Saltire ’40 under 40′ announced

  23 Jun '23   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Saltire Society Reveals Inaugural ’40 Under 40’ List 

The Saltire Society has announced their inaugural ‘40 Under 40’ list showcasing 40 talented creatives under the age of 40 from across Scotland.  Celebrating people across the creative industries in the categories of Literature and Publishing, Applied Sciences, Languages, Performing Arts and Visual Arts, the Society’s ‘40 Under 40’ aims to bring greater recognition to those with outstanding talent in the early-to-mid stages of their careers.  Nominated by members of The Saltire Society and judged by a panel of experts, the list includes playwrights, singers, poets, climate activists, illustrators, print makers, actors, musicians and a ground-breaking dentist. 

Sarah Mason, Executive Director of The Saltire Society, said “We had an extraordinary number of talented young people nominated from every corner of Scotland, including Shetland, Orkney and Tiree, through Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and into the borders and Dumfries & Galloway across all five categories.  It goes to show the incredible range of creative talent living and working in Scotland today.  We are thrilled to reveal our ‘40 Under 40’ and celebrate the very best of the best.” 

Josephine Giles, the poet and novelist raised in Orkney who won the 2022 Arthur C Clarke Award for their novel Deep Wheel Orcadia, is joined on the Literature and Publishing list by Stef Smith, one of Scotland’s most gifted playwrights; Shehzar Doja, the Bangladeshi born poet and editor from Glasgow and Roseanne Watt, the Edwin Morgan Prize winning poet from Shetland who said It is such an unexpected and lovely thing to be included on this list. I am honoured to have my work recognised in such a way – and also a little astounded, when I think about some of the narratives around local languages I grew up with. Any success I’ve had is due entirely to those who set defiant examples to me, who nurtured my work and inspired me to write in my mother tongue. I am extremely grateful.” 

The Applied Sciences category includes Niall McGoldrick, a dentist at the University of Dundee and consultant in Dental Public Health who established the charity Mouth Matters to raise awareness of oral cancer;  Laura Young, aka ‘Less Waste Laura’, a climate influencer / activist who has been listed as a ‘Climate Creator to Watch’ for 2023; Jack-James Marlow, Head of Engineering at Skyrora and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society with 8 years of experience in rocket propulsion R&D who has successfully managed 200+ rocket engine test campaigns and Talat Yaqoob, the campaigner, writer and commentator and director of Equate Scotland from 2016 to 2020, who works on women’s equality across the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors who said “It is a real honour to be included in this list alongside so many brilliant people. In particular, I appreciate seeing the diversity of backgrounds and wide-ranging expertise that are being celebrated. I have had the opportunity to work on a number of equalities issues and campaigns, and being included on this list is, for me, a recognition of the importance of fighting for a fairer Scotland.” 

Fife-based poet and social media raconteur Ellen Pennie is one of eight celebrated in the Languages category, together with folksinger Iona Fyfe, winner of the 2021 MG Alba Musician of the Year, Emma Grae, an author and journalist from Glasgow who is a passionate advocate of the Scots language and breaking the stigma around mental illness. Her debut novel, Be guid tae yer Mammy, was published by Unbound in August 2021.    They are joined by journalist Alistair Heather who commented “I’m chuffed tae bits at being included in this list. Ye dinnae work in and volunteer with and encourage and promote folk within culture for the glory or the riches.  Indeed, it’s as Kathleen Jamie, oor Makar recently wrote about working in Scotland’s underpaid cultural sphere – ‘we do it for the love of it, and a wee bit share of the gate’ .  This list is great because it recognises the people that heize up Scotland’s unique, thriving cultural sector, and let them ken their work isnae going completely unnoticed. I’m proud to be amongst them. This boost will get me redoubling my efforts this next year.”  

Amongst those recognised for their work in Performing Arts are Keiran Hurley, award-winning writer, performer and theatre maker who said “It’s a really nice surprise to be selected for this list. There’s loads of people under 40 doing great work in Scotland in the arts alone, often without recognition and entirely against the odds, so getting any kind of nod for my stuff is not something I take at all for granted. And I’m of course pleased to discover that I’m still young enough to qualify for some things with an upper age limit.”  He is joined by Danielle Jam, actor; singers Robyn Stapleton and Rachel Sermanni and Emma Hay, Programme Manager at the Edinburgh International Festival.    The Visual Arts group includes Sekai Machache, a Zimbabwean-Scottish visual artist and curator based in Glasgow, portrait artist Michael Doherty, textile designer Flora Collingwood Norris and illustrator Joshua Wilson, who achieved critical acclaim with his graduation show Project Art Glasgow and has gone on to illustrate for Northwords Now and An Tuath, with his recent portrait of Willie Neil displayed at The Scottish Poetry Library.  

The panel of experts appointed by the Saltire Society to judge the hundreds of names put forward were Rosemary Ward, Alan Bissett, Steve Parkes, Zoe Strachan and Calum Colvin.  

This project is the start of a series of initiatives from The Saltire Society. Over the next few years we will celebrate Scotland’s creatives at different stages of their careers.

The full ’40 Under 40’ list: 

Literature & Publishing 

Shehzar Doja (Poet & editor) 

Harry Josephine Giles (Poet & novelist) 

Pauline McKay (Academic specialising in Scottish literature) 

Alicia Pirmohamed (Poet) 

Maria Sledmere (Poet, editor, educator & critic) 

Stef Smith (Playwright) 

Roseanne Watt (Poet, film maker & musician) 

Alasdair C Whyte (Gaelic singer, presenter & scholar) 

Applied Sciences 

Beatriz Goulao (Statistician) 

Jack-James Marlow (Space Rocket Engineer) 

Mhairi McCann (Founder & CEO of Youth STEM 2030) 

Niall McGoldrick (Dentist) 

Zahra Rattray (Senior Lecturer in Translational Pharmaceutics and Interdisciplinary Scientist) 

Yasmin Sulaiman (Head of Partnerships, CodeBase) 

Talat Yaqoob (Campaigner, Writer & Commentator)  

Laura Young (Climate Influencer / Activist) 


Iona Brown (Gaelic teacher & singer) 

Iona Fyfe (Singer) 

Emma Grae (Author & Journalist) 

Alistair Heather (Journalist) 

Linda MacLeod (Gaelic singer & TV Presenter) 

Ellen Pennie (Poet) 

Lana Pheutan (Gaelic singer, writer & actor) 

Ian Smith (Accordion Player & Musician) 

Visual Arts 

Jennifer Argo (Multi-media artist) 

Flora Collingwood Norris (Textile designer) 

Michael Doherty (Portrait artist) 

Rhona Jack (Multi-disciplinary artist) 

Zephyr Liddell (Textile artist) 

Sekai Machache (Photographer & multi-media artist) 

Lily Macrae (Painter & printmaker) 

Joshua Wilson (Illustrator) 

Performing Arts 

Kevin P. Gilday (Spoken word artist, theatre maker) 

Emma Hay (Programme manager) 

Kieran Hurley (Writer, performer, theatre Maker) 

Danielle Jam (Actor)  

Reuben Joseph (Actor) 

Isobel McArthur (Theatre maker & actor) 

Rachel Sermanni (Scottish folk & indie musician) 

Robyn Stapleton (Scots singer) 

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