Countdown begins as stars set to reveal their earliest inspiration

SOME of the celebrities which have already ensured next weekend's Borders Book Festival will be a runaway success will come together to discuss the works of literature which first inspired them to become writers.

With just seven days to go to the start of the extravaganza in the grounds of Harmony House, Melrose, TheSouthern can report there are still some tickets, costing just 4, for First Books, part of the festival’s family segment, which takes place in the main Brewin Dolphin Marquee at 3pm on Saturday, June 20.

In what is truly a star-studded event, Jackie Kay, James Naughtie, Ian Rankin, David Aaronovitch and Vince Cable MP will recall the moments they became caught in the web of words, with all proceeds going to the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS).

Kay has just published her acclaimed novel The Lamplighter, which tells the bitter story of slavery through the experiences of four women, and has shown her versatility with Darling, a book of poems. She will appear in her own right at 8.15pm on Thursday, June 18.

For her seminal first book, she has selected Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Broadcaster Naughtie opts for Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, while Rankin, creator of the hardbitten Edinburgh detective Rebus, has chosen the Rupert the Bear annuals.

Award-winning journalist Aaronovitch, who has just exploded the world’s greatest conspiracy theories in Voodoo Histories, plumps for Just William by Richmal Crompton. At the time of going to press, Lib Dem shadow chancellor Vince Cable had not revealed his choice.

Signed copies of the inspiring books will be donated to CHAS along with others signed by admirers also appearing at the festival. These include Rory Bremner (Kidnapped), Julia Donaldson (The Borrowers), Diana Quick (The Wind in the Willows), Eleanor Updale (The Grey Men) and James Robertson (Winnie the Pooh). Tickets are also still available for Very First Books (Brewin Dolphin Marquee, 2.30pm, Sunday, June 18) in which Ms Quick will join fellow film and television actor Bill Paterson to read nursery stories from the MacMillan Treasury series and to answer questions from festival director Alistair Moffat. Again, all proceeds (admission is just 4) will go to CHAS.

“We have sold out so many shows, but these fascinating events, which have truly stellar line-ups, have been a wee bit neglected, possibly because they are part of our family festival,” said Mr Moffat.

“I can assure you they will be hugely entertaining for readers of all ages and I expect packed houses, especially when these very special sessions are raising money for such a worthy cause.”

Tickets are also still available for a few individual appearances, notably David Aaronovitch (7.30pm, Saturday, June 20) Diana Athil (6pm, Saturday) and Diana Quick (5.30pm, Sunday, June 21).

And around 40 tickets are still up for grabs for Phil Cunningham and Ally Bain in conversation. At the peak of their prowess, arguably Scotland’s greatest traditional musicians will talk frankly and humorously about their lives and careers (with accordion and fiddle in hand) in the Harmony Marquee at 5.30pm on the Sunday.

The pair will then appear in concert from 10am till 11.30pm in the main marquee to bring the curtain down on what is certain to be a memorable festival.

Meanwhile, sculptures and fairy lights are being installed at Harmony House over the next few days and browsing festival goers will be able to enjoy free musical entertainment over the entire weekend.

Mr Moffat is hoping the weather gods also do their bit and that the rain which has been an unfortunate visitor at recent festivals stays away.

“All eyes are being raised anxiously to the sky: let’s just hope our recent wonderful splash of summer will be a harbinger for the book festival,” he added.