Anyone paying even cursory attention to the Scottish literary scene at the moment knows that the most exciting publisher around is Cargo. From humble beginnings, the company has grown exponentially in influence over the past couple of years, having released some of the most vital and critically acclaimed Scottish books in a decade, including Allan Wilson’s rightly-hailed debut short story collection Wasted In Love and the landmark anthology The Year Of Open Doors. For the first time since the glory days of Rebel Inc., a publisher feels central to the cultural conversation in Scotland, or at least the countercultural conversation.
Cargo continues its unstoppable rise this coming month with the second annual Margins Book & Music Festival. The festival’s debut last year – after a planned event at Glasgow’s other literary festival, Aye Write!, fell through unceremoniously – saw the company take over the performance space of Glaswegian indie bar Stereo for a weekend of readings and musical performances at £1 per event. It was a raised middle finger to the establishment, and a resounding success, speaking to the growing appetite amongst readers for live performance alongside print content.
This year sees the festival move to the roomier Arches, with the slight rise in ticket prices reflected in the stellar line-up. Opening night alone sees music from Roddy Woomble, Withered Hand and Alasdair Roberts; a crime fiction double header with Christopher Brookmyre and Louise Welsh; and one event apiece curated by literary magazines Octavius and Gutter.
Highlights of the rest of the weekend include three generations of poets sharing the stage as Tom Leonard, Don Paterson and Billy Letford perform and discuss their work; a pairing of lauded veteran and promising newcomer with William McIlvanney and the aforementioned Allan Wilson; a potential Arab Strap reunion as Malcolm Middleton brings his latest project, Human Don’t Be Angry, to the festival with support from former bandmate Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells; and, the crowning glory, a climactic performance of Alasdair Gray’s Fleck starring a murderer’s row of literary talent.
It’s all powered by the boundless energy and enthusiasm of head honcho Mark Buckland, who, as a bespectacled 25 year old literature graduate living in Glasgow, is essentially me if I was doing something worthwhile with my life. For more on Cargo and Margins, check out his interview on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae! (to which – full disclosure – this writer is a regular contributor).