IN THE SUMMER of 2016, I was headed to Glasgow to help deliver a Pride House at the Homeless World Cup event taking place in George Square. As I’d never been to Scotland before, I extended my stay beyond the tournament.
EXCERPT: Take the High Road and the Low Road With Rabbie’s Tours in Scotland (Eat Drink Travel)
“All Scottish stories are violent,” chuckles our driver, Graham, as we approach Glencoe, the site of a clan massacre in 1692. “They all end up with someone or other being hacked to death.”
Only a few hours into the aptly-named “Scotland in a Day” tour and I’m inclined to think he’s right. Using select music to illustrate his history, Graham’s already taught us about the geological difference between the lowlands—on which Glasgow sits—and the highlands to the north. He’s a natural storyteller, using dry Scottish humor to keep the sociopolitical machinations of the Jacobite uprisings engaging. To my surprise, it’s working. I’m reluctant to leave the van when we pull over, but I’m enticed by the unmistakeable caterwaul of a bagpipe.
The sound is a little wobbly—wobblier than usual, even to my untrained ear— but I write the piper’s performance off to the uncharacteristically hot and sunny day. Even though it’s mid-July, it’s only the second time in two weeks that the weather’s not been wet and windy. Finally, the piper stops and wipes his brow.
“Does anyone have any water?” he croaks.
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EXCERPT: Comedian Susan Calman on the Importance of Being ‘Out’: BUST Interview (BUST Magazine)
KS: One thing I noticed right away [in Cheer Up Love] is that you seem to be writing a lot about the power of being out — being out as depressed, as gay, as a comedian, and ultimately, as a woman. Do you think we’re still in a place culturally where just simply being visible is revolutionary…or is that’s too strong a word?
SC: I’m in an interesting position in that I grew up during Section 28 [a statute that prohibited local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality and prevented councils from spending on educational materials and projects perceived to promote a “gay lifestyle”]. Fairly political times, especially for women in a lot of ways. And then [after Section 28 was repealed], everyone went, “Oh, we’re fine now.” It actually feels in this country that it’s more important than ever to be visibly out. I was at school during the Keep the Clause campaign [to prevent the repeal of Section 28], and there was a lot of publicity about how you shouldn’t be teaching your children about being gay because it wasn’t normal. As I say in the book, I’m not depressed because I’m gay, but I’m sure the sense of isolation didn’t help in the formative years, to be made to feel you’re not right in some way. And I never want any young person to go through that kind of sense of isolation that I did.
The motto of my new show is, “Go fuck yourself.” [Laughs] That’s the point I’ve got to now. I’ll not apologize for it. This is genuinely who I am, and you lot just sort yourselves out if you’ve got a problem with it.
Sometimes people say to me, “Why do you talk about being gay so much in your shows?” and one reason is it’s just normalizing it. I’ve listened to straight people all my life talk about their boyfriends so why the hell can’t I talk about my partner? I’m much more confrontational than I used to be about it. There’s a bit in my new show where somebody suggests I shouldn’t call my wife my wife, because of patriarchal terms of oppression. No. Stop having a fucking go at me, do you know what I mean? I’m married, I fought for years to be married, she is my wife. Have your own opinion about whether we should call each other wives — I’m absolutely open to debating whether or not that’s an old fashioned term — but Jesus Christ, there are bigger things for us to be sorting out in this place and time.
I am hugely gay and happy to be it and happy to be as out and visible. The motto of my new show is, “Go fuck yourself.” [Laughs] That’s the point I’ve got to now. I’ll not apologize for it. This is genuinely who I am, and you lot just sort yourselves out if you’ve got a problem with it.
Keph is a great writer to work with. She is a true collaborator and creative story-teller, together we worked on some fresh and ‘off the beaten track’ angles on the city of Glasgow (and Glaswegians) to secure a number of features across a variety of media outlets. Her interview subjects instantly warm to her as she’s well-researched and charming.
– Caroline Newson, CL Communications/International PR consultant | Glasgow City Marketing Bureau
Title image: A piper in the Scottish Highlands, Scotland, July 2016 © Keph Senett