Liz Lochhead

Liz Lochhead Hon FRSE (born 26 December 1947) is a Scottish poet, playwright, translator and broadcaster.[1][2] Between 2011 and 2016 she was the Makar, or National Poet of Scotland,[3] and served as Poet Laureate for Glasgow between 2005 and 2011.

Liz Lochhead
In office
19 January 2011 – 31 January 2016
Preceded byEdwin Morgan
Succeeded byJackie Kay
Personal details
Elizabeth Anne Lochhead

(1947-12-26) 26 December 1947 (age 74)
Craigneuk, Lanarkshire, Scotland
Alma materGlasgow School of Art
OccupationTeacher, poet, playwright, Makar

Early lifeEdit

Elizabeth Anne Lochhead was born in Craigneuk,[4] a "little ex-mining village just outside Motherwell",[5] Lanarkshire. Her mother and father had both served in the army during the Second World War, and later, her father was a local government clerk. In 1952 the family moved into a new council house in the mining village of Newarthill, where her sister was born in 1957.[6] Though she was encouraged by her teachers to study English,[6] Lochhead was determined to go to Glasgow School of Art where she studied between 1965 and 1970.[2] After graduation Lochhead taught art at High Schools in Glasgow and Bristol,[7] a career at which she says she was "terrible"[2]


Having written poetry as a child and whilst studying at Art School, Liz Lochhead won a BBC Scotland Poetry Competition in 1971[8] and Gordon Wright published her first collection of Poetry, Memo For Spring in 1972 under his Reprographia imprint.[5]

It is often claimed that at this time Lochhead was part of a Philip Hobsbaum writers' group, a crucible of creative activity – with other members including Alasdair Gray, James Kelman, Tom Leonard, Aonghas MacNeacail and Jeff Torrington,[9] Liz Lochhead has repeatedly claimed this to be an invention.[5] She has however recalled the support and inspiration she drew from the Scottish poetry scene of the early 1970s and meetings with the elder generation - Norman MacCaig, Edwin Morgan, Robert Garioch - and with contemporaries such as Leonard, Kelman and Gray.[10] Lochhead went on to produce revue shows with Leonard and Gray, including Tickly Mince,[11] and The Pie of Damocles.[12] Other the following years Lochhead published further collections Islands (1978) and The Grimm Sisters (1979) and moved first to Toronto as part of the first Scottish/Canadian writers exchange and later made her home in New York.[8] In 1986 she returned permanently to Glasgow.[8]

Lochhead's success in poetry was rivalled by her writing for the theatre.[8] Her plays include Blood and Ice (1982), Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off (1987), Perfect Days (2000) and a highly acclaimed adaptation into Scots of Molière's Tartuffe (1985). She adapted the medieval texts of the York Mystery Plays, performed by a largely amateur cast at York Theatre Royal in 1992 and 1996.[13] Her adaptation of Euripides' Medea won the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award in 2001. Her plays have been performed on BBC Radio 4: Blood and Ice (11 June 1990), The Perfect Days (16 May 1999), Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off (11 February 2001) and The Stanley Baxter Playhouse: Mortal Memories (26 June 2006). Her adaptation of Helen Simpson's short story Burns and the Bankers was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Burns Night, 25 January 2012.[14] Her plays Educating Agnes and Thebans premiered in the early 2000s,[15] and in 2011 as part of the Glasgay Festival, Liz Lochhead's play Edwin Morgan's Dreams and Other Nightmares premiered at the Tron[16] and it was revived three years later as part of the cultural celebrations for the commonwealth games.[17] She has produced many new works for the Oran Mor in Glasgow, including Mortal Memories (2012) and Between the Thinks Bubble and the Speech Balloon (2014) with Tom Leonard, William Letford, Grace Cleary, and Henry Bell.

Like her work for theatre, her poetry is alive with vigorous speech idioms; later collections include True Confessions and New Clichés (1985), Bagpipe Muzak (1991), Dreaming Frankenstein: and Collected Poems (1984), The Colour of Black and White (2003) and A Choosing (2011). Liz Lochhead also enjoys writing songs and combining poetry with music and she has collaborated with Dundee singer-songwriter Michael Marra to whom she dedicated the poem 'Ira and George'.[18] as well as providing guest vocals on the track 'Trouble is Not a Place' from the 2014 EP The Bird That Never Flew by Glaswegian experimental hip hop group Hector Bizerk.[19] She has also collaborated extensively with saxophonist Steve Kettley and Dundonian band The Hazey Janes.[20]

