This week the Birlinn Virtual Book Festival kicked off in style with the launch of Maggie Craig’s One Week in April on Wednesday 1st April at 3pm.
Attendees from across the world joined Birlinn and Maggie Craig on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to discover the truth behind the 1820 Radical Rising, the last armed rebellion on Scottish soil. It was the culmination of several years of unrest, which had seen huge mass meetings in Glasgow and Paisley, erupting into bloody skirmishes in the cities and beyond.
In her fabulous video below, Maggie Craig sets the rising into the wider social and political context of the time and paints an intense portrait of the people who were caught up in these momentous events.
For those who missed it, we’ve included the Q&A here along with a sample of the delicious virtual refreshments shared by the audience to celebrate the launch.
@BirlinnBooks: What inspired your interest in this area of history?
@CraigMaggie: Initially, seeing the Address to the Inhabitants at Paisley Museum about 30 yo and thinking, wow, someone was trying to set up a provisional government? Also because I feel it’s an important part of our history which too few people know about today.
@BirlinnBooks: The Radical Rising of 1820 clearly had a huge impact on the course of Scottish history; why do you think it has been so often overlooked?
@CraigMaggie: I’ve thought about this a lot. Perhaps because it was working-class history, not the story of kings and queens. Perhaps because it really terrified the establishment of the time, so they wanted it swept under the carpet.
@BirlinnBooks: While researching and writing the book did you uncover any stories that haven’t been written about before?
@CraigMaggie: I don’t think anyone had written about the pikes still being in existence and I was able to give a lot more detail on the Greenock massacre, quoting from eye-witnesses who later gave evidence to the public inquiry which followed.
@BirlinnBooks: Could you tell us about the important role played by many women during the Radical Rising?
@CraigMaggie: Women are often present at the big radical meetings in places like Glasgow and Kilmarnock, often marching in procession carrying the cap of liberty, one of the radical symbols. Newspapers often wrote about how radical women were good-looking!
@BirlinnBooks: You also write novels. Have you found that your non-fiction work has impacted upon your fiction writing? Or do you have very different writing styles?
@CraigMaggie: I think one complements the other. In non-fiction the facts are sacred but if you spend a lot of time reading about the events and the people I think you can make intelligent guesses about how people might have been feeling. Also I like to evoke a sense of place in both genres.
@BirlinnBooks: Do you think the rising of 1820 teaches us any lessons that are still important two hundred years later?
@CraigMaggie: I think it tells us that so-called ordinary people can be a formidable force when they band together in a common cause and for the common good, as we are currently seeing in 2020. Also, that democracy had to be fought for, I think we should remember that.
Tune in tomorrow (Thurs 2nd April) at 6pm for the virtual book launch for Native by Patrick Laurie. See you then!