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There are only five subscribers to Ambit in Scotland. Perhaps all five were lurking in the audience at the celebration of the 200th issue at the CCA Writers' Centre in Glasgow last Thursday. But I have a plan to boost their number . . .

The five subscribers may be far away in the Borders or living in crofts on islands. However, Scottish artist Ron Sandford was there last Thursday (he lives in one of the Shetland Isles). He's been doing remarkable pen portraits of contributors to the magazine for decades.

The magazine has been outstanding for its art work all along. It has featured Posy Simmonds, David Hockney and Eduardo Palaozzi, to name (as they say) but a few. Martin Bax, editor, has a talent for tracking down talented people and charming them into the pages. It's a long time since 1959, which is when he started all this. At one time, Carol Ann Duffy was poetry editor.

I started subscribing (and submitting) in the early 1990s.  I found Ambit would take poems other editors didn't reach (or the other way around). Some of my unsuitables had their first airing in Ambit. Now I'm one of its stable of reviewers, whinnying in every issue about something or other (better than whining).

Ambit is, like all the other literary magazines, a labour of love. It lost its Arts Council Grant last year but it's still going, buoyed up by dedicated volunteer workers, subscriptions and direct sales -- goodness knows how. It must cost a small fortune to print. It features art work, prose fiction and poetry. All sorts. The work's nicely presented with plenty of space on the page and issued quarterly, so it draws on a lot of material over the year.

The editor gets shedsful of poetry. (No surprise there.) Not so much prose fiction. Short story writers and novelists with homeless chapters, please note. Glasgow architect Douglas Thompson had chapters of his extraordinary futuristic novel Sylvow in Ambit before it found a publisher.

Perhaps we're too poor to subscribe in Scotland? The annual fee is £28.00. (But Poetry Review, which does have an Arts Council Grant still, but doesn't have stories and pictures, is £30.00. "And what is the use of a book," thought Alice, "without pictures or conversations?")

Since Borders folded in 2009, there isn't a bookshop in Scotland selling Ambit. Apparently, every Borders in London used to shift 200 copies per issue. In Scotland too, sales were considerable. It's not the sort of gap subscriptions are likely to bridge. Worth sending to. Worth subscribing to -- at least for a year or so.

I'm doing my bit to boost Ambit subscriptions in Scotland. If you live or work here, and you're reading this, email me (nell@happenstancepress.com) with up to 150 words about yourself and why you'd like a gift subscription. You don't have to apply as an individual. I'm particularly interested in members of reading or writing groups, who might read and pass round a copy.

I'm giving away three, which would increase the subscriber base in Scotland by 60% overnight.

Spread the word.



I have prodded it, poked it, stuck in iambics,

fired it, wired it, thought of alembics,

sent it to pundits,

shot it down, stunned it,

cursed it, rehearsed it (some were offended),

cut it up, pruned it, had it extended.

Time passed, aghast.

Now my final gambit:

send it to Ambit.


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Saturday, 28 January 2023