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Shuggie Bain mural unveiled in city which inspired prize-winning novel

Douglas Stuart won the Booker Prize with his debut novel in November last year.

A mural inspired by Douglas Stuart’s Booker Prize winning novel Shuggie Bain has been unveiled in the city where much of the book is set.

The writer said it is “one of the proudest moments of my life” as the artwork was revealed on a wall of the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow.

The Glasgow-born writer in November became only the second Scottish writer to win the prestigious award for his debut novel Shuggie Bain, which was inspired by his childhood in 1980s Glasgow.

The 2020 Booker Prize Awards Ceremony
Douglas Stuart with the cover of his Booker Prize winning novel Shuggie Bain (2020 Booker Prize/Clive Smith/PA)

The mural features Shuggie dancing in the street and a quote from the book – “You’ll not remember the city you were too wee, but there’s dancing. All kinds of dancing.”

The piece was designed and made by the Cobolt Collective, comprising 2015 Glasgow School of Art graduates Erin Bradley-Scott, Chelsea Frew and Kat Loudon.

Stuart, who now lives in New York, said: “It is beyond my wildest dreams to see my words adorning the city that inspired them. Glasgow, and the Barras, are at the very heart of Shuggie Bain.

“The novel is a portrait of a working-class family from the East End, and their resilient Glaswegian spirit.

“I’m incredibly honoured by the beautiful artwork and lettering the Cobolt Collective and Glasgow School of Art students have created for the Barrowland Ballroom.

“I hope the mural inspires other weans to dream big with their creativity. It’s definitely one of the proudest moments of my life.”

The 30ft high by 60ft wide mural was commissioned by his UK publisher Picador to mark the novel’s publication in paperback.

Shuggie Bain mural
Work on the mural outside the Barrowland Ballroom in the east end of Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)

It also features “Flourish”, a specially designed typeface created by two final year GSA communication design students, Jack Batchelor and Ellie Bainbridge.

Cobolt Collective said: “Having read Shuggie Bain at the start of this year, we were beyond delighted to be asked to paint a mural to celebrate the powerfully beautiful novel set in our beloved hometown of Glasgow

“The book is rich in vibrant visual stimuli and depicts nostalgic imagery of Glasgow in the 80s that has inspired the content of the piece.”

“Our mural includes the quote, ‘You’ll not remember the city you were too wee, but there’s dancing. All kinds of dancing’- words which come from a section of the book where Agnes is telling her son, Shuggie, about the brilliance and the beauty of Glasgow.”

“The image of Shuggie, which appears in the centre of the mural, is bringing to life the closing lines in the book where the protagonist twirls and dances in the street. The fireworks going off whilst he dances are another reference from the book, and also give a nod to the stars on the iconic Barrowland Ballroom sign (where the mural is painted).

“This famous Glasgow venue is referenced throughout the book, so to be able to paint it on the side of this building seems wholly fitting, giving Shuggie the centre stage in the city that he so greatly deserves.”

Katie Bowden, of Picador, said: “Shuggie Bain is a novel which has been described by Douglas Stuart as being, in part, a love-letter to Glasgow and we, his UK publisher, wanted to help bring about something lasting that would weave Shuggie Bain into the tapestry of the city, created by artists local to the area.”

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