Strong line-up for this year’s book festival

The Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival has a proud history of attracting the very best of literary stars, and this year is no different.

Tuesday, 23rd April 2019, 3:53 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd April 2019, 3:54 pm
Borders Book Festival director Alistair Moffat and a trio of 11-year-olds from Melrose Primary School  Ellie Darlow, Ben Cook and Maryan Khan  launch this years programme with a bevy of beautiful Dandie Dinmonts.

The full line-up of more than 100 events at Harmony House was announced this week, and there is plenty there to whet the appetite of any avid reader.

This year, the event is highlighting sporting superstars andwomen who have inspired their peers to an exceptional level.

For sport fans, former Scots Formula One ace David Coulthard will be speeding to the main marquee stage, while cue king Stephen Hendry will be talking about some of his greatest victories.

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Alan Titchmarsh will be making an appearance at the Borders Book Festival in June.

There are also appearances from legendary jockey Bob Champion and Scottish rugby coach Gregor Townsend, who hails from Galashiels.

And, providing a bit of balance are the ladies, in the form of top wildlife presenters Kate Humble and Michaela Strachan, former Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson and comedian, turned Strictly Come Dancing contestant and telly presenter Susan Calman.

The four-day festival takes place in the beautiful grounds of the mansion, opposite the historic abbey, from June 13-16.

Alistair Moffat, festival director, said: “After a long winter and much discontent, the clouds are parting and a brilliant sun will shine on Harmony Garden in June.

David Coultard will be in pole position to take your questions.

“The marquees will rise, the seats will be set out, the sound systems installed, the show will begin and the spells of enchantment will weave their magic.

“For four glorious, glowing days, the world will come to Melrose to celebrate what Michael Palin, Prue Leith and Neil Oliver have hailed as the best book festival in Britain.”

Other well-known faces set to make an appearance at the festival include BBC gardening star Alan Titchmarsh and one of the UK’s comedy greats, Alexei Sayle.

The historian with the luxurious hair-do, Neil Oliver will make a triumphant return, as will impressionist Jan Ravens and BBC Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark, who has set her sights on a new career as a novelist.

Alexei Sayle will be providing the laughs.

Rugby commentator Ian Robertson also makes an appearance, as does a series of political raconteurs, who will try to get to the bottom of the Brexit situation.

Attempting to make sense of the current political turmoil will be Dominic Grieve MP on the Brexit process and what lies ahead; political commentator Matt Chorley with a light-hearted view of inside Parliament; Fintan O’Toole setting Brexit into historical perspective; James Naughtie’s authoritative take on what is happening to our political system and, to top it off, firm favourite, political satirist and impressionist Rory Bremner, who is a regular feature of the festival.

And in sessions with fascinating, unexpected storytellers, it’s claimed you will hear a pin drop. The epic tale of Lara Prior-Palmer’s victory in a thousand-kilometre Mongolian horse race will thrill, and David Wilson’s amazing life as a former prison governor and criminologist will leave audiences wide-eyed.

The Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction is a real highlight at the event and a mighty celebration has been planned for this year, its 10th anniversary.

For four glorious, glowing days, the world will come to Melrose to celebrate what Michael Palin, Prue Leith and Neil Oliver have hailed as the best book festival in Britain. Alistair Moffat, festival director

The milestone will be marked by the world premiere of the Dandie Dinmont operetta written by Alexander McCall Smith, with music composed by Tom Cunningham and directed by David Lyle (music) and Alan Borthwick (artistic).

The £25,000 prize will be awarded to the winner at the festival on Saturday, June 16, from a shortlist including Peter Carey, Cressida Connolly, Samantha Harvey, Andrew Miller, Michael Ondaatje and Robin Robertson.

The McInroy and Wood lecture will this year be delivered by War Doctor David Nott, who for over 25 years has taken unpaid leave from the NHS to volunteer in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones.

Health and well-being is a prominent feature, with events by Sue Armstrong on the science of how and why we age; Eve Simmons and LauraDennison revealing the myths behind healthy eating; Kim Jones with practical advice on achieving a good night’s sleep and Michelle Thomas’s honest account of living with mental ill health.

How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell; Vivian French, artist Catherine Rayner; bestselling Beetle Boy author MG Leonard, Doctor Who writer David Solomons and cooks Mary Contini and Pru Irvine will entertain and energise the younger crowd in the popular Family Book Festival, which takes place throughout the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, June 15-16, and includes kids craft activities, storytelling and creative workshops.

Adults get to go free to any Family Book Festival event so long as they are accompanied by at least one child.

Kate Humble.

In addition, throughout the four days there will be live music, the Orchard tented food village and plenty of free, fun activities making the book festival a great day out for all the family to enjoy.

The festival welcomes the continued support of title sponsor Baillie Gifford and key sponsor McInroy & Wood, as well as Douglas Home & Co, The National Trust for Scotland and the on-going funding of Scottish Borders Council, Creative Scotland and many other loyal supporters.

Michelle McLeod, sponsorship manager at Baillie Gifford said: “We are delighted to support the festival and see how our continued sponsorship has contributed to the festival’s growth and develop.

“We look forward to seeing many of the exciting and varied authors who will take part over the weekend in June, and to being amongst the thousands of festival goers who will embark on Melrose to enjoy everything the festival has to offer.”

Tickets for this year’s Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival are available from Hub Tickets, at or at 0131 473 2000.

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.