FRESH from his latest controversial statement, this time on the England riots, Doctor David Starkey will make his next public appearance at Traquair House’s second Borders, Books and Bikes event this Saturday and Sunday.
The two-day festival of literature and thought gathers international writers, artists and cultural leaders of iconic small nations from around the world to discuss the literary, cultural and political issues of our time.
This year, the weekend of exhibitions, film screenings, book talks, literary walks, storytelling cycle rides, political debates and music takes as its theme the Arab Spring, featuring contributors from Libya, Palestine and Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan, India and Zimbabwe, mixing with Scottish authors and broadcasters.
Among them will be historian Starkey, who was accused of racism following his “The whites have become black” comment on BBC Newsnight last Friday.
Dr Starkey will talk to Penny Smith about his new book Crown and Country on the history and future of the Royal family, and later debates with Sir Menzies Campbell on the Union and whether Scotland is ‘a feeble little country’.
Meanwhile, Allan Massie, author of The Stuarts, discusses the legacy of the Stuart dynasty with their descendant, the current Lady of Traquair, Catherine Maxwell Stuart.
Scottish PEN will lead literary picnics beside the River Tweed, while John Nichol takes storytelling cycle rides from Neidpath Castle to Traquair with the writer of The Bicycle Book, Bella Bathurst.
Local storyteller Mary Kenny also guides a Woodland Walk, while writers Fiona Houston and Olivia Laing take a literary walk along the River Tweed, exploring the relationship between memory and landscape.
Magnus Linklater quizzes Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s chief of staff, on his book on Machiavelli, and how to win and keep power in the modern world.
The Times journalist also chairs a discussion between Des Browne, secretary of state for defence under both Blair and Gordon Brown, and Scots writer and historian William Dalrymple on 19th and 21st century British rule in Afghanistan.
And civil rights lawyer Gareth Pierce talks with the BBC’s special correspondent Allan Little about Guantanamo, and the UK’s alleged complicity in torture.
Comedian, writer and broadcaster Mark Thomas recounts his walk along the wall in Palestine with Columbian philosopher Oscar Guardiola-Rivera.
Also visiting Traquair, Gazan surgeon and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish, explains why he will not hate following the death of his three daughters during the bombing of Gaza in 2009, minutes before he was to speak on Israeli TV.
Sir Kieren Prendergast, former UN and British diplomat, reveals his insights into Israel, Turkey and Zimbabwe, while writer and lawyer Petina Gappah joins human rights advocate Mordecai Mahlangu to discuss the future of Zimbabwe.
The packed programme includes editor of The Daily Times of Pakistan, Rashad Rahman, who discusses whether Pakistan is a failing state, and recounts a story of the country from his own book, Nine Lives.
In Great Women, BBC Radio 4’s Mariella Frostrup talks to The Times war correspondent Marie Colvin about her experience in Libya, Sri Lanka and beyond, and discusses the aims of her own foundation, The GREAT Initiative, and empowerment of African women with Zimbabwean writer and lawyer Petina Gappah.
However, Egyptian singer Ramy Essam, who was to bring his revolutionary songs from Tahrir Square to Traquair, has been forced to call off because of visa issues.
Visual art will also be on display through a series of short films on 21 Years of Revolution, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Arab Spring. A photo exhibition by the late Borders artist Caroline McNairn entitled Graffiti of the Arab Spring will also be hosted alongside sculpture by Tinei Mashaya inspired by the fine stones he finds in his native Zimbabwe.
Borders, Books & Bikes full programme of events can be found at www.beyondbordersscotland.com. One or two day passes and individual tickets can be purchased at the gate (children go free on all trails).