Book Festival set to unveil summer programme of online author events

The Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival was due to start tomorrow (Thursday, June 11), but as with many such events, it had to be cancelled this year due to the coronavirus lockdown.

By Kevin Janiak
Wednesday, 10th June 2020, 2:11 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th June 2020, 2:18 pm
There will be no crowds in Harmony Gardens, Melrose, for this year's book festival, but a series of online events with authors such as James Naughtie and Neil Oliver, pictured below, are planned.
There will be no crowds in Harmony Gardens, Melrose, for this year's book festival, but a series of online events with authors such as James Naughtie and Neil Oliver, pictured below, are planned.

Festival organisers say they are devastated not to be able to welcome the plethora of top literary talent to Harmony Gardens in Melrose for the event, which is the highlight of the year for many Borderers.

There were even fears for the festival’s future survival.

However, the organisers have been working feverishly behind the scenes to ensure the festival can instead be enjoyed online from the comfort of your own home throughout the coming summer months, thanks to the continued support of sponsors Baillie Gifford and McInroy & Wood, funders Creative Scotland and Scottish Borders Council, as well as other sponsors and Friends of the Festival.

Alastair Moffat.

Starting on Sunday, July 12, a digital programme of 40 author talks and workshops will be available to watch for free online, throughout the remainder of July, August and September.

Renowned for its lively blend of entertaining and thought-provoking events, the festival will have on offer well-known names from the world of literature, non-fiction, children’s books and stage and screen for everyone to enjoy.

Alistair Moffat, festival director, pictured far left, said: “When we took the heart-breaking decision to cancel the 2020 Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival, there was only one goal for us all – survival.

“We had to navigate a safe course to Harmony Garden in June 2021 and so we appealed to our sponsors and funders to support us in 2020 even though there would not be a festival like the 16 that have gone before it.

James Naughtie

“We were delighted and moved by the goodwill and support from our sponsors, funders and loyal festival friends, and are cheered to say that thanks to their help we can keep the festival alive in some form, by doing an online version.

“We’re working hard to bring some of our unique festival magic to the virtual stage and will do our best to create something that will excite both our audiences, writers and all who support us.”

Each Sunday, over 12 consecutive weeks, a collection of sparkling events for children and adults will be streamed on with a live, interactive Q&A with the authors including James Naughtie, Neil Oliver and Sebastian Barry.

There will be additional special midweek events featuring authors from the Baillie Gifford series and the McInroy & Wood Lecture.

Neil Oliver.

Michelle McLeod, sponsorship manager at Baillie Gifford added: “This year has been a challenging time for the arts and the usual festival in Harmony Garden will be sorely missed this weekend.

“The team have been working hard to develop a new programme of events that you can enjoy from home, and they want to deliver a little bit of that Borders magic to everyone who has continued to support them.

“There are many of the festival’s favourites participating along with an array of brilliant speakers and writers who are taking part for the first time.”

Full details of the July programme of events will be revealed in early July at

In usual circumstances the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction is awarded at a live event at the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival, but because of lockdown restrictions the winner will be announced on Friday, June 12, when the winner will be announced live on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row at 7.45pm.

To celebrate the shortlist and in the absence of a live event, readings from the shortlisted authors are being released here throughout this week.

It is hoped that a special event can be held at Scott’s Borders home Abbotsford in the autumn, honouring the winner and the other five shortlisted authors.