The work of acclaimed Scots artist and writer Alasdair Gray is to be celebrated in the first ever Gray Day.

It is hoped the event will become an annual commemoration of the life and work of one of Scotland’s most important cultural polymaths, Alasdair Gray.

The first will take place on Thursday - marking the 40th anniversary of the publication of his seminal novel Lanark.

Known faces including Ali Smith, Yann Martel, Denise Mina, Irvine Welsh, Gemma Cairney and Ewen Bremner are set to be involved for the first Gray Day event, featuring a broadcast at 7.30pm.

HeraldScotland: Alasdair Gray at his desk April 2019 Alasdair Gray, 2019 photo Alan DimmickAlasdair Gray at his desk April 2019 Alasdair Gray, 2019 photo Alan Dimmick

The broadcast will be hosted by Neu Reekie, with publishers Canongate and the Alasdair Gray Archive, and part of it has been filmed beneath the “Celestial Ceiling” mural the artist painted at the Oran Mor venue in Glasgow.

The hour-long online program is a tribute to Gray’s masterwork of Scottish fiction and will feature readings, conversation and music.

People are also being urged to change their social media avatar to a picture of Gray on the day.

Sorcha Dallas, of The Alasdair Gray Archive, said; “Gray Day was born of a desire to foster a continued dialogue with Alasdair through the rich and multi-faceted works he has left behind.

"Alasdair was an incredible man and we hope this tribute will allow his admirers a chance to reminisce, while bringing his work to many more who have still to discover it.” 

Gray Day will also see the launch of a new website, a podcast entitled Gray Matters and a new online film commissioned by artist Craig Mulholland, whill will accompany a series of Gray readings by friends, family and fans, including curator/ producer at Gallery of Modern Art Glasgow, Katie Bruce.

HeraldScotland: Alasdair Gray at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum Courtesy of Glasgow Museums’ collection © Alasdair Gray ArchiveAlasdair Gray at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum Courtesy of Glasgow Museums’ collection © Alasdair Gray Archive
 

Chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor David McDonald, said: “The literary and artistic prowess of Alasdair Gray has rightly made him one of Scotland’s most revered artists.

"We were delighted to host the first retrospective spanning his full career in 2014 to mark his 80th birthday.

"On the 40th anniversary of his landmark novel, Lanark, it is fitting that his home city pays tribute to his outstanding talent and Glasgow Life is pleased to be part of the celebration.  

Alasdair often attributed many happy memories to his time spent at weekend art classes in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and we are very proud to have a number of his works in our Glasgow Museums’ collection.

"These include hugely popular pieces from his acclaimed 1977 City Recorder series, some of which are on display in GoMA and can be enjoyed as soon as our museums reopen. Gray Day is a wonderful way to allow Alasdair Gray’s fans to indulge their passion, while providing an opportunity for new audiences to discover his work.”

Lanark was first published in February 1981 by Canongate, and took Gray a staggering thirty years to complete.

On its publication Lanark was critically acclaimed and heralded as a ground breaking work in Scottish literature. It prompted Anthony Burgess to call Gray “The best Scottish novelist since Walter Scott.”

The novel marked the beginning of a renaissance in Scottish fiction, from which new styles of writing developed and grew - influencing writers such as James Kelman, Liz Lochhead and Irvine Welsh.

HeraldScotland: Edwin Morgan Writer, 1977. Alasdair Gray. Courtesy of Glasgow Museums’ collection © Alasdair Gray ArchiveEdwin Morgan Writer, 1977. Alasdair Gray. Courtesy of Glasgow Museums’ collection © Alasdair Gray Archive

Many agree the publishing of Lanark was a transformative moment in Scottish cultural history, providing a community and context north of the border in which Scottish fiction could grow.

Gray launched the city’s inaugural Aye Write book festival, but his love of libraries began during his childhood with visits to his local library, Riddrie.

Speaking in 2017, Alasdair Gray said: “Glasgow Public Libraries were a greater source of learning to me than my secondary school, and my local Library, being Riddrie I knew best usually visiting it twice a week, if not more.

“I was one of those studious children allowed two non-fiction library tickets. In the humour section I found the writings of Perelman and Thurber, there was also a series of one act play books.

"In adult non-fiction I enjoyed the autobiographies of Jocelyn Brook, essays of Chesterton and Heine's travel writings.”

The writer Liz Lochhead has described Gray’s relationship to the city as him being “A poet of this city in prose and painting. Like Dickens with London.” 

The Alasdair Gray Archive was established in March 2020 after Gray’s death in late December 2019.

HeraldScotland: 40th anniversary edition of Lanark, published by Canongate © Alasdair Gray Archive40th anniversary edition of Lanark, published by Canongate © Alasdair Gray Archive