Liz Lochhead performs internationally in theatres and literary festivals, as well as appearing regularly at nights around Glasgow and Edinburgh.[citation needed]


Lochhead is a republican and vocal supporter of Scottish independence, having performed with pro-independence group National Collective[21] and opined in The Guardian that Robert Burns would have voted for independence.[22]

Liz Lochhead is also well known as a feminist, both from her writing and public appearances,[23] she has said in the past, 'feminism is like the hoovering, you just have to keep doing it.'[24]

In 2012, Liz Lochhead travelled to Palestine and was deeply affected by what she saw in the West Bank.[25] She has been a firm opponent of the Israeli Occupation and a supporter of the call for a cultural boycott of Israel.[26] In 2014 she was involved in preparing A Bird is Not a Stone, an anthology of contemporary Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland.[27]

Lochhead is openly critical of Scottish arts funding body Creative Scotland.[28]

Honours and awardsEdit

In 2005,[29] Lochhead became the Poet Laureate for Glasgow, a position she held until stepping down in 2011,[30] when she was named as the second Scots Makar,[31] or national poet of Scotland, succeeding Edwin Morgan who had died the previous year.[32] She stepped down from this role in February 2016,[33] and was succeeded by Jackie Kay in March 2016.[34]

She is currently the Honorary President of the Caledonian Cultural Fellows at Glasgow Caledonian University.[35] and holds honorary doctorates from ten of Scotland's universities.[36]

She was writer in residence at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in 1980[37] and later at Glasgow University, The University of Edinburgh, Glasgow School of Art, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Eton.[38][39]

In 2014 she was elected a Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.[40]

In 2015 Liz Lochhead was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry.[5] Lochhead is only the 11th woman to have been awarded the prize since its inception in 1933, and the eighth Scot.[5]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1986, Liz Lochhead married the architect Tom Logan.[41] The couple lived together in Glasgow until his death in 2010.[42] After his death she wrote the poem Favourite Place about their caravan on the West Coast of Scotland.[43] It ends:

But tonight you are three months dead
and I must pull down the bed and lie in it alone.
Tomorrow, and every day in this place
these words of Sorley MacLean’s will echo through me:
The world is still beautiful, though you are not in it.
And this will not be a consolation
but a further desolation.

Published worksEdit

  • 1972: Memo For Spring. Reprographia.
  • 1978: Islands. Print Studio Press.
  • 1979: The Grimm Sisters. Coach House Press.
  • 1999: Bagpipe Muzak. Penguin Books.
  • 1999: Perfect Days. Nick Hern Books.
  • 2000: Medea. Nick Hern Books.
  • 2001: Cuba (with Gina Moxley). Faber & Faber.
  • 2002: Misery Guts. Nick Hern Books.
  • 2003: The Colour of Black and White. Polygon.
  • 2003: Dreaming Frankenstein and Collected Poems, 1967–84. Polygon.
  • 2003: Thebans. Nick Hern Books.
  • 2003: True Confessions: And New Cliches. Polygon.
  • 2006: Good Things. Nick Hern Books.
  • 2009: Educating Agnes. Nick Hern Books.
  • 2009: Blood and Ice. Nick Hern Books.
  • 2010: Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off. Nick Hern Books.
  • 2011: A Choosing. Polygon
  • 2012: Liz Lochhead: Five Plays. Nick Hern Books.

Radio playsEdit

Radio Plays adapted by Liz Lochhead
Date first broadcast Play Director Cast Synopsis
25 January 2012 Burns and the Bankers[14] Amber Barnfather Sophie Thompson, John Sessions, Greg Wise, Peter Forbes, David McKay, Angela Darcy, Siobhan Redmond, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Maynard Eziashi Helen Simpson's satirical and poignant short story, dramatised for radio by Liz Lochhead. Nicola Beaumont (English, partner in a law firm, mother of four) reluctantly sits down to a long-winded corporate Burns Supper. At first impatient with the whisky-fuelled pomposity around her, Nicola finds herself surprisingly moved as the traditional rituals of a Burns Night unfold. What she comes to learn about the eighteenth-century Scots poet brings new self-knowledge and helps her through the night's violent emotions and climactic events. BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Drama


  • Mills, Paul (1982), The Individual Voice, which includes a review of The Grimm Sisters, in Murray, Glen (ed.), Cencrastus No. 8, Spring 1982, pp. 45 & 46, ISSN 0264-0856


