Ones – was today turning graffiti artist on the streets of Edinburgh.
Armed with supplies of chalk, his mission is to write quotations from the author Robert Louis Stevenson on the pavements.
The event at key Edinburgh landmarks is part of a series of celebrations of the author centred around his birthday, which fell on Sunday.
This evening, Planer will take to the stage with author Ian Rankin at the City Art Centre for readings and a Q&A session, where they will talk about their love for Stevenson’s life and work.
Planer said: “I’ve had a fascination with him for a long time. I just became very interested in his whole life, because his life outdoes the adventure in his stories really. He was a really restless soul, I think.”
The actor’s interest with Stevenson has seen him write a play – Death of Long Pig – about the author’s death on Samoa, and he chose him as his specialist subject in his winning appearance on Celebrity Mastermind.
Planer said he was delighted to take part in the events to celebrate the writer and bring his work to a wider readership.
“It’s fantastic. I think there’s a sort of resurgence of interest in him. He was quite diverse and so he’s been easy to dismiss, because some people thought of him as a kids’ writer, some people thought of him as one thing, some as another. But that makes him more of a master as far as I’m concerned
“I think what’s happening is bringing much more interest in what he did and people are reassessing what he did.”
The events have been organised by the City of Literature Trust and Edinburgh Napier University, and organisers hope they will mark the start of an annual celebration of the author.
The quotations around the city are appearing at nine different spots. Each quote refers to its location and is accompanied by a QR code – a black-and-white grid that can be scanned with a smartphone to take users straight to the website http://robert-louis-stevenson.org, where they can find out more about Stevenson.
Free copies of Kidnapped and Jekyll and Hyde are also being left close to the quotations for readers to pick up, read, and pass on.
Professor Linda Dryden, director of the university’s centre for literature and writing, said the event had been many years in the planning. She said: “We wanted to celebrate Robert Louis Stevenson in the city of Edinburgh.
“You look at Bloomsday [a celebration of the writer James Joyce] in Dublin, which is a huge organisation and has been going for a long time and we can’t emulate that from scratch, but we want to build up a range of activities in the city in the week of his birthday.
“Because we have the event with Nigel Planer and Ian Rankin at the City Art Centre, which is causing a great deal of excitement, we thought this was a really good opportunity to kick off one or two things around the city to raise people’s awareness of Stevenson and his legacy, particularly to Edinburgh, the city of his birth.”
PHRASE A JOLLY GOOD FELLOW
HOLYROOD – outside Parliament, on pavement looking towards Holyrood
“Holyrood . . . Wars have been plotted, dancing hast lasted deep into the night, murder has been done in its chambers”
ROBERT FERGUSSON – near to statue on Canongate
“A Scot of poetic temperament and without religious exaltation, drops as if by nature into the public-house”
JOHN KNOX (HOUSE) – outside the old entrance to SSC/John Knox House, Royal Mile
“. . . the man who made Scotland over again in his own image, the indefatigable, undissuadable John Knox”
THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN – on the flat paving between Heart and St Giles, Royal Mile
“The walls are down in the dust . . . but the sun and the wind play freely over the foundations of the jail” NATIONAL LIBRARY OF SCOTLAND – opposite Central Library, down from NLS cafe
“. . . see the most studious-looking wigs fishing out novels by lanthorn light, in the very place where the old Privy Council tortured Covenanters”
GRASSMARKET – near the Covenanters marker
“There, in the Grassmarket, stiff-necked, covenanting heroes . . . bade eloquent farewell to sun, moon, and stars”
PRINCES STREET – in front of the main entrance to GPO building
“. . . passengers flee along Princes Street before the galloping squalls” GREENSIDE – in front of the Omni Centre, large expanse of pavement there
“This is Greenside, where witches were burned and tournaments held in former days”
CITY ART CENTRE – on the pavement near CAC, where our RLS day event is being held
“. . . there are no stars so lovely as Edinburgh street-lamps”