Thrawn, creative and innovative - what makes Fife, Fife?

Ian Rankin, Aileen Paterson and Lesley Riddoch
Ian Rankin, Aileen Paterson and Lesley Riddoch

Allan Crow at the Big Tent debate on what makes Fife, Fife?

DEFINING Fife, and Fifers, is no mean feat.

We’re thrawn but also creative and innovative, we have produced pioneers but shy away from publicly celebrating our achievements.

We’re ... well, different.

That was the conclusion of a fascinating hour long debate ‘what makes Fife, Fife’ which drew a capacity crowd to one of the yurts at Big Tent Festival.

It was sitting room only as every seat and available piece of floor space was taken to hear authors Ian Rankin and Aileen Paterson in the company of host, Lesley Riddoch, set out to capture the essence of Fife.

There were also some fabulous contributions from the floor as Fifers - and non-Fifers alike - all found a shared love for the Kingdom.

It was perhaps put no better than the 85-year old lady who took the mic and said: In the 1950s I was taken to Kirkcaldy for the day. I was given such a wonderful day that I have never forgotten it. It was a wondeful expereince.’’

Or from the renowned Christopher Trotter - Fife’s Food Ambassador - who spoke with passion and conviction, describing Fife as ‘‘a wonderful county’’ adding: ‘‘We innovate but we never blow our own trumpet,’’ he said.

‘‘We need to learn that Fifers are very, very special people.’’

‘‘A little attitude’’ ventured Lesley Riddoch in her introduction to the debate and the Kingdom - the broadcaster being one of the many ‘non Fifers’ who now call Fife their home, while noting that Newburgh has to have a ‘KY’ postcode (and so it should!)

Ian Rankin talked of its ‘‘cussidness and thrawness’’ and reminded the audience that ‘‘it taks a lang spoon to sup wi’ us - but they say that about the devil too!’’

He spoke of Fife’s rich culture which has produced many creative talents - from Joe Corrie to Jack Vettriano, from Jackie Leven to the Fence Collective - but also how we didn’t seek the limelight.

His own poems were kept from his family until his name, age and address appeared in a newspaper announcing success at a competition. ‘‘Is that you?’’ asked his mum.

There was an acknowledgement from Aileen of the huge influence of generations of outstanding teachers when it came to the arts, in her case at Kirkcaldy High, but she too touched on Fifers remaining grounded at all times.

‘‘When I first started writing the ‘Maisie’ books the Evening News sent a reporter and photographer over to interview me. I’d never been in the papers and I told my dad all about it.

‘‘He said ‘‘oh, I don’t like that paper - I never buy it!’’

Ian spoke of Fife’s worldwide impact - from Adam Smith to Andrew Carnegie - and trading globally while also ‘‘seeming quite insular’’ and how Fife itself has many different characteristics, but one underpinned by a ‘‘get on with approach.’’

‘‘If you want something done, you just do it’’ he said.

It may well be that approach which brings new prosperity to our own town.

‘‘What has gone wrong with Kirkcaldy?’’ asked Lesley.

‘‘It doesn’t use its waterfront,’’ said Ian. ‘‘Everything faces away - I come here and all I see is the back of a shopping centre and a car park. That is bizarre.’’

For Aileen, the topic brought her sharpest comment, and one that every Council officer may wish to digest: ‘‘I absolutely loathe the state of the High Street. It used to be a wonderful place. I do not know who did it, but I am not pleased.’’

Maybe some more of that ‘‘little attitude’’ mentioned at the start of this deabte will go a long way in Kirkcaldy in 2012 ...

>> How do you define Fife?

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