Culture/Arts in General

Update – New Year, New Novel, New New New

Happy New Year! This is a good time to blog about 2015 and 2016. I haven’t written here for a while, mainly because I’ve been so busy. I’m thrilled to announce my new novel The Brilliant & Forever is released in March. It’s my best book yet. Here’s what my publisher says about it:

This is a novel like no other; a whip-cracking, energetic, laugh-out-loud satire on what we value in culture, and in our lives. And yet, written with exquisite warmth and empathy, The Brilliant & Forever is also a moving exploration of integrity, friendship and belonging. It’ll split your sides and break your heart.


I’ve already got some exciting appearances booked in to promote The Brilliant & Forever but I can’t say what they are yet – so look out for me at your favourite festivals this year.

Talking of festivals, some of my highlights of 2015 were my events at Loopallu and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Loopallu is primarily a friendly music festival that sells out swiftly every year – and little wonder. It’s intimate, memorable and perfectly curated (sorry to use the ‘c’ word but I think it’s allowable in this context…)


As well as performing my first public reading from The Brilliant & Forever there, I did a spoken word gig and songwriting workshop with my old pal Willie Campbell (whose 2016 also looks fantastic, given that astrid are reforming and have recorded a new album in L.A. – it comes out in summer). 2016 will also see the release of new material I recorded with Willie Campbell and Colin Macleod (the artist formerly known as The Boy Who Trapped the Sun) in Colin’s studio in our native Hebrides. This new band/songwriting partnership is called Akutagawa. Filmmaker Jim Hope documented the recordings we did. I wrote the lyrics and mumbled on one track, and Willie and Colin worked their musical magic. We’re all really proud of the result – you’ll hear and see more about us soon.

photo-1 copy

The Edinburgh Book Festival gig was also a blend of music and words, in support of a bilingual (Gaelic-English) book of poems and essays I edited, Struileag: Cladach gu Cladach/Shore to Shore. I was joined onstage by Rachel Newton, Aonghas MacNeacail, Babs NicGriogair and Alasdair Whyte – incredible talents, all.

In the latter part of the year, I co-wrote and conducted interviews for a feature-length documentary film, working alongside Robbie Fraser and bees nees media. It’s all about the fascinating and complex force of nature that was Hamish Hendersonand will be out in 2016.

Right now I’m working on a story commission for Alex MacDonald at An Lanntair, Stornoway. (I’m going up to Lewis this week for research and inspiration). More on that soon.

2015 wasn’t just about writing – I counteracted all that sitting down typing with a great deal of cycling (including a number of sportives, Ride London and the Festive 500) plus I developed an unexpected love for running 10k races. I continued with my voluntary work, too.

Hope to meet – and re-meet – a few of you in the coming year. I’ll be keeping you posted on all my activities so come and say ‘hi’ and let me know what you think of The Brilliant & Forever

Oh, and finally! Katsu here doesn’t know it yet, but he’s getting a new friend in January, a young half-sister.


Culture/Arts in General

RideLondon-Surrey 100, 2015

Ride London 100 – done! Despite feeling unwell (upset stomach and weird lingering fatigue and weakness that began mid-week) and despite only getting 2.5 hours’ sleep, I cycled the 100 miles in 5 hours 36 minutes exactly (this includes stops to fill water bottles, grab some gels and take the occasional ‘natural break’). My actual riding time was about 5 hours 15. I’m very pleased with that. It was warm and started getting hot, so my peely-wally Scottish skin is also glad I finished shortly after mid-day. Thank you so very much to those who have already sponsored me. If you haven’t yet, but wish to do so, here is the link. Asthma UK is a hugely worthwhile charity. Thank you thank you thank you.


Culture/Arts in General

Writing, meditation and yoga course – last few places!


