Events for Bookings

A well known figure on the Scottish literary scene, Brian Johnstone offers readings, discussions, poetry talks, cross-media performances and masterclasses.

I hugely enjoyed listening to your wonderfully fluent reading...which presented your marvellous poetry with great clarity and sensitivity.    Richard Carrington, Director, The Poetry Archive

For enquiries or bookings: Contact Brian Johnstone here.

Poetry Readings

Brian Johnstone is an accomplished and engaging performer of many years experience. His poems range over subjects from travels in Greece to Scottish history, from life in the circus to cartoon characters, from 40s jazz stars to 60s pop groups, from landscape and the natural world to memory and childhood. His most recent colletion Juke Box Jeopardy is a pamphlet of pop music poems from his youth. He offers solo readings from his various collections or themed readings on specific subjects from his own work.

An excellent and satisfying reading, beautifully rounded and cohesive, in the lucid interweaving of ingredients and time-scales.    Stewart Conn, Edinburgh City Laureate

Mon coup de coeur du Festival, le poète écossais Brian Johnstone. Un accent, une vision, un travail incroyable sur le rythme et les images.    Véronique Cyr, Trois-Rivières Poetry Festival, Québec

Double Exposure: memoir talk

Discussions of the author's memoir for writers groups, bookshops or festivals

Brian Johnstone's first venture into extended prose, his memoir Double Exposure is published by Saraband in February 2017. A touching story of family secrets, long-lost relatives and childhood in the post-war years, the narrative explores the all-too-common yet profoundly affecting experience of discovering previously unknown siblings and relatives.

The author is available to give readings from the book and discuss its background and the circumstances that gave rise to his writing it. Sessions can include audience Q & A, readings of the poems embedded in the narrative and projections of the historical photographs that underlie the story.

More information on Double Exposure can be found here.

Juke Box Jeopardy Live: poetry & pop performance

Brian Johnstone and DJ John Cavanagh cobine to present a poetry gig with a difference bringing Juke Box Jeopardy to the stage in the form of a live radio programme. Together they explore the world of this EP-inspired pamphlet, with Brian performing the poems and John spinning the discs that lie behind them. A compilation album of truth and fantasy, wishes and hopes Juke Box Jeopardy charts a boy’s stumbling path through the pop and rock of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. From Elvis to Ivan, from Dusty to Sandy, from Skiffle to Prog, no Stone is left unturned in this Genesis of a devotee.

Former Radio Scotland DJ John Cavanagh is, variously, a records producer, maker of music (solo as Phosphene, half the duo Electroscope), writer and all-round radio person… amongst other things!

A live recording from the Big Lit Festival 2019 here.

More information on Juke Box Jeopardy can be found here.

Trio Verso: poetry & jazz performance

Brian Johnstone and Trio Verso bring a whole new approach to poetry, setting it in the context of music that is at times rhythmically swinging and at others atmospheric and haunting. Interpreting and refocusing ideas behind the 1950s poetry & jazz movement, Trio Verso fuse the author's award-winning poetry with improvised, jazz soundscapes on saxes, bass clarinet & ‘trombophone’ from Richard Ingham and double bass & percussion from Louise Major.

A new take on jazz-poetry…[in which the] voice manages to be both softly-spoken and enviably powerful. Trio Vero personify…inventive collaboration.    Colin Herd, The Devil Reads Poetry blog

The musicians … produced dark primeval sonorities that contrasted well with voice… The range of effects and their skill in conjuring up the expressions were impressive.    Alistair Massey, New Words Festival

More information on Trio Verso, plus audio tracks, can be found here.

The Fields of War: themed performance

Poets Brian Johnstone and Chrys Salt combine to present The Fields of War, marking the centenary years of the First World War with an event commemorating the conflicts of the past century and the human price paid. In a broad sweep of their own poetry, evoking war and the losses of war, together with  counterpointing prose extracts and a poetry film, they range across the 100 years from 1914-18 to the present day; from The Blitz to Bosnia; from Flanders to Iraq.

Evocative and poignantly powerful work.    Carolyn Richardson, Scottish Writers Centre

Made fresh those expressions of pain, outrage, humanity and hope.    Marie-Therese Taylor,
                                                                                                              Edinburgh Writers Club

More information on The Fields of War can be found here.

Stopping the Photo/Fixing the Poem: themed reading

A poetry event with a difference, this 'PhotoPoetry Reading' combines projected, historic photographs with readings of the poems they inspired.

Always fascinated by photography, poet and writer Brian Johnstone was active as an amateur photographer in the 1980s and ’90s with two solo exhibitions to his name. From his first collection onwards, poems about photographs - from snapshots to art works - have always been a prominent feature. The images from which he has derived inspiration for his poetry range from works by Scottish photographer Robert Moyes Adam, to his father’s wartime shots from the Africa campaign, through historic photojournalism of the 20th century in Scotland, to American images by Alfred Steigliz and Southworth & Hawes.

Poetry Talks

Poetry talks suitable for writers groups, festivals or event series

An anecdote based look at the life and work of well-loved Scottish poet Norman MacCaig. The talk includes readings of many of MacCaig's favourite poems and live recordings from the poet himself, all set in the context of the Scottish poetry scene in the latter part of the 20th century.

A brief outline of the life and disappearance of the American poet Weldon Kees, with readings from his work and live recordings of several of his most famous poems. The talk explores the dark themes of Kees's poetry, and touches on his work as an artist, film-maker, photographer and jazz musican.

A published poet's take on what poetry competition judges are looking for and what makes a poem fresh and new. This talk includes a look at a range of definitions, acclamations and warnings centred on quotes from numerous poets of the past and can be tailored to suit the timescale available.

Masterclasses : Competitions

An experienced leader of masterclasses and poetry competition judge

The masterclasses offered are sessions where participants submit already created work for analysis, criticism and development. A former teacher of creative writing for St Andrews University Open Association and poetry tutor for the Open College of the Arts, the author has worked with many poets who have gone on to publishing success.

The author is also available to act as judge or adjudicator for poetry competitions. A poetry panel member for the Scottish Book Trust's New Writers Awards in 2014, he has judged a number of major poetry competitions, including the Wigtown and William Soutar Prizes, and has acted as judge for both writers groups and local authority competitions.

Contact Brian Johnstone here for enquiries, bookings or to discuss specific requirements.