  1. ^ "Writing Scotland - Liz Lochhead - BBC Two". BBC.
  2. ^ a b c "Writing Scotland - Liz Lochhead - BBC Two". BBC. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  3. ^ Kennedy, Maev; Carrell, Severin (19 January 2011). "Liz Lochhead appointed as makar, Scotland's national poet". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  4. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Desert Island Discs, Liz Lochhead". Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e Crown, Sarah (16 January 2016). "Liz Lochhead: 'You're stuck writing something until you go, "To hell with it, I'll tell the truth"'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Liz Lochhead | Poetry | Scottish Poetry Library". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  7. ^ "Liz Lochhead - Literature". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d "Liz Lochhead (1947 - )". Scottish Women Poets. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  9. ^ Peter Childs and Michael Storry (eds), The Encyclopedia of Contemporary British Culture. Routledge: 2009, p.311.
  10. ^ "Liz Lochhead on the 40th anniversary of Memo For Spring". Scottish Poetry Library. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  11. ^ "The Glasgow Herald - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  12. ^ "Sorcha Dallas · Works · Alasdair Gray, 'The Pie of Damocles' (Merryhell Theatre), 1983 · Images". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  13. ^ Campbell, Andy. "York Mystery Plays : Illumination - From Darkness into Light : Introduction: York Mystery Plays: 1951 to the present day".
  14. ^ a b BBC – Afternoon Drama – Burns and the Bankers
  15. ^ "Liz Lochhead | Knight Hall Agency". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  16. ^ "Theatre review: Edwin Morgan's Dreams, and Other Nightmares - The Tron, Glasgow". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  17. ^ "Edwin Morgan's Dreams & Other Nightmares at Tron Theatre Ltd". Tron Theatre Ltd. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  18. ^ 'Ira and George', The Colour of Black and White (Polygon: 2003), p.8
  19. ^ "Interview on STV Glasgow". STV. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  20. ^ "Liz Lochhead with Steve Kettley | The Gardyne Theatre". Retrieved 25 January 2016.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Documenting Yes: National Collective Glasgow Launch Party". National Collective. 14 October 2013. Archived from the original on 2 August 2014.
  22. ^ "Of course Robert Burns would vote for Scottish independence". The Guardian. 24 January 2014.
  23. ^ "Memo for Spring | Glasgow Women's Library". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  24. ^ "Fail Better - "Feminism is like hoovering, you just have... | Facebook". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  25. ^ "The journey that changed my view of art and politics". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  26. ^ "Letter: Over 100 artists announce a cultural boycott of Israel". The Guardian. 13 February 2015. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  27. ^ Lochhead, Liz (5 November 2014). "Found in translation: poems from Palestine via Scotland". Red Pepper. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  28. ^ "Makar Liz Lochhead leads nation's artists and intellectuals as they line up to attack Creative Scotland". HeraldScotland.
  29. ^ "British Council listing for Liz Lochhead". The British Council. Archived from the original on 2 November 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  30. ^ "Liz Lochhead appointed as makar, Scotland's national poet". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  31. ^ Kennedy, Maev; Carrell, Severin (19 January 2011). "Liz Lochhead appointed as makar, Scotland's national poet". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  32. ^ "Liz Lochhead confirmed as new Scots Makar". BBC News. 19 January 2011. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  33. ^ "The search for a new Makar begins as Lochhead bows out with a ' je ne regrette rien'". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  34. ^ ScottishGovernment. "ScottishGovernment - News - Scotland's new Makar". Archived from the original on 15 March 2016. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
  35. ^ "Liz Lochhead – Honorary President | Glasgow Caledonian University | Scotland, UK". Archived from the original on 25 February 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  36. ^ "Liz Lochhead confirmed as new Scots Makar". BBC News. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  37. ^ "The writings on the wall". The Herald. 5 February 1994. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  38. ^ "Liz Lochhead :: Authors :: Birlinn Ltd". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  39. ^ "Profile: Liz Lochhead, Scotland". Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  40. ^ "Ms Elizabeth Anne Lochhead HonFRSE - The Royal Society of Edinburgh". The Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  41. ^ "Liz Lochhead | Poetry | Scottish Poetry Library". Retrieved 29 January 2016.
  42. ^ "Logan Tom : Obituary : Herald". Retrieved 29 January 2016.[permanent dead link]
  43. ^ "Favourite Place by Liz Lochhead". Retrieved 29 January 2016.

External linksEdit