Borders Book Festival pulls in biggest crowd to date

Friday at the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival. 'Credit: Alex Hewitt/Writer Pictures
Friday at the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival. 'Credit: Alex Hewitt/Writer Pictures

A four-day extravaganza of live events attracted more than 34,000 visitors to Harmony Gardens in Melrose last week as the annual Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival returned for its 14th year.

A guest list including top writers, stars of stage and screen, sporting heroes and political pundits helped pull in the record crowd with visitor numbers up 18% on last year.

Festival director Alistair Moffat said: “I think the reason for such amazing numbers was not only the quality of the programme, but its breadth.

“From sell-out sessions with sportsmen like David Coulthard and Gregor Townsend to natural history photographer Gordon Buchanan, TV gardener and novelist Alan Titchmarsh, comedian Susan Calman and politician Ruth Davidson, there was something for almost every taste.

“Not only does the book festival have a huge beneficial impact on the local economy, it is now the biggest cultural event of the year between Edinburgh and Newcastle and it attracts visitors from all over Britain and from abroad.”

Despite the wet weather on its opening day last Thursday, sell-out crowds turned to hear snooker legend Stephen Hendry discussing the highs and lows of an incredible sporting career, Neil Oliver’s passion for the history of the British Isles and wildlife expert Kate Humble on the simple act of walking and encountering life in its many unexpected forms.

For the rest of the weekend visitors enjoyed a variety of live entertainment including laughter with Alexei Sayle, Jan Ravens and Rory Bremner; music from Alexander McCall Smith’s Dandie Dinmont operetta and Magpie Blue.

The world of current affairs was represented by James Naughtie, Allan Little and Dominic Grieve MP.

The Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival will return to Melrose from 11 – 14 June, 2020. Visit: www.bordersbookfestival.org