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Alexander McCall Smith

One of the greatest joys and privileges in life is being able to brighten someone’s day through creativity. It could be through an artwork or a piece of writing. But for us at the Kit Kemp Design Studio, we aim to achieve this through our design, where people can enjoy our spaces with their loved ones.

Subconsciously, inspiration can be found in the most unlikely of places. Someone’s work whose bright, intelligent and curious nature shines through is the author, Alexander McCall Smith. When life gets a bit too serious, it is his work I reach for time and time again. Through his writing and stories, he gives us an insight into the way he sees the world, and I love that way!

McCall Smith is a prolific writer; his productivity is incredible! He has written and contributed to more than a hundred books. It reminds me of when you go to an art exhibition that is filled with an artist’s paintings in just one of their ‘periods’ and you can’t imagine how they can produce so much great work. The books that started his career feature Precious Ramotswe, who is Botswana’s leading, and only, female private detective. The series has now sold over twenty million copies in the English language alone.

Perhaps my favourite of his book series is 44 Scotland Street, set in a quiet urban neighbourhood in the author’s home town of Edinburgh, where the inhabitants lead extraordinary lives and little Bertie Pollock is at the centre of it all. These novels, first published as a serial novel in The Scotsman newspaper are now the longest-running serial novels in the world.

If you really want to be entertained, go for the Professor Von Igelfeld Series. You won’t resist laughing out loud at some of the situations the hapless academic finds himself in.


Not one to rest on his laurels, McCall Smith has recently been involved in The Great Tapestry of Scotland.

More than 1,000 stitchers, 50,000 sewing hours and 300 miles of yarns later, the Great Tapestry of Scotland was born and was unveiled on Tuesday 3rd September 2013 at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

‘There have always been two ways of telling a story—through words or pictures. The persistence of the narrative image throughout history tells us something important about ourselves: we love seeing our story told in a sequence of pictures.’

This project, one of the world’s largest community projects, is a true collaboration. McCall Smith’s vision was to create a tapestry showing the history of Scotland and with the help of artist, Andrew Crummy and stitching lead, Dorie Wilkie, over 300 miles of wool was used to create 160 linen panels. It’s astonishing to think that this is enough to lay the entire length of Scotland from the border with England to the tip of Shetland! The design of the panels is based on a narrative written by Scottish writer and historian, Alistair Moffat.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland is now located in the centre of Galashiels, less than an hour by train from Edinburgh. The visitor’s centre designed by architects Page\Park will help to regenerate the once thriving textile town and give a financial boost to the area after the impact of the pandemic.

We will soon be resuming our Firmdale Book Salons from the curated library at Ham Yard Hotel and Alexander McCall Smith is top of my list. We will keep you posted!

I will always stand by my own book’s title, ‘Every Room Tells a Story’. It just so happens that my way of telling a story is by collating interesting and thought provoking objects, fabrics, furniture and materials in a satisfying way for people to experience. Of course there are many ways to tell your story. Just start by finding your own method and style and go for it!

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