Faces at the frontier

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Beyond Borders’ International Festival of Literature & Thought, taking place at Traquair House from August 23-24, has launched its 2014 programme.

“Each summer, Beyond Borders makes the Scottish Borders a gathering place for world cultures to meet, talk and exchange ideas, exploring the most pressing issues of our time,” explains Mark Muller Stuart, director of the NGO Beyond Borders Scotland, and its festival, formerly named Books, Borders and Bikes.

“This year’s line-up of debates, books, art and films, as we celebrate our fifth freethinking festival, explores themes of secrecy, Ukraine, Syria, Iran, Catholicism, the Commonwealth, Scotland’s independence referendum, and more. Our weekend of talks, walks and bike rides, in the beautiful surroundings of Traquair’s House and grounds, gives a platform to the people making the news stories, in this historic year when Scotland steps onto the world stage.”

On espionage, The Guardian’s Luke Harding reveals the covert life of the NSA whistleblower who exposed the US and UK governments’ mass surveillance, Edward Snowden, from his book The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man.

Disclosing more secrecy, the BBC Today programme’s Jim Naughtie examines whether it’s MPs or spooks who really run Britain, discussing his Westminster spy thriller, The Madness of July.

British-Iranian reporter Ramita Navai, of Channel 4’s Unreported World, shines a light on Tehran’s hidden life under one of the world’s most repressive regimes, from her book, City of Lies.

War photographer Paul Conroy focuses his lens on home, sharing his British Red Cross exhibition, Seeking Sanctuary, on Syrian refugees living in Britain, in one of the festival’s new lunchtime Tête-à-Tête sessions.

Investigative journalist John Cornwell lifts the veil on Catholicism, from his expose The Dark Box: A Secret History of Confession.

In Traquair’s chapel, Geoffrey Baskerville interviews two generations of Traquair Lady Lairds, Flora and Catherine Maxwell Stuart, about how their family brought Scotland’s oldest inhabited house back to public life.

Discover, too, the life story of US-UK playwright Bonnie Greer, giving her take on America’s First Family, the Obamas.

Just a month before September’s referendum, BBC Radio 4’s voice of the vote Jim Naughtie grills Yes and No camp insiders in Beyond Borders’ Independence Debate, while The Independent’s political commentator Steve Richards casts a satirical eye on the state of the Union, staging his humorous Edinburgh Fringe show.

Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma reflects on the visit of 70 countries to Glasgow’s Games, as The Sunday Times’ Magnus Linklater asks him and writer Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: What’s the point of the Commonwealth?

Then travel beyond borders, with dispatches from Ukrainian barricades and Azerbaijan’s dissident blogger Emin Milli, a political prisoner freed with President Barack Obama’s help.

Journey to Chile with Colombian philosopher Dr Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, guided by his book on President Salvador Allende, Story of a Death Foretold.

Find the full programme and the ticket box office at www.beyondbordersscotland.com.

Tickets: a weekend pass £45; day pass £24. Walks and cycle rides £6. Individual Events £9.