An evening with Nicola Sturgeon (and Michael Pedersen and Hollie McNish and…)

Here's how you bring culture, poetry and the arts to the people – you make tickets £6 each and you tell stories about constipation.

“I’m a lot cooler now I’m not First Minister” – Nicola Sturgeon.

Here’s how you bring culture, poetry and the arts to people who think it’s irrelevant or too expensive – you do it in the local town hall, you make tickets £6 each and you tell stories about constipation.

I think that’s why I love poets Michael Pedersen and Hollie McNish – I have a scatological sense of humour and they tell stories about bodily functions via verse, which, happily for me, normalises said subjects and excuses my laughter.

It’s not just me amused by poo, I think. It’s all the other adults in the room.

Though guest Nicola Sturgeon did say at one point, “You said this was going to be an evening of culture.”

I have never seen the former First Minister look so relaxed, as she sipped at (non-alcoholic) beer seated on her throne.

Yes, she was seated on a throne, though that wasn’t her choice and she did express some discomfort at the idea. “If there’s anyone in the room from the Daily Mail,” she said, “they’ll be loving this. The headline will be ‘Sturgeon really does think she’s the queen.'”

It didn’t help that Michael called her the queen of Scotland more than once.

Nicola referred to the Daily Mail on several occasions – evident scarring from being at the forefront of Scottish politics and on the receiving end of tabloid hysteria – worrying about its reaction to not only the throne but also the beer and any suggestion she might follow Michael’s lead down the path of “The Cat Prince” – a phase of his childhood when he stripped off naked and pretended to be a cat.

Yes, it was all very surreal. They were joined by Gemma Cairney, who read a poem from her upcoming book – out next year – and by Rachel Sermanni, a folk singer with the most exquisite voice.

It was easily one of the most laidback, informal poetry/music/spoken word events I’ve ever been to and, between the conversations I had with other audience members and the excited feedback I gave my husband when I got home, it reminded me how BLOODY IMPORTANT the arts are to humanity.

We find common ground, we share humour, we open our minds to alternative experiences and ways of thinking…

Nicola is currently writing her memoir – “I don’t like to call it a memoir, that sounds a bit stuck up” – and has finished her first draft. It’s currently nearly 250,000 words! Some cutting needed, then.

Here’s the bit about memoirs that stuck with me – Hollie had difficulty getting hers published. It was about becoming a mum, and publishers asked, “Who cares about being a mum? There’s loads of mums. And who are you? Why should people care what *you* think? And there’s poetry in this book! Nobody reads poetry.”

“Nobody Told Me” won the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry when it was finally published, so yah boo sucks to the doubters.

As Michael said, writing a memoir might feel a bit awkward because, really, nobody knows you. But the point of a personal story is that the reader sees themself and their life reflected in it. They can identify with it. They insert themself in it.

A memoir creates bridges and connections.

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