Scotland’s National Book Town this year celebrated its 21st year and there is every sign that the popular literary festival will continue to grow and flourish in this charming area of Scotland in years to come. Wigtown sits on the Dumfries and Galloway coast and with 25 book related businesses in a town of just 1,000 people it is well deserving of its fine literary title.
With a cottage booked in nearby Newton Stewart The Wee Review arrived at this year’s festival for the final weekend to see some events, visit plenty bookshops and generally soak up the atmosphere at this enchanting 10-day festival.
One of our first stops was The Bookshop owned by the inimitable Shaun Bythell whose book The Diary of a Bookseller thrust him into the limelight as a cantankerous but endearing second-hand bookseller who waxed lyrical about his daily life in the book town and the various characters who come and go from the bookshop, whether employee or customer. Greeted by stone columns of books at the entrance The Bookshop is the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland and we are delighted that Bythell himself is serving at the counter, albeit we are nervous about making a fool of ourselves lest we should end up in his next book…
The sequel to The Diary of a Bookseller is in fact out just now – Confessions of a Bookseller – and recent news is that The Diary of a Bookseller is to be made into a TV series, no doubt increasing the footfall at Wigtown Book Festival still further.
After filling our tote bags with plenty of books and having eaten well at the Craft Hotel we headed for our first event: Ruth Davidson discussing her book on inspirational women figures, Yes She Can. The recently resigned Scottish Conservative leader has sold out her event and with her humorous, relaxed but informative hour it is easy to see why. Interviewed by the BBC’s Scotland Editor, Sarah Smith, Davidson speaks candidly about the truth behind her decision to stand down as leader, why she is unlikely to stand again for election in 2021 and of course, the women who form the content of her book and what makes them so inspirational. Everyone races to pick up a copy of the book after the event and for our part we head of to The Big Draw-Off – a fun hour of attempting to draw fantasy creatures with some hilarious results!
Our final stop of the day is to listen to Carol Drinkwater speak about her new fiction novel, The House on the Edge of the Cliff. She delivers a fantastic dramatic reading from the book which has the audience on the edge of their seats and explores her love of words in an interesting discussion about the parallels between theatre and writing. Many here this evening, however, are more familiar with Drinkwater’s role on All Creatures Great and Small or her Olive Farm memoirs and she gives a fair outing to these as well before taking questions from the audience.
It is a perfect way to sign off our first Wigtown Book Festival experience (albeit we do return for a last browse of the bookshelves and a coffee before we depart the next day) and we will most certainly be back.