Young readers set to be dazzled in Melrose

In a sneak preview of this year’s Borders Book Festival, the organisers have announced a sparkling programme for their Schools Gala Day on Friday June 17.

In difficult times for schools, they have slashed ticket prices to £1, with events taking place in Melrose Abbey, attracting a 75 per cent subsidy on travel costs.

Sponsored by Knight Frank, the programme is aimed at nursery and primary children and includes the wonderful Sticky Kids Singalong, workshops with Debi Gliori and Vivian French, a history quiz with Eleanor Updale, Allan Burnett on his terrific book, Robert the Bruce and All That, and Nick Thorpe’s tales of his sea-faring adventures.

Historic Scotland is joining in the fun with free activities at Melrose Abbey aimed at primary 4-7. A medieval science construction show will follow the journey of a block of stone to the top of an arch, children will get their hands dirty as they talk to archaeologists about what lies under the ground, and there will be storytelling and tours.

While putting together this programme, children’s programme director Paula Ogilvie has brought together several key partners and through intelligent use of resources has created an event which – even in a harsh economic climate – will be universally attractive.

Subsidy also comes from the main Borders Book Festival programme. Due to be announced next week, it contains a galaxy of star names and because they appear in Melrose for only a nominal fee, their ticket sales underwrite the Schools Gala day as well as less popular events.

“The major purpose of schools events is to foster a new generation of readers.” said Ms Ogilvie. “Investment in the future seems much more important to us than the substantial costs of the event, but we do want to encourage nursery and primary teachers all over the Borders to come to Harmony Gardens on June 17. It’s a superb day out in a very safe environment and the line-up of authors, illustrators, storytellers, singers, archaeologists and historians is wonderful.

“We are planning to circulate the full Schools Gala Day programme to each primary school in the Borders after the Easter holidays and it will also be available to download from the Borders Book Festival website, from April 6.

“This event is always very popular, but teachers will need to move quickly to be sure of tickets for their classes. I can’t wait!”