Two weeks to go as festival focuses on families

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EXCITEMENT is mounting among the legions of book fans – and celebrity watchers – ahead of The Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival which kicks off in a fortnight in the idyllic setting of Harmony Gardens in Melrose.

An estimated 10,000 tickets have already been sold for the four-day extravaganza with a stellar line-up which includes Sir David Frost, William Boyd, Iain Banks, Ian Rankin, Prue Leith, Liz Lochhead, Alastair Darling, John Sessions and festival patron Rory Bremner.

“Social networking sites, particularly Facebook, have proved a real boon for organisers and the public this year,” said event co-ordinator and family festival director Paula Ogilvie.

“For instance last week we flashed up that there were still six tickets left for Ian Rankin’s show and, by the following day, they had been snapped up.”

The festival, which runs from Thursday, June 14 to Friday, June 17, has also stirred considerable interest from event debutants, including the acclaimed actor Art Malik who will appear with his co-star Susan Wooldridge to talk about The Jewel in the Crown, considered one of the greatest television adaptations of any novel.

“Word about the relaxed atmosphere at our festival has obviously reached far and wide, and Art called me last week just to say how much he was looking forward to coming to Melrose,” said Paula.

A few tickets remain for that show (on Sunday, June 12, at 7.30pm) along with the sessions for Mark Beaumont, Tam Dalyell, Patrick Gale and Simon Watt.

Showcasing established writers is by no means the only function of the festival, and its ethos of encouraging children to read and meet their literary heroes is reinforced this year with a superb programme for the family festival, which runs in tandem with the main event on the Saturday and Sunday.

“There will be tents full of ideas to stimulate creative kids this year,” said Paula, who revealed that only a few special family passes, costing just £25 for two adults and up to three children per day, remained unsold.

The Davidson Chalmers Write On! Competition, supported by The Southern Reporter, looks for the Borders’ most talented young poets from aged nine and upwards. The shortlist will be decided next week, and the winners will be stepping up to receive their prizes at the free Write On! event on Saturday, June 16, at 11am.

Davidson Chalmers is also sponsoring the storytelling tent for the second year, providing a quiet space for kids of all ages to enjoy hearing funny, magical and wonderful stories read especially for them.

The family festival is delivering an exclusive event this year. In, Can You Write?, the author and BBF favourite Eleanor Updale will be persuading children aged eight and over to come up with their own stories based on the fantastical images of the author and illustrator Chris van Allsburg.

Van Allsburg’s books include the hugely popular Polar Express and Jumanji, both made into Hollywood blockbusters. Festival favourite Updale will be showing young storytellers how to create their own stories based on the images in Van Allsburg’s new book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdock.

Other crafty activities include a Paper Pirates Workshop, in which kids can create an enchanting floating book in the form of a paper boat, and Crafty Carvings, in which the stone carvings looked after by Historic Scotland inspire children to make their own clay gargoyle. Children can also learn a variety of circus skills in free Circus Skills workshops throughout the weekend, as well as be inspired by the festival’s first ever Artist in Residence and an exhibition from the Borders Sculptor’s Collective.

All this is in addition to the big draws of the family festival: Horrid Henry author Francesca Simon; Where’s Wally, who, to celebrate his 25th birthday will be wandering amongst the crowds at Harmony Gardens waiting to be spotted; Philip Ardagh talking about his hilarious new book Howlers, Blunders and Random Mistakery; and award-winning author Barry Hutchison launching his new book The 13th Horseman.