A Host Of Children’s Authors Join Big Wig For Her Fun-Filled Festival in Wigtown

Jayne Baldwin co-owner of Curly Tale Books and local pupil Ellie Marshall - image credit: Colin Hattersley

Authors, illustrators and storytellers from all over the country will be joining Big Wig – a large, friendly blue creature who lives in the woods – for the annual children’s book festival named in her honour.

Among them will be Alan Windram, from near Oban, who will be joined by Saffanna Al-jbawi to read his book One Button Benny in English and Arabic.

One Button Benny, the winner of this year’s Book Bug Picture Book Prize, tells the story of a robot with a single red button on his stomach with the words “Only Press in an Emergency” written next to it.

Alan, a former theatre nurse and pop musician, sees the Wigtown Book Festival, and the Big Wig children’s festival which forms part of it, as a great way to stimulate young minds.

He said: “Children go into their own rooms and their own worlds when they are reading. So it’s something very special to go somewhere and meet the person who created the story and the characters.

“And in Wigtown there is so much for them to see and do – the variety is inspirational. What we are aiming to do is help encourage the next generation of readers, writers and illustrators.”

Alan believes the fact that Wigtown is for all ages and interests also gets the message across that a love of stories and books is something everyone can share.

Alan’s events are highly interactive, with a mix of storytelling, pictures, music and song, that children love.

One Button Benny is also a great story for children because it emphasises that everyone has their special qualities and has a valuable contribution to make – as the other robots, which have lots of buttons, discover.

And before the festival got underway Councillor Adam Wilson, Dumfries and Galloway’s Events Champion, dropped in to meet some of those involved in the festival, to see how preparations were going.

While there he discovered more about the festival’s 2019 themes – which include an emphasis on the Dark Ages with events about epic tales like Beowulf and about Galloway’s ancient archaeology, history and place names. He also had the chance to meet BIG Wig – the children’s festival mascot.

He said: “Helping nurture children’s imaginations is one of the most important responsibilities adults have. It is clear that the authors within the Big Wig programme are able to do this with their wonderful creations, that adds fun and creativity to the experience of family visits to Wigtown. The council is proud of our work supporting the festival over close to two decades to fund children’s book events at the Wigtown Book Festival.”

Big Wig opens up a huge world of imagination for children aged up to 14 and starts with a party to celebrate The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s 50thbirthday.

Other attractions include Shalla Gray and Saffanna Al-jbawi telling the story of Big Bill the Beltie Bull as he goes to his local agricultural show. Then there’s Debi Gliori with The Bookworm the light-hearted tale of Max’s pet worm, which suddenly grows spikes and breathes smoke! Dragons don’t exist, do they?

Renita Boyle will entertain with The Strange Visitor, a traditional tale in Scots and English, which features a wily old woman, wide-eyed cat, wild weather and a weird newcomer.

Vivian French will present The Steam Whistle
 Theatre Company, the adventures of a family theatre-troupe struggling to avoid financial ruin and a story filled with dark deeds and piratical plots.

Youngsters will also be able to pick up a pile of drawing skills with Shoo Rayner at a session entitled Shoobedoodling Cats and Dogs.

Anne Barclay, Wigtown Book Festival Operational Director, said: “The children’s festival will be loads of fun and some lucky visitors will also get to meet Big Wig herself who will be coming in from the woods where she lives to listen to some of the stories.

Alan Windram will also be leading another event, along with Sara Sheridan, aimed at young people and adults called So You Want To Be a Children’s Author?

Sara is an author and Alan is a publisher as well as being a writer. Together they will share tips on how to develop characters, drive a story and take the next steps.

He said: “Some people want to write for themselves, some want to tell their own story, others would love to became children’s authors. The important thing is to get it down on paper, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but you have to to get the story out there. And I only began writing books in my 40s, so it’s worth remembering that it’s never too late to start.”