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Jenni Fagan was born in Livingston, and lives in Portobello – a seaside town in Edinburgh. She has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the James Tait Black Prize.
Jenni was selected as one of the Granta’s Best Young British Novelists in 2013 after the publication of her astonishing debut novel, The Panopticon.
Her most recent novel, 2016’s The Sunlight Pilgrims, was shortlisted for The Royal Society of Literature’s Encore Award. The Dead Queen of Bohemia (New & Collected Poems) was also published in 2016.
AAA caught up with Jenni for a chat to find out what she loves most about her hometown of Edinburgh.
Most memorable capital event?
Dancing all night at Sativa when I was younger, preceded by Beltane then walking at 6am up the raggedy road afterwards to watch the sunrise over the city.
Who would you choose to headline Edinburgh’s Hogmanay?
The Cramps. Lux Interior is no longer with us but they would have been great. Actually it would be great to see Young Fathers headline Edinburgh’s Hogmanay – they’re our best musical asset. They’ve done Waverley Stage before but it’s about time they did it again.
Favourite old fashion boozer?
I used to like the Waverley Bar on St Mary’s Street. Port of Leith is another favourite but I’ve not seen it since the refit. I like the Royal Oak actually – you get some great folk musicians in there too.
Favourite style bar?
I’m not really into style bars but I do quite like Panda & Sons, although I’ve only been there once.
I like Maison Bleue on Victoria Street – nice dark decor, great French/North African/Scottish fusion.
Do you love or loathe the Festival?
The city would be bereft without the chaos. I like the change of energy it brings.
What restaurant would you recommend?
Ting Thai Caravan does really good quality Vietnamese food – it’s simple and busy but I like it.
Favourite art gallery?
Modern One, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
I think they should bring back the Odeon on Clerk Street. I’d been going there since I was a kid and it had great old design features. I like the Dominion – you can’t beat a cinema with sofas that serves a decent gin and tonic.
Favourite live music venue?
I’ve seen a lot of great gigs at the Queen’s Hall over the years, most recently Conor Oberst and Miwi La Lupa. I saw the Dirty Three there, Nick Cave, Henry Rollins, Odetta.
Edinburgh needs a few more lo-fi music venues though. I played music here for years and we’ve lost lots of the great old venues to gentrification or student accommodation or architects offices or whatever – the city needs to invest in its live music scene, its underselling local talent.
Favourite walk in or around the city?
Arthur’s Seat, from Holyrood Park all the way around up to the top loch and then back down around Duddingston loch – there’s so many ways to walk around there though.
Favourite shopping area?
There’s some cute vintage and 1950s type stores in between Tollcross and Bruntsfield these days.
Favourite piece of Edinburgh architecture?
I’d take the entire row of tenements on the High Street as seen from Princes Street, so much so I’m writing two novels based there. I often like entire streets rather than individual buildings. Saying that – my favourite piece of architecture is actually Mary Queen of Scots bathhouse, just outside Holyrood Palace. I’ve always adored it.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the city?
Walking passed a Starbucks on Leith Walk.
Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Favourite local hero?
I can’t think of one but I do love that Ian Rankin drinks in the Oxford Bar and gets his mail sent there. There’s also a woman who decorates a part of the public pavement and bushes outside her house. It’s just near Drummond Community High School. She decorates that bit all by herself every Halloween, Easter, Xmas. It’s eccentric and fun, and it gets my vote!
To find out more about poet and novelist Jenni Fagan, visit her online site, The Dead Queen of Bohenia, by clicking HERE