Both the sun and some of
Britain’s biggest literary names were on shimmering form at this year’s Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival.
The packed programme saw crowds flock to around 50 events staged in Harmony Garden in Melrose, and included headline appearances by the likes of writers Kate Mosse, Pat Barker and double Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel, as well as television and film stars Joanna Lumley, Neil Oliver, Tom Conti and John Sessions.
And with one of the country’s richest prizes for fiction up for grabs, the festival also attracted national media attention and saw more than 13,000 tickets sold.
With only his second novel, The Garden of Evening Mists, Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng was the judges’ choice for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and its cheque for £25,000.
Tan told us: “I had no expectations of what to expect when I came here.
“I have been completely blown away by how beautiful this whole region is and I would love to come back again – and I will.”
Festival regular Conti told The Southern the event was always a pleasure to do: “It’s just a very pleasant place to come to.
“It’s a nice atmosphere and everybody is really friendly.” Popular television archaeologist, Neil Oliver, brought his family for the whole weekend.
“We’re having a lovely time. I had the opportunity to bring my family and make a weekend of it. It’s been great and the kids are enjoying going to some events,” he told The Southern.
Lumley’s headlining appearance on Saturday night drew some of the biggest queues.
She held the sell-out festival marquee audience in the palm of her hand for an hour with memories of her modelling days and recollections of working with famous big screen names and, of course, with Patrick Macnee in the New Avengers.
Stories about her time as the much-loved Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous, whom Lumley admitted was a cartoon version of herself, also had the audience enthralled.
Festival director Alistair Moffat was this week effusive in his praise for all those who had worked tirelessly to make the event such a record-breaking success.
“It has been a fantastic festival, the best yet,” he told us. “We have a superb team which has shown that, right here in the Borders, we can put on world-class events.”
And Mr Moffat paid special tribute to festival patron, the Duke of Buccleuch, saying: “Richard Buccleuch has shown such generosity of spirit. I can’t tell you how much I admire him. He helped this year’s festival really sparkle.”