Renowned for his first novel Trainspotting, cult author Irvine Welsh visits UCLan as part of the promotion of his 10th novel, The Blade Artist. Turning up in a beanie hat, hoodie and leather jacket, and swearing constantly from the start of his interview, it is easy to say that Welsh’s approach to public appearances are unorthodox. This is an author who seems untainted by fame, and walks to his own beat.
The result, however? A humourous and insightful Q&A. The event was in three parts: an interview by BBC Radio Lancashire’s John Gillmore, which was followed by a chance for the audience to pose questions. The audience was then able to briefly meet Irvine and have an exclusive copy of The Blade Artist signed, three days before the book’s release.
The first half of the interview focused heavily upon Welsh’s early personal life. Growing up in Leith, Welsh views his childhood as typical of this time, for a working class Scottish home. Interesting, it was then whilst working in TV repairs, in hearing ‘Anarchy in the UK’ by the Sex Pistols, Welsh realised that there could be more to life, and soon left Edinburgh for London.
During this time, this writer was involved in several punk bands, embracing the trend at the time, but also became addicted to heroin. This is when the author really opened up to the audience. The interview then turned to his writing career. The focus on Francis Begbie in The Blade Artist was discussed, as this is a character known from Trainspotting. Similar to several of the other books which followed Trainspotting, the story in Welsh’s latest novel looks to explore a more minor character in far more depth.
The second half offered a broader variety of comments from the author. We learn that this author sees a disappointing lack of working class voices in modern literature, which he puts down to the changing employment opportunities for the middle class, that has driven different people to creative pursuits. Also, it becomes apparent that there was little input by the author into the Danny Boyle film adaptation of Trainspotting, but he is currently quite prominent in the creation of its sequel, which is due to be filmed later this year.
Lastly, Welsh’s passion for music became apparent again in this Q&A, as he outlines how enjoyable it was to shape a soundtrack for Trainspotting that captured the culture of the 1990s. Overall, this proved to be an event which gave the audience a personal insight into a down-to-earth and open writer.
Although this could have easily turned into another interview about Trainspotting, John Gillman and the audience alike managed to generate discussion around the literature industry, music and Welsh’s life. Fame hasn’t shaped the stories Irvine Welsh is continuing to produce, and neither has it changed the working class voice at the heart of them.
The Blade Artist is available today.