Val McDermid is an internationally best-selling writer, a broadcaster, an activist and the lead vocalist of the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers. She lives in Edinburgh, home to the Homeless World Cup HQ and she currently sponsors McDermid Ladies FC in Kirkcaldy.
We asked her about what we need to do to end homelessness, who inspires her (she says it might surprise you) and about what ‘home’ means to her.
Home is as much about people as bricks and mortar. It’s the place where I can close the door on the outside world and feel secure with my family; it’s the base from which I can engage with the rest of the world. It’s where my imagination runs wild and frees my words from my head on to the page.
I grew up in the linoleum capital of the world — Kirkcaldy, in Fife. But I also spent a lot of my childhood with my grandparents in the nearby mining village of East Wemyss.
My first sporting memory is sitting on one of the tubular metal barriers at Starks Park with my dad’s hand on my back, watching Raith Rovers, eating a Pillans Pie that was so luscious the gravy ran up my sleeve. I must have been about four or five.
Wherever we are on a Saturday morning, we like to check out a local food market – farmers’ market, artisanal producers, unusual suppliers, micro-breweries. Then take back our spoils and listen to Off The Ball on Radio Scotland.
The first step of ending homelessness is being determined to do so. We managed it to some degree during the COVID lockdown, but as the cost of living spirals upwards, we’re only going to see more people unable to keep a safe and secure roof over their heads. It requires a multi-pronged approach – private rent controls, new-build social housing, support systems to help people feel safe about changing their lives, and community support. Above all, we need to act on the compassion we often claim to feel.
I was profoundly impressed on International Women’s Day to see so much support for Zero Tolerance Scotland’s campaign to end violence against woman and girls. I know this goes well beyond the bounds of the game itself, but what I would like to see right across the footballing spectrum is an end to bigotry, whether that’s on the grounds of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Let it be a genuinely level playing field.
There are many who have inspired me at different times and in different ways. But perhaps a surprising one is Dolly
Parton. She grew up dirt poor, she worked every thread of her talent into a tapestry of success, but she’s never rested on her laurels and now she’s become a remarkable philanthropist. She supports literacy projects in the US and the UK, she donated $1m to the development of the Moderna vaccine (yes, I’ve got a little bit of Dolly in my arm…) and she’s just announced she will pay for every single employee at her Dollywood theme park to further their education, all the way through college. Oh, and she’s just published her first thriller, co-written with James Patterson. What’s not to admire?
To keep fit, I walk. It also helps me get my ideas straight. I even have a treadmill in the basement so there’s no excuse even if it’s raining.
My favourite holiday is a toss-up between rural Tuscany and the North-West Highlands. Usually there’s more sunshine in Italy, but the whisky’s definitely better in Scotland.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Relax, it’ll be OK.
This was featured in the March edition of The Stadium, you can read the full edition here.