I’m teaching meditation and writing at beautiful Moniack Mhor, in Inverness-shire, from 8 – 13 June. There are still a few spaces available so sign up quickly if you’re interested! Here’s a bit more information…

This course is inspired by the classical ideal of a healthy mind in a healthy body. Meditation and yoga are the perfect complements to writing, helping you to focus, be more creative, generate ideas and solve problems. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced writer, you’ll develop a new set of innovative creative writing skills, and will learn how to use meditative disciplines to hone your work and be more productive. Start the morning with a revitalising yoga class, then spend the day in writing workshops, interspersed with short periods of group meditation. You’ll receive individual one-to-one sessions with the highly experienced writing tutor, to focus closely on your work. And there’ll be time to read, reflect, write and explore the beautiful local area – or just relax in famously friendly Moniack Mhor. It doesn’t matter whether you’re new to yoga, meditation, writing or all three – or you have some experience in some or all of these areas – the course will be tailored to suit your needs.

Kevin MacNeil is an award-winning poet, novelist, editor and writing tutor from the Outer Hebrides, now resident in London. His books include Love and Zen in the Outer Hebrides and A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde. He is a keen cyclist and a practising Buddhist with lots of experience of meditation techniques.

Yoga: Charlotte Esme Turner will be leading morning yoga sessions.

Guest: Kit Fraser is the author of three memoir/self-help books, including The Joy of Talk, and Old Age: My Three Best Friends Alcohol, Television and God. He is the co-founder and chair of Moniack Mhor.

Yoga teachers are eligible for a £100 grant.

To book, click here.

Culture/Arts in General

Aye Write festival, Glasgow, Saturday 25 April

I’m chairing an event about the culture, imagination, identity and diaspora of the Gaels, to celebrate the publication of my latest book, Struileag: Shore to Shore, a collection of specially commissioned bilingual poems and essays. With poets Aonghas MacNeacail and Babs NicGriogair, and singer Alasdair Whyte. The event is 19.30-20.30, £9, the Mitchell Library, North Street, Glasgow. You can find out more about my event and all the others here.
More news about the book coming very soon…

Culture/Arts in General

Book now! Mind Body Spirit: Writing & Yoga at Moniack Mhor

I’m excited to be teaching creative writing and meditation techniques at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre in Inverness-shire, 8 – 13 June. My co-tutor is memoirist and former Times journalist Rachel Kelly, and Charlotte Esme Turner will be leading morning yoga sessions. To find out more or book your place, please contact Moniack Mhor. IMG_1123

Culture/Arts in General Literature Music/Literature Newsworthy

Rare KM & WC gig tomorrow night at EdBookFest!


Willie and I are playing a rare gig tomorrow night at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. We’re honoured, delighted. and very much looking forward to it. The gig is part of the lively Jura Unbound strand that takes place in the wondrous Guardian Spiegeltent – it’s a free, drop-in event that starts at 9pm. I’d advise you to get there early because it’s liable to be busy, plus our Very Special Guests are not to be missed.

Willie and I will play tracks from our Visible From Space album, plus Willie will do some solo work – the astounding one-man band looping-pedal stuff that takes serious co-ordination and which he does so well.


I’m thrilled to say that we will be joined by the pre-eminent Shetland poet and novelist Robert Alan Jamieson and terrific singer-songwriter, Island Review writer and all-round-good-guy Jordan Ogg. They, like me, were friends and fans of the late Lise Sinclair and we’re dedicating our night to her memory – in a celebratory fashion, as she would have doubtless wanted. (Click here to read Mary Blance’s poignant, eloquent obituary to learn more about Lise, or better yet get a hold of one of her CDs.)


Edinburgh International Book Festival

Jura Unbound

Kevin MacNeil & Willie Campbell

Thursday 15 August

9:00pm – 11:00pm

The Guardian Spiegeltent

Free & Drop-in

bikes Newsworthy Personal

Thank You!

