Scotland Inspired: Hardeep Singh Kohli

Hardeep Singh Kohli Hardeep Singh Kohli is a writer, radio and TV broadcaster on a wide range of topics

Who and what has shaped some of Scotland's most creative minds?

BBC Scotland has launched a major series - Scotland Inspired - tracing Scotland's artistic family tree, with prominent figures choosing Scots who have inspired them.

Hardeep Singh Kohli is an actor, writer, cook, columnist and broadcaster whose work in TV, radio and journalism combines humour, wry observation and depth.

His broadcast work considers serious issues while retaining a deceptively light touch covering subjects as diverse as Scientology, gambling, cultural identity, and homelessness.

BBC Radio Scotland - Scotland Inspired, Episode 4 - Tuesday 22 May at 13:45

LANARK - first novel of Alasdair Gray, pub. 1981 HARDEEP SINGH KOHLI SAYS
Lanark cover, by Alasdair Gray

"So much of my reading has been around the epicentre of Lanark, certainly in my formative years.

"The writing itself, the ambition, and the scope of the narrative was an incredible feeling for me.

"You have to remember, the Glasgow I grew up in the 1970s and early 80s, we lived in suburbs, we were immigrants so we were not steeped in tradition of the Govan shipyards and Glasgow as a city at heart of empire.

"Glasgow to us was just the place we grew up in.

"But to read a book with the scope, the ambition, the massive vistas of life that stretched forward and stretched back and sideways in the present was quite an affirming experience.

"It's the first time I felt I could put my head above the parapet about Glasgow and feel that it was a city that was more than a wee city. It put a capital G in the front of Glasgow.

"I think it's difficult not to talk at length about the influences of the book.

"The fact that he breaks narrative and it's not chronological. It's a life in four books but they are all in a different order. It really does make you think about your own life, particularly when so much of the writing is autobiographical and driven by timelines.

"There are brilliant bits of it when he is clearly in post-war Glasgow and having to walk from Riddrie back to where he lives after the dancing because the trams stop, and what Lanark did was give me a sense of the Glasgow I never had, give me a history of the city that I hadn't been in and my parents and grandparents hadn't been in.

"In the course of reading the book I felt connected with this city that I loved."

DEACON BLUE - band, formed in 1985.


Deacon Blue

"Everyone knows Raintown, for sure.

"I remember it because the cover of the album is Charing Cross in Glasgow. It is the Mitchell library, where I used to study when I was at school and down the road from there is the Sikh temple, where I used to go and where I got married.

"That photograph, the album cover itself, is mine. That's my city.

"I could talk at great length about the politics of Deacon Blue. There are songs about nuclear war, they have one of the few song to mention Oppenheimer in a lyric (The man known as the "father of the atomic bomb" is mentioned in He looks like Spencer Tracy now).

"I also have to thank Ricky Ross for introducing me to Keynesian economics - 'Sipping down raki and reading Maynard Keynes' - who writes songs about economists these days? It's that thing about Scottish intelligence.

"There are songs about love, politics, nuclear war, lassies who think they're chocolate - all on the same album.

"Perhaps it didn't introduce anything new but all I know is: it doesn't have to be new to be good. It was anthemic, it was beautiful, it made me think. It was like a gateway to new music, new literature and new ideas. I really loved what the album stood to represent.

J D FERGUSSON - artist and Scottish colourist (1874-1961)


J D Fergusson in Paris studio, c 1910

"I love the fact that I discovered JD Fergusson while I was courting, and it had nothing to do with being in an art class and no-one anywhere was telling me what to think about anything. I was just enjoying what I saw.

"We'd sit in front of this painting of two men and what looks like four women, naked, dancing and it looks a wee bit like a Garden of Eden thing.

"I didn't know at time it was a JD Fergusson but it's an absolutely beautiful painting, there's something about the nudity, the exaggerated physicality of the women and men and the ability artists have in a still image to create dynamism and feel the energy coming out in canvas but nothing's moving but your mind and imagination. It's an incredible piece of work, quite hypnotic.

"I hadn't really understood JD Fergusson was part of the Colourist. I hadn't understood his major contribution to Scottish and world art.

"But later under the brilliant professorship of Rod Lyall who was Scottish Literature professor at Glasgow, he told us about Fergusson as part of wider studies of Scottish Literature and then you put the pieces together.

"You look at the timelines and understand that Ferguson is painting at the same time as Picasso and the Cubists.

"With a little more study and work you realise in Glasgow we were at a centre of the art world."

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