Cultural high points of 2013

Tony Black. Picture: Dan Phillips
Tony Black. Picture: Dan Phillips
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THEY made us laugh and sometimes brought tears to our eyes, held our attention rapt and made our senses come alive with soaring music and unforgettable words.

The books, films and special events that make the biggest impact on our lives can stay with us for a lifetime. Sometimes they are a signpost that, when we reflect back, points to just where we were in our lives.

David Bowie. Picture: AP

David Bowie. Picture: AP

There’s no doubt it has been a rich year for Edinburgh culture and news – from the long awaited movie adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Filth, to Sunshine on Leith, and outstanding new works from the talented imaginations of well-established writers such as Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith, and a final but stunning effort from Iain Banks, as well as a host of newcomers. As for events, in a city that gives over an entire month to culture, that beats at the heart of the ­Scottish political scene and, let’s be ­honest, will soon be boasting that it has Scotland’s only public tram system, there’s never a dull moment.

You will have your own favourite event, book and film of the year. Here we find out what some familiar ­Edinburgh faces were reading, watching and enjoying in 2013.

Foysol Choudhury MBE

Earlier this month vice-chair of ­Edinburgh Mela and chair of ­Edinburgh and Lothian Regional Equality Council, Foysol Choudhury was busy welcoming new figures which showed a ten per cent drop in race-related crimes in the Capital.

And in June he spoke out of his concern that children from Newtongrange Primary School were being withdrawn from a visit to the Central Mosque in light of the London ­murder of soldier Lee Rigby.

Event: On a personal level, the highlight of his year – which, strangely, coincided with the lowest point – came during this year’s multicultural community festival, Edinburgh Mela. “It had been one of the most successful Mela events we’ve had,” he recalls, thinking back to the late August weekend event at Leith Links.

“There was good food, great music and everyone had been having a fantastic time. Everything was going really well until 5pm on the Sunday when we were getting ready for the finale. Dance act The Orb had drawn a huge crowd to the event, but as the wind reached gale force, the event had to be cancelled. “It became frightening,” he adds. “The wind got stronger and we had no alternative. But until then, it was definitely the event of the year for me.”

Book: A dedicated football fan – whose spare time is typically spent at Tynecastle – his choice of reading matter for the year had to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s succinctly titled My Autobiography, even if he was slightly surprised at the former Manchester United boss’s take on some players. “I have a lot of time for him but I didn’t expect quite so many negative comments about well-respected players who regarded him as a father figure,” he says. “I think I’ll definitely need to read David Beckham’s autobiography now to see what he says about him.”

Film: He prefers a family movie at home suitable for everyone to enjoy, so plumps for Marvel’s The Avengers, which was released on DVD in September. “It’s just a good, action film with a story we could all watch,” he explains.

Ken McClure

Author Ken McClure is so prolific – he writes around one book every year – it’s amazing he had any time left to indulge in anything else. Earlier this year the East Lothian-based thriller writer launched The Secret, the tenth novel in his acclaimed Steven Dunbar medical series, while his books continue to sell across the globe.

Event: Biggest event of his year has been news that the production company behind hit television drama The Fall have taken up the British television options for his Steven Dunbar series and are waiting for the go-ahead from a broadcaster to begin filming. “It can take ages for a commission – if it happens at all – so we have to wait and see,” he says. Meanwhile, a surprising turn of events has been the huge success he’s seen since his books were released this year across the Russia Federation and neighbouring countries – with fan mail arriving at his East Lothian home from Siberia and Azerbaijan.

Book: His reading matter tends to be scientific journals and research papers as background for his books. However beside his bed is Dead Man’s Footsteps by fellow thriller writer Peter James, which combines events in New York in 9/11 with a murder in Brighton and the search for a killer that crosses continents.

Film: Not a movie, but a television series. “My wife got a box set of the first series of Downton Abbey and it’s wonderful. The acting is very good,” he says. “The only other thing I’ve really watched is Last Tango in Halifax, which I love.”

Tam Dean Burn

Leith-born actor Tam, 55, who starred in the original stage version of Irvine Welsh’s Filth, had a challenging start to 2013 with the devastating loss of his much-loved mum Jean. He later paid tribute to the outstanding support she received from St Columbas Hospice, where she used to volunteer and arrange flowers.

