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Looking back at Red Dust Road

Jackie Kay is one of HOME’s Artistic Patrons, a group of creative people who support the aims and ambitions of the organisation.

She is also one of Scotland’s foremost, award-winning writers. Her collection of poems, Fiere, was shortlisted for the Costa prize, while the novel Trumpet won the Guardian Fiction Award. She has written extensively for television and the stage and was awarded an MBE in 2006, and made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002. In 2014 she was appointed Chancellor of the University of Salford, where she has been the University ‘Writer in Residence’ since 2015. She was appointed Scottish Makar in 2016.

A scene from Red Dust Road, featuring (left to right) Elaine C Smith as Helen and Lewis Howden as John, Jackie’s adoptive parents, and Sasha Frost as Jackie.

In 2010, Jackie published her memoir, Red Dust Road. It follows her 20 year search for her birth parents, something spurred by the arrival of her own son in the late 1980s. Having been born in 1961 to a Scottish nurse and Nigerian student, Jackie’s life took a fork in the road when she was adopted as a baby by John and Helen, a warm, loving, Communist couple living in Glasgow, where she grew up exposed to politics both party and personal.

Growing up as a young black woman to white adoptive parents in 1970’s/80s Glasgow, race was always an important factor in Jackie’s life and her Nigerian background and desire to know about her heritage became more important to her.

Red Dust Road opens with Jackie meeting her birth father for the first time. A born again Christian faith healer, a man disappointed by his stranger daughter’s lack of evangelism.  “I am sitting here, evidence of his sinful past, but I am the sinner, the living embodiment of his sin.” Her birth mother is a women living with mental health issues, who had become a Mormon and married a black man, providing Jackie with siblings of her own colour she never knew she had.

The quiet, intimate drama of Jackie’s life has now been adapted for the stage. Red Dust Road, a co-production between HOME and the National Theatre of Scotland, premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2019, embarking on a tour which would culminate at HOME, a place close to Jackie’s heart.

At the press night of the show, Jackie said: “I’m a very proud patron here and I think it’s one of the most fantastic arts venues anywhere in the country. Every time I come here, whether it’s to see a film, a piece of theatre or to look at an exhibition, I feel utterly at HOME.”

Jackie sits in great company alongside our other Patrons, the Oscar-winning film maker Danny Boyle, writer and performer Meera Syal, actress Suranne Jones, Bafta-winning director Asif Kapadia, Turner Prize nominated Phil Collins and the celebrated artist Rosa Barba.