Linlithgow Book Festival

So I’m a bit of a Book Festival Obsessive, as you know. It’s a disease. And when there are two on AT THE SAME TIME and teen-taxi is booked out, well, life gets a bit complicated. What’s a girl to do? Lennoxlove or Lithgae? [or Linlithgow to be correct]. I spent Saturday trying to get away and then finally, set out on Sunday afternoon, hoping to take in a bit of both, to be fair and all that, to get a flavour, a jist of them.

But I was early and dropped into Linlithgow for a plate of soup and ended up staying for the day. So Lennoxlove – sorry – I’ll see you next year.

As book festivals go, Linlithgow is different. It’s not heavily sponsored by big corporations or banks but by local companies and the local council. Run by volunteers, it’s intimate and friendly, open and unstuffy.

The Scotsman profiled the festival ‘curator’, Roy Dalgleish, before the events kicked off on Friday evening. They relate how and why Roy,  a microbiologist, came to inaugurate the book festival. It’s a touching, inspiring story. And one that flies in the face of ”experts’ who’ll tell you that you need a degree in event management and literature to run a book festival. Do read it.  Anyone who’s been to an author event will empathise completely with his description of listening to Doris Lessing at the Edinburgh Book Festival – the place that sparked the idea to bring the experience to his home town.

Originally, I’d planned to bypass Lithgae and come back for the final event – after all, the first two events were for children.

However, best laid plans ‘gang aft agley’… and storytelling is timeless and ageless … and Jill Pattle had set out a tempting selection from The Linlithgow Bookshop and Little Owls Bookshop.

I missed Allan Burnett’s “wickedly entertaining” event – but did catch him signing books in his costumery >>

Lari Don gave an enthusiastic, energetic talk about her newest book, Storm Singing and Other Tangled Tasks. It’s the third in a series of Scottish-set fantasy books about the adventures of Helen, Rona the selkie, and other magical creatures and fabled beasts. An accomplished storyteller, Lari’s talk covered a lot of information about how she wrote, where she found her ideas, the different books she writes and how her fictional stories occupy a space between myth and fable. The audience asked oodles of questions, and she signed lots of books.

Of course, one of the pleasures of book festival-going is that you never know who you might bump into.  I discovered that I was sitting next to Alette Willis, author of How to Make a Golem and Terrify People (Floris Books), and winner of the 2011 Kelpies Prize.

But the main event I was here for and that surpassed all my expectations, was with storyteller  Jess Smith and ‘national treasure’ Sheila Stewart. Well, the hour stretched to an extra half hour of highly entertaining but also powerful balladry mixed in with cheeky anecdotes of the tinker life and memories of the Stewarts of Blair.

So I’d missed the big event at the big house in East Lothian, and I’d missed the ‘big’ authors on Saturday’s programme [Janice Galloway, Tam Dalyell, Christopher Brookmyre, James Robertson AND Kelvin Sewell & Stephen Janis]… but I didn’t feel I’d missed out.  I’ve never been to a book festival quite like Lithgae. 

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