The whole audience is in stitches as Jackie Kay recreates the horror and hilarity of her first meeting with her father, dancing around on the stage and putting on a Nigerian accent as she reads from the autobiographical Red Dust Road.
“I think of Red Dust Road as being a multi-voiced thing. It’s fun to do the accent – it brings out the ham actress in me,” she admits afterwards.
Red Dust Road recounts the emotional and physical journey Kay made as she tracked down and met with her birth parents. The companion book, poetry collection Fiere, covers some of the same ground, but also deals with relationships between friends. Fiere is a Scots word (Kay pronounces it “feeree” – “you can get more rhymes in that way”) meaning companion, friend, equal. “I like the idea that relationships are to do with power, and things that people don’t talk about. There are lots of poems that celebrate romantic love but not that many that celebrate friendship.”
After reading a selection of poems from Fiere, Kay announces that she is going to regale us with one of her Maw Broon Monologues and people in the audience cheer. I’ve never come across them before but the character of Maw Broon is known to me. She is the matriarch of the Dundee family who feature in the Sunday Post comic strip The Broons.
Apparently DC Thomson, who publish the Sunday Post, responded to one of the monologues saying that Maw Broon would never go for a colonic irrigation, which Kay thinks is missing the point. “This one’s even more hardcore,” she warns, before launching into Maw Broon’s Vagina. It’s hardcore and hilarious. Now I understand the cheer.
When the time comes for audience questions someone asks Kay what she thought of Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father. “I think his search is a similar search to the one I’ve carried out and I just hope that I get his sales,” she jokes. A few days later, in a separate event at Edinburgh International Book Festival, Red Dust Road is awarded the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book of the Year Award. The prize is £30000 and will perhaps bring a taste of those Obama sales figures.