If you are a writer based in Inverness, it comes with the territory that you spend a lot of time on trains, occasionally planes and certainly automobiles. Publishers’ events are in London, or if you are very lucky, in Edinburgh or Glasgow. Conferences are the same, as are big festivals, and most other things which could be useful to the emerging creative soul. Money needs to be set aside, plans need to be made, hassle is to be endured.

Apart from once a year, for a couple of days in June.

When the whole world-class circus comes to my patch for once!

This miracle is called XpoNorth, a creative industries festival that seeks to bring the best of Scotland’s, and often even international, creative players to the Highland capital. I have attended with enthusiasm since the early days when it was still called GoNorth. It has expanded beyond recognition since, but hasn’t lost the feel of intimacy and wonder, that such an event should come to us on 7th and 8th of June. And it’s completely free to attend.

The venue is Eden Court, pleasantly situated by the River Ness in the very centre of town, and within easy reach of many eateries and hotels. The programme includes writing and publishing strands, TV and film, crafts, gaming and music… LOTS of music! One-to-ones and networking events allow delegates access to creative industry professionals they may not otherwise meet, and the programme is rich with panels, talks and informative courses. Not all of it is relevant for everyone, but you would be hard-pushed not to find anything of interest in any given creative field.

This year something has changed for me: I have crossed the invisible line from attending delegate to panel member. As a writer and as chairperson for NessBookFest, the new book festival for Inverness, I’ll be alongside Publishing Scotland’s Gill Tasker, Cranachan Publishing’s Anne Glennie, Sandstone Press’ Keara Donnachie and author Helen Sedgwick, I will debate opportunities and support for writing and publishing in the Highlands and Islands.

If you are in Inverness on 8th June around lunchtime, do be a friendly face in the crowd.

But the very least thing you should do is to take a look at the programme. Then jump on a train and come! You won’t regret it.

XPO North is @ Eden Court, Inverness on Wed 7 & Thu 8 Jun