For the next four days, Melrose welcomes some of the biggest names in books, as well as stars from public life and entertainment.
The town’s Harmony Garden is the picturesque setting for the 12th Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival, and with more than 100 events, it kicks off its biggest programme today.
Broadcasters Peter Snow and Andrew Marr join one of Scotland’s most successful entrepreneurs, Ultimo bra tycoon Michelle Mone, for the opening night line-up of the four-day event. As well as the usual range of literary and stage stars, the packed programme also includes a new Eat Your Words venue dedicated to food, drink and live music, celebrating the Year of Food and Drink Scotland 2015.
Highlights over the weekend include political giants Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown; stars of stage and screen Patricia Hodge, Alex Norton, Dom Joly and Jonathan Miller; best-selling writers Alexander McCall Smith, Jenny Colgan and Hamish Macbeth author M. C. Beaton, as well as James Naughtie and Rory Bremner giving their own personal reflections on the recent general election.
And to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s classic book, Alice in Wonderland, there will be several special tributes, including an exclusive one-off performance featuring Jonathan Miller, Rory Bremner, John Sessions, John Bird and Patricia Hodge; and a host of events for children, including treasure hunts, story-telling and the notorious White Rabbit appearing in costume to meet children over the weekend.
Eat Your Words is a food and drink-themed tented village in the orchard opposite Harmony Gardens, and there is a bustling outdoor Born in the Borders street market in St Mary’s Road.
Eat Your Words will host household names from the world of food and drink, including Sue Lawrence, Shirley Spear and Prue Leith, and wine guru Nikki Welch; while audiences can taste all manner of mouth-watering world foods from Scotland’s finest street vendors.
Live music runs throughout the weekend, with pop-up opera performances from Scottish Opera and jazz, Americana and swing.
Following sell-out concerts in London and New York, The Really Terrible Orchestra provides another hot ticket at the festival. The orchestra, founded by festival regular Alexander McCall Smith, has become an overnight sensation.
Further highlights include the announcement of the winner of the sixth £30,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, while for the younger audience, there is the ever-popular Family Book Festival.
This year includes best-selling children’s writer David Almond; illustrator Nick Sharratt, and firm favourites Vivian French, David Melling and Gill Arbuthnott.
In addition, today will see primary schools from across the Borders attending the Schools Gala Day, sponsored by Knight Frank.
Festival director Alistair Moffat said: “The marquees are up and Harmony Garden is set to welcome our authors and visitors. Whether it’s opera, politics, adventure, history or simply superb story-telling, there really is something for everyone.”
John Sessions INTERVIEW
walter scott prize Q&A
– PAGE 40