Trainspotting at 20

This is Tim Bell. For the last ten years Tim has conducted Trainspotting tours of Leith, sharing insights on the book and the film with visitors from around the world.

TimTim probably knows more about Trainspotting than anyone (with the possible exception of Irvine Welsh!) and yesterday he came along to Central Library to talk about the film adaptation of the book, which premiered 20 years ago this month.

Tim began by putting Trainspotting in  a social and historical context, explaining the circumstances that led to the Sunday Telegraph describing Edinburgh in 1986 as “the AIDS capital of Europe”.

Then Tim moved on to the book itself and the ‘cultural fireball’ that it became.

Perhaps a film of the book was inevitable, although as Tim explained filmmakers Danny Boyle, John Hodge and Andrew MacDonald had previously forsworn adaptations, wanting instead to create original cinema.

We really enjoyed hearing Tim’s thoughts on the film’s plot, characters and particularly its music. Tim also took time to remind us on the impact the film had: how Trainspotting became a brand, and what that brand represented.

It was interesting to read contemporary reviews of the film as well: from Will Self’s description of it as ‘an extended pop video’ to Shelia Johnston’s feeling that ‘for all its brilliance, the film finally feels sour and hollow’.

Tim believes that Trainspotting ‘educates as effortlessly as it entertains’ – we could say the same about him.

Tim is in the late stages of writing his own book, provisionally titled Love Life, Love Leith: a Trainspotter’s Guide. To find out more visit 


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