Scottish poet Jackie Kay (Jacqueline Margaret Kay, CBE, FRSE b.1961) is known for her honest and occasionally darkly humorous, introspective writing. Kay’s work revolves around questions of identity including race, gender, and sexuality. Her first poetry collection, The Adoption Papers (1991), explores an adopted child’s search for a cultural identity and was inspired by Kay’s own experiences of being raised in Glasgow by white adoptive parents. Kay explores issues of gender identity in her first novel, Trumpet (1998) which tells the story of fictional transgender jazz trumpeter Joss Moody (inspired by the real-life story of American musician Billy Tipton). Kay also examines the history of the Atlantic Slave trade in The Lamplighter, originally broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 2007. In 2016, Kay was appointed as the Makar (National Poet for Scotland) and in 2020 she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to literature. Kay lives in Manchester and is the Chancellor of the University of Salford. Kay’s poetry can be found online at the scottishpoetrylibrary.org.
Alan Cumming (OBE b.1965) is best known for his thespian roles in theatre, television, and film and has been a staunch advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights and a supporter of several AIDS charities. Born in Aberfeldy, Scotland, at the age of 20, Cumming entered the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland). He has since crossed both British and American stages and Screens. Cumming worked with the National Theatre of Scotland on a one-man adaptation of Macbeth that was brought to Broadway. He received an Olivier Award for his role as the Maniac in Accidental Death of an Anarchist and a Tony Award as the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret. A creative of many talents, Cumming has recorded music, released a fragrance, showed a solo photography exhibition, is an avid writer, and owns a thriving NYC based bar, Club Cumming. Throughout his career, Cumming has also been a vocal advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights and has received over 40 humanitarian awards including the Vito Russo Award and the Human Rights Campaign’s Humanitarian Award (2005) for his work with the LGBTQI+ community. He was also appointed an OBE for services to film, theatre and the arts, and activism for LGBT rights (2009). Cumming currently lives in New York City and often returns to his native Scotland where he is an advocate for Scottish independence and a patron of the Scottish Youth Theatre.
Justin Fashanu (Justinus Soni Fashanu b.1961 – d.1998) was a successful English footballer and the first black footballer to command a £1 million transfer fee. Born to a Nigerian father and Guyanese mother, Fashanu and his brother John were raised in Shropham by foster parents. He was a keen boxer in his youth and began his football career with the Norwich City Football Club, the Canaries, in 1978. Fashanu made history with his £1 million transfer to Nottingham Forest in 1981. He made history a second time in 1990 as the first openly gay professional footballer. He was forced to come out publicly after threats that he would be outed by a British tabloid. He was ostracised by his family, including his brother John who sold his story to the press, and received abuse from fans and players. After nearly a decade of homophobic abuse and a sexual assault allegation, Fashanu died by suicide 2 May 1998. In 2020, he was added to the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame on what would have been his 59th birthday. Fashanu’s niece, Amal Fashanu, continues his legacy through the Justin Fashanu Foundation which combats discrimination in football.
Illustrations and bios by Madeleine Leisk.