Bank on 2014 festival being a page-turner

Author Sarah Sheridan
Author Sarah Sheridan

Small, friendly and kept afloat by volunteers, Linlithgow Book Festival has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2005.

The brainchild of friends Roy Dalgleish and Gail Boardman, the event was inspired by the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which sees 220,000 visitors descend upon the tents at Charlotte Square each year.

The pair don’t hail from an events management background – Roy is a scientific officer at Larbert Hospital, while Gail runs the Line Gallery in Linlithgow.

Reflecting on the origins of the festival, Gail said: “Roy and I were thinking of the number of people who travel into Edinburgh for the Book Festival and, more importantly, the number of people who don’t. This led us towards the idea that it would be nice to bring something similar here to Linlithgow.”

In its first year, the festival had the coup of securing Scots literary juggernaut Iain Banks, who penned the controversial horror novel ‘The Wasp Factory’. He also made an emotional appearance at the festival the year before he died.

After nine years, meeting Banks was still a highlight for Gail. She said: “Iain Banks was such a joy to host; just so approachable and friendly.

“We hold a lot of our events in the Masonic Hall and after the main event everybody, including the authors, has a chance to come into the bar area and mingle.

“We really like this sort of feeling of containment, which is why we prefer not to go for bigger venues.”

Five years ago, Roy and Gail decided to include an open mic night as a recurring feature of the festival. Attracting local poets, authors and performers, the event gives a chance for aspiring creatives to be seen and heard.

Vicki Jarret first stepped up to the mic in Linlithgow’s Masonic Hall in 2012, shortly after her debut novel, Nothing is Heavy, came out. New to the literary scene and inexperienced at giving public readings, she was plagued with nerves.

She said: “Doing public readings and appearances at events is expected of writers now more than ever, and I knew I’d have to learn to cope with the nerves.

“I’ve appeared twice at the Linlithgow Book Festival open mic spot and found it a really enjoyable and valuable experience both times.

“Roy and Andrew (Philip) are both really friendly and supportive and there’s always a good atmosphere.”

The 2014 programme is coloured with various different genres including historical fiction from Sara Sheridan, crime from Doug Johnstone and science fiction from Una McCormack who penned the ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ series and two Doctor Who tales.

Yet another big name features in the line-up in the form of BBC journalist Kirsty Wark, who will make her first appearance at Linlithgow Book Festival tomorrow.

Two hundred tickets have already been sold for this year’s festival, with many more expected to be snapped up on the day.

As for the future of the venture, Gail said: “There’s scope for the festival to put on various events throughout the year. We’ve done literary lunches in the past as well as a trip to Flodden, so we’d consider doing similar things in the future.”

Timetable of events:

Friday, october 31

7.30pm: Kicking off this year’s festival, Sara Sheridan (£10) will discuss England Expects, the third of her Mirabelle Bevan mysteries.

Saturday, November 1

10:30 am: Budding poets have the chance to brush up on their craft in a poetry workshop (£12) with Andrew Philip at the Mel Gray Centre, Linlithgow canal basin.

12.30pm: Una McCormack (£8), author of two ‘Doctor Who’ tales and the ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ series, discusses the Doctor and his adventures.

1.30pm: Ken MacLeod (£8), the award-winning sci-fi author, returns to Linlithgow with his new novel, ‘Descent’, set in a near-future Scotland transformed by technological and social change.

2.30pm: Kirsty Wark (£10) makes her first appearance at Linlithgow Book Festival with her debut novel, ‘The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle’, a multi-generational story of love and belonging set on the island of Arran.

3.45pm: Doug Johnstone with his finely tuned tale of family, secrets and past wrongs, The Dead Beat, and bestselling thriller author Helen Fitzgerald with The Cry. (£10)

7.30pm: Jumping off from Alexander Moffat’s 1980s painting The Poets’ Pub, painter Ruth Nicol (£8) explores the landscapes significant to the great poets of the 20th century Scottish literary renaissance.

9pm: The festival’s iconic open mic night (free entry) sets the stage for new writers testing out their work. To request a reading slot, email or simply go along and enjoy the readings.

Sunday, November 2

2pm: Andrew Crummy (£10) will discuss the creation of The Great Tapestry of Scotland, a celebration of Scottish history and achievement from the end of the last Ice Age to the 21st century.