ten weeks since its launch and with more than 10,000 tickets sold, the Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival has finally arrived.
The record-breaking four-day event in the grounds of Harmony House, Melrose, will kick off at 6pm tonight when Sarah Brown, wife of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, will give a fascinating insight into her three years in No 10 Downing Street.
Her book, Behind the Black Door, is a fresh and perceptive story of the background of world-shattering events, while her view of the key personalities involved in the financial crash of 2008 offers a unique and close-up perspeective.
The Sarah Brown session in the main 470-seater festival marquee is one of 16 sell-outs at this year’s literary extravaganza.
The level of interest within our region and far beyond is hardly surprising, given a line-up with includes Michael Parkinson, Rory Bremner, Kirsty Wark, Peter Snow, Michael Frayn, Larry Lamb, Robert Powell, Alexander McCall Smith, John Byrne, Maureen Lipman, Tom Conti and the Borders’ very own marathon man Dr Andrew Murray.
Four of these shows – featuring Bremner, Lipman, Parkinson and Conti – have been so popular that organisers have arranged for them to be screened live at the nearby Morrison Hall.
But festival director Alistair Moffat has again stressed that if you do not have a ticket to see your favourite writer or performer, there is still a huge amount for all the family to enjoy – not least a fantastic atmosphere – just by coming along.
And at the time of going to press, a quick check with the festival box office reveals that tickets are still available for the following sessions on Saturday:
Josceline Dimbleby, the creative cookery writer talks about Orchards in the Oasis, an acclaimed collection of recipes, travels and memories, taking the reader on a journey spanning Syria, Peru, Morocco and Burma. Harmony Marquee, 3.15pm, £9 (£7 concessions).
David Mitchell, the novelist (not the Peep Show comedian!) who gave us Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten, will discuss his latest work The Thousand Autumns of Jacop De Zoet: the tale of a young Dutch clerk who arrives in the Bay of Nagasaki in the dying days of the 18th century to encounter a world of traders, servants, spies and concumbines as the two cultures of Japan and the West collide. Harmony Marquee, 6.15pm, £9 (£7).
Sally Magnusson, one of Scotland’s best-loved television journalists, will talk about her weirdly fascinating book Life of Pee: The Story of How Urine Got Everywhere. We learn how humans produce enough of it to fill Loch Lomond each year, how David Bowie froze his to ward off evil and how everybody by the name of Fuller, Tucker or Walker first owed their livelihoods to it. Harmony Marquee, 7.45pm, £9 (£7).
Rory McGrath, one of a legendary generation of comedians, writers and actors and the star of QI, Three Men in a Boat and Rory and Paddy’s Great British Adventure, has written an honest and hilarious memoir of his Catholic upbringing in Cornwall entitled The Father, Son and the Ghostly Hole: Confessions from a Guild-Edged Life. Festival Marquee, 9pm, £13 (£11).
Tickets are also still available for these Sunday shows:
Bob Marshall-Andrews, Tony Blair’s least favourite Labour MP and Have I Got News For You regular, casts a mordant eye over whips, rebels, wars and liberties, spin and expenses in his book Off Message. Hailed as a subversive and comical account of political life during New Labour, it presents an intimate picture of what it was like to be the movement’s most prominent dissident. Harmony Marquee, 4.45pm, £9 (£7).
Barbara Dickson, the Fife-born singer/songwriter/actor whose recording career produced six platinum, 11 gold and seven silver albums, talks about her auto-biography A Shirt Box Full of Songs, tracing her life from childhood to international stardom, detailing en route her close relationships with Billy Connolly, Willie Russell and Elaine Paige. Harmony Marquee, 6.15pm, £9 (£7).
James Naughtie, festival patron and distinguished journalist/ broadcaster, who succeeded Sir Robin Day as presenter of The World at One in 1988, became synoymous with the Today programme which he joined six years later. In A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Studio, he reflects on having a ringside seat on public affairs, reliving the joys and frustrations of a life on the road and behind the mic, in a personal and political story. Festival Marquee, 7.30pm, £13 (£11).