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Writers celebrate close literary links in online festival Virtual Crossways 2021: The Irish Scottish Cultural and Literary Festival this weekend which features Bulgarian-born writer Kapka Kassabova who now lives in the Highlands


By Val Sweeney

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Writer Kapka Kassabova.
Writer Kapka Kassabova.

A Bulgarian-born writer living in the Highlands is to take part in an online festival bringing together some of the most-acclaimed poets and writers in Ireland and Scotland.

Award-winning Kapka Kassabova, who lives at Kilmorack, is taking part in Virtual Crossways 2021: The Irish Scottish Cultural and Literary Festival this weekend.

It follows in the footsteps of the live Crossways Festivals held in Glasgow in 2018 and 2019 but has moved online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Three musical events and 15 literary readings will be streamed between today and Sunday when potentially the festival, organised by literary journal, Irish Pages, will reach its largest-ever audience.

Those taking part include Paula Meehan, Anna Frater, Meg Bateman, Chris Agee, Andrew O’Hagan, Aonghas MacNeacail and Kathleen Jamie while themes range from love to new motherhood and Covid-19 to feminism.

There will also be a particular focus on Irish-language and Scottish Gaelic writing this year.

Ms Kassabova, who writes narrative non-fiction, poetry, and fiction, won the 2017 Saltire Scottish Book of the Year award with Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe.

She will team up tomorrow with Irish Pages editor Chris Agee to read work rooted in the Balkans, Ireland and Scotland.

Ms Kassabova was born in 1973 in Sofia to scientist parents, and studied at the French Lycée in Sofia.

Her family emigrated in 1992 to New Zealand where she studied French and Russian literature at Otago University, and English literature and creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington.

While living in New Zealand, she published the poetry collections, All roads lead to the sea and Dismemberment, and the novels Reconnaissance and Love in the Land of Midas.

In 2005, she moved to Edinburgh and later to the Highlands.

Her ongoing work is set in the southern Balkans and the Highlands with To The Lake being published by Granta Books last year.

At the core of her work are the questions, who are we, where do we belong, where are we going?

Mr Agee said the aim ofVirtual Crossways 2021 continued to be to foster and expand the rather weak literary links across the north channel.

“To a considerable extent, the north of Ireland and Scotland are highly separated and self-contained on many levels but especially in cultural and literary terms –divided, precisely, by partition and so by the United Kingdom itself, with a consequent focus on London from each of the jurisdictions, rather than on interchange across the narrow North Channel,” he said.

“The two literary cultures, as it were, have their backs to each other to a surprising degree.

“Thus, the festival will aim at lessening this contemporary cultural distance, and at a new historical moment – where relations between the two islands, no less than between the parts of the United Kingdom, have already begun to change dramatically with Brexit.”

Anyone wanting further details of the programme should visit here.


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