Event: Theatre runs in Tam’s veins, so of course it is a theatrical event that was the year’s top highlight for him. “Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaites,” he says, casting his mind back to summer and a stunning outdoor performance. “Taking part in this five-hour epic drama being performed in its entirety for the first time in 500 years, in glorious sunshine below Linlithgow Palace with a cast of 40, was an incredible experience.”

Book: Scottish author Ewan Morrison’s Close Your Eyes – a story of a woman with post-natal depression, who travels back to learn more about her own childhood – was named SMIT Scottish Book of the Year and is Tam’s favourite for 2013. “I found this a really gripping, moving read, brilliantly told in the first and second person.”

Film: It has to be Filth, the movie version of Irvine Welsh’s gritty book. “Having performed the one-man play version and recorded the audiobook, this was a mental memory trip roller coaster of a ride and I need to go back for second helpings!”

Tim Maguire

Humanist Tim has spent the year spreading the word in his role as communications officer with the Humanist Society Scotland. And it’s been a lively year, with rising numbers of humanist weddings and funerals, and news this month that the Scottish Government wants to create a third level of “belief” weddings, to cater for those who prefer not to marry within the church or a civil setting.

Event: “2013 was a big year for humanists in Scotland,” says Tim. “Not only did the Census tell us that we make up 37 per cent of the population, but it was the year that the Scottish Parliament approved same-sex marriage, confirming that we really are on the right side of history.”

Film: Tim picks the moving Judi Dench and Steve Coogan film Philomena about an Irish woman whose baby was taken from her at birth – “For taking a subject that continues to outrage, and making it both funny and surprisingly heartwarming.”

Book: Tim Dee’s Four Fields reflects on the natural world through four very different places, miles apart, and man’s impact on the globe. “It is a lyrical, poetic reflection on our relationship with the natural world,” adds Tim.

Tony Black

Author Tony Black, 39, could barely move this year for glittering reviews of his 2013 novel His Father’s Son.

Event: The Thin White Duke’s comeback topped Tony’s year. “It was a return to form for David Bowie,” he says. “He might be in his 60s now, but the ten-year wait for The Next Day, which came out in March, was long overdue. A brilliant collection that hasn’t been off my iPod all year.”

Book: “Former Evening News journalist Tom Maxwell produced his second book this year and I just loved it. The Fabulous Baker Boys is the untold story of two of the best strikers Scotland never had. Footy books can be hit and miss but Maxwell’s skill as a writer shines through on every page. A must-read for all Hibs fans, too.”

Film: Gritty, indeed some might say filthy, but the movie adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Filth caught Tony’s vote. “James McAvoy is brilliant as the sociopathic Edinburgh cop in deep trouble, Bruce Robertson. One of those rare occasions where the movie lives up to the book – it’s the best Irvine Welsh adaptation since Trainspotting.”

Angela Jackson

Edinburgh-based writer Angela Jackson spent three years dipping in and out of writing her debut novel – to find herself in a whirlwind of acclaim after its release.

The Emergence of Judy Taylor, about a woman who finally takes control of her life, hit book shelves in April and in October was named winner of the Edinburgh International Book Festival First Book Award.

Event: Her own book’s success aside, Angela’s favourite events of the year were music to her ears. “Will Pick Vance’s show at Summerhall, Anatomy of the Piano, in which he shows the audience the anatomy of the piano almost as if he’s dissecting a human, was magical,” she recalls. “And seeing Roddy Frame perform High Land Hard Rain in its entirety in Manchester earlier this month was amazing.”

Book: Angela has a long list of favourite books: “Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer is about the descent into mental illness, it’s bleak and dark but it’s also beautiful and quite funny,” she says. Also heading her list are books that made her shake with laughter – Love Nina, by Nina Stibbe, a reflection of her time working as a nanny in literary London in the Eighties, and Christmas story collection Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris.

Film: The late hard man Sopranos star James Gandolfini plays a gentler role in Enough Said, a story about mid-life second time romance. “Funny and realistic – it was all about just the things that happen to people in relationships.”