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Message from the Skies

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

“We're coming to get you!” says the message beamed onto the walls of Calton Road in what looks
like animated blood in New Year Resurrection, crime writer Val McDermid's seasonal short story that forms the heart of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's turn of the year multi-media promenade. Told over twelve chapters shown in monumental fashion across a dozen iconic buildings, the story brings back to life one Susan Edmonstone Ferrier, the neglected nineteenth century novelist who rises up to reclaim a piece of history buried by cultural gate-keepers who prefer to highlight the tough guys of wordsmithery.

Beginning at Parliament Square, the two hour walking tour that follows gives voice to Ferrier, who, as we move through the places where she lived, wrote and died in, becomes a kind of animated vigilante for a host of similarly sidelined women writers. Ferrier's extreme actions are eventually derailed by an intervention from the late Muriel Spark, who takes matters into her own hands with the sort of wit, imagination and directness that defined her own fiction.
 
The event is overseen by theatre director Philip Howard of the Pearlfisher company, who co-produce the event with incoming Edinburgh's Hogmanay organisers Underbelly after McDermid's story was commissioned by Edinburgh's Hogmanay and Edinburgh International Book Festival. With input from Double Take Projections, composers Michael John McCarthy, Pippa Murphy and RJ McConnell, and graffiti artist Elph, actresses Phyllis Logan and Sandy McDade provide the voices for the two writers. At its best, it is like peering, not just at the grand facades of the buildings, but into the two-faced psyche of a nation’s literary history and the self-image it promotes. If Edinburgh feels like a ghost down at this time of year, for three weeks, at least, all life is here.

The Herald, January 4th 2018

ends

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