Friends, I’m touched that so many of you have donated to the charitable causes on whose behalf I’ve cycled the Danube/Ness-Leverburgh/RideLondon100. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Between us we’ve raised £6539-33 for Cancer Research, Macmillan Cancer Support, Bethesda Hospice and Guide Dogs. None of these cycles was easy – they all involved fixed-gear or single-speed bikes, and they all involved pain! Because I don’t wish to impose upon your kindness, the next (95-mile, single-speed) bike ride and the half-marathon are not for charity, just for ‘fun’. And because I value your support, anyone who has sponsored me for any of these bike rides can email me with Short Story as the subject and I will email you back a free, unpublished short story. Can’t say fairer than that. Again, thank you, on behalf of all these charities. Your donations are making a real difference to real people.x


bikes Culture/Arts in General

100-mile single-speed bike ride to raise £££ for Guide Dogs

A happy wee fellow who will one day add to a visually impaired person's quality of life
A happy wee fellow who will one day add to a visually impaired person’s quality of lifeI’m doing a 100-mile cycle (all in one go) on a single-speed bike (a bike with only one gear) – but I’m doing it for charity, not because I like pain!

I’m doing a 100-mile cycle (all in one go) on a single-speed bike (a bike with only one gear) – but I’m doing it for charity, not because I like pain!

That charity is Guide Dogs, a very worthy cause indeed. (Some of you will know I’ve had my own eye problems). Any donations, no matter how big or small, will be most gratefully received.

The 100-mile route starts in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, where I will follow a modified version of the road race rouvivapicte used in the 2012 Olympic Games. Rather worryingly, Leith Hill and Box Hill feature, both of them leg- and lungbusters, especially on a single-speed bike!

We will ride along closed roads through the capital, and then continue on to the country roads of the Surrey Hills before heading back into central London to cross the finish line in the Mall. I’ll probably collapse a few centimetres after the finish line, but that’s okay!
I’ve been training really hard for this but there’s no doubt it’s going to be one of the toughest days in the saddle I’ve ever had, maybe THE toughest. Here’s the Route Map And Profile.

Profile looks a bit daunting
Profile looks a bit daunting



Please consider sponsoring me for this vital cause:

Culture/Arts in General

Corneal Graft

Following a recent interview I did for Optometry Today about my eye disease, keratoconus, I thought it would be appropriate to post this poem. The song version is available on the album I made with Willie Campbell (Kevin MacNeil & Willie Campbell are Visible from Space). The poem was first published in a book celebrating the quincentenary of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh.

Corneal Graft
For all the eye specialists I’ve seen – in varying degrees of haziness – over the years, 
and for the anonymous donor who gifted me his/her vision, in something like the way 
succeeding generations of writers do

My vision’s been where I haven’t. I’m but a go-between.
When my cornea frosted over, I saw an optician (blurred).
A part of me has seen things I have never seen.

My eye lost its glistering green, took on a foggy sheen
Like that of a dreamish moonbeam, oceanly stirred.
My vision’s been where I haven’t. I’m but a go-between.

That whiteness eclipsed my eye when I was thirteen.
Words on pages slurred; even girls turned smudgy, wayward.
A part of me has seen things I have never seen.

Keratoconus, intoned the specialists. The word seemed
Vague as the world around me. Faces looked the same. Absurd.
My vision’s been where I haven’t. I’m but a go-between.

If the cornea’s a tiny jellyfish in the gene
Pool blind fate stirs, then blind luck also occurs.
A part of me has seen things I have never seen.

The doctors grafted while I was drugged and dreamed
- I still do - of the life-before-me my cornea’s conferred.
My eye is like a mind’s eye. I’m but a go-between.
A part of me has seen things I have never seen.
(c) Kevin MacNeil
Culture/Arts in General

Kevin MacNeil and Willie Campbell Are Visible From Space

A little Corner of Scotland

I’ve spent a good deal of time listening to your voice on ‘Colombian Fireworks’. I think I replayed that opening track such a disproportionate amount of time that it seriously delayed my appreciation of the rest of the record. How did that come about and how did you convince them to make it the lead track?

“I really like what There Will Be Fireworks did with ‘Colombian Fireworks’. It came about because we happened to meet at a gig and they subsequently emailed and asked if I would write something for them. They’re great musicians and I was happy to create a new piece of work for them. I was living in Shetland at the time and my brother came to visit and recorded my voice. I deliberately wrote about fireworks to chime with the band name. I visited Colombia a few years ago and mentally absorbed something of the…

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