Book Festival starts

Borders Book Festival 2013
Borders Book Festival 2013

Well, it’s here. The wait is over for one of the Borders’ most popular events, which this year is set to be even bigger and better than ever.

The 2014 Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival in Melrose gets off to an absolutely fabulous start today (Thursday) with comic genius Jennifer Saunders being joined on the opening night by leading politician Paddy Ashdown; Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason; adventurer and explorer Steve Backshall; broadcaster Kate Adie and novelist and screen writer Lynda La Plante.

As part of Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival will, over the four days, welcome a host of big names from the world of literature, politics, stage and screen.

And with less than 100 days to go before Scotland decides its future, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown will take to the stage to talk about his vision of Scottishness and how Scotland might lead Britain, not leave it.

Political rivals Michael Forsyth, former Secretary of State for Scotland and Jim Sillars, former Deputy Leader of the Scottish National Party, continue the debate as they argue with passion, intellect and wit on the most important issue facing Scotland.

Other highlights include Rory Bremner returning to the Borders with a wealth of new material, observations and insight; veteran broadcasters Jon Snow and Allan Little; foodie experts Jay Rayner, Carina Contini and Incredible Spice Men duo Tony Singh and Cyrus Todiwala; as well as masters of crime John Connolly and Chris Brookmyre.

The Borders Book Festival is known for the unexpected and this year is no exception, including: Kirsty Wark and Jim Naughtie talking about their bestselling novels; a dramatisation of the life of Sir Harry Lauder as a tribute to the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War; a unique adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s great, innovative novel, Waverley, written specially for the festival by Alan Caig Wilson, and performed by Phyllida Law, Samuel West, John Sessions and David Robb to mark the 200th anniversary of its publication, courtesy of the generosity and patronage of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch. And a Book Festival finale like no other featuring the talented comedian and ventriloquist, Nina Conti.

Tomorrow (Friday), the winner of the fifth £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction will be announced, with four of the six shortlisted authors in attendance to hear the result, three of them having earlier taken part in a separate panel discussion on historical fiction – Historical Fiction At Its Best.

The Family Book Festival, running throughout the Saturday and Sunday, provides a treat for all ages including the BBC’s Simon Mayo with his Itch Rocks series for older kids and their parents, and there are some Family Day Passes still available for both days.

Tomorrow (Friday) is also the Knight Frank Schools Gala Day with some fantastic events and activities expecting over 1,600 pupils and their teachers from more than 20 schools. Festival director, Alistair Moffat, told us: “We look forward to welcoming our authors, sponsors and supporters, but most of all our audience to Harmony Garden for what will be a truly memorable weekend.”

The Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival takes place in Harmony Garden, Melrose from Thursday, 12 to Sunday, 15 June. The full programme is available at