It’s been another superb year for the Wigtown Book Festival with preliminary figures suggesting that audience numbers matched or slightly bettered the 29,000 achieved for the 20th anniversary event in 2018.
Organisers have thanked audiences, authors, volunteers and Wigtown’s residents for making it such a success.
Anne Barclay, Wigtown Festival Company Operational Director, said: “It’s been another brilliant year for the festival and we are overjoyed to have welcomed similar audience numbers as we did for our special 20th event in 2018 – it really has beaten all our expectations.
“We are especially pleased to be attracting people of all ages and backgrounds, with an ever-growing emphasis on children and young people, and on making the festival as accessible as possible for those with disabilities.
“While books, writers and a love of literature are at the heart of all we do, these days the festival offers everything from cinema, music and visual art to theatre opera and activities to introduce people to the local area – whether its walks, bike or even farm visits.
“And even though our 21st festival has only just finished we are already making plans for 2020.”
Councillor Adam Wilson, Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Events Champion, added: “It is a tremendous effort from all concerned that the book festival has secured visitor numbers in line with 2018, which was a record year.
“The festival creates opportunities for topical debate, gives access to much-loved authors and offers the chance to unwind in a picturesque and charming town.
“The council looks forward to receiving the economic impact report into the 2019 Wigtown Book Festival – an event which generates upwards of £3.5m a year for the regional economy.”
Among the guests were comedian Arabella Weir, former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson MSP, world-famous scientist Steve Jones, home-grown best selling author Shaun Bythell, rugby legend Doddie Weir, Kirsty Wark and Matthew Parris. Former Home Secretary Alan Johnson spoke about his love of music – especially the Beatles – and his early dreams of being a pop star.
The festival also welcomed more than 50 refugee children and their mothers who came from Glasgow for a day and enjoyed events like a reading, in English and in Arabic, of One Button Benny by Oban author Alan Windram.
Festival-goers also heard from Galician authors, tried Galician wine and heard music performed by Galician piper Mano Panforreteiro who played the gaita – a traditional form of bagpipe from north west Spain, which is made from goatskin.
Local artist Sarah Stewart helped children make masks, crowns and a huge mural for a Princesses and Dragons Tea Party while Spring Fling Artist in Residence Emily Tough used recycled materials to create puppets inspired by stories and people at the festival.
One of the festival’s themes was This Farming Life, which included a chance to visit land owned by conservation farmer Patrick Laurie, who is using traditional Galloway cattle to graze rough pasture – creating ideal conditions for threatened bird species like curlew.
The festival concluded with a combination of opera and readings – commemorating the real events that inspired Walter Scott’s novel The Bride of Lammermoor (published 1819) and the great 1835 Donizetti opera Lucia di Lammermoor, in which the central role has been performed by the likes of Dame Joan Sutherland and Maria Callas.
Both originate from events 350 years ago at Baldoon Castle, just outside Wigtown, when Janet Dalrymple, daughter of the Viscount of Stair was forced into marriage with David Dunbar.
Scottish society was scandalised by the story of how she was made to marry despite being in love with another man, how on the wedding night the groom was found stabbed in the groin, and a few weeks later the bride herself died.
For full details of Wigtown Book Festival go to wigtownbookfestival.com.