A Festival For Everyone – Wigtown Aims To Make The Most Of Going Digital 

A festival for everyone – Wigtown aims to make the most of going digital 
Andy Stewart

A festival for everyone – Wigtown aims to make the most of going digital 

  • Leading young adult authors including Dara McAnulty and Juno Dawson
  • Big Wig brings top entertainment and stories for children
  • Subtitles on live events broadens accessibility

    This year’s Wigtown Book Festival aims to be an event for every age and interest – using digital technology to make it more accessible than ever before.

    It features Wigtown YA, the UK’s largest YA literature festival, which sees some of the best young adult authors around taking part in free online discussions.

    Among them are:

  • Dean Atta author and co-director of Scottish BAME Writers Network, talking about his powerful coming of age story and Stonewall Book Award winner The Black Flamingo.
  • Queen of Teen and 2020 YA Book Award winner Juno Dawson who discusses her latest title, Wonderland.
  • Dara McAnulty winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing for his debut book The Diary of a Young Naturalist – the remarkable memoir of an autistic teenager’s connection to the natural world.
  • Nicola Yoon, two-time New York Times number one best seller, who will discuss her novels Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star.
  • Carnegie Medal nominee and Costa Book Award winner Frances Hardinge will talk about her latest book Deeplight, set in the Myriad, a collection of islands where the gods are as real as the coastlines and as merciless as the whirlpools.

Wigtown YA has been programmed and by six young volunteers, aged 14-25, and is led by Andy Stewart, who volunteered for several years before being employed as Wigtown Festival Company’s Young People’s Co-Ordinator.

Andy said: “Our digital programme aims to showcase the welcoming and accessible nature of our usual physical YA programme, and maybe even share it with a wider audience because this year it all has to be online.  
“This year’s Wigtown YA programme has been curated with themes of resilience, diversity and looking to the future very much in mind. 
“It features some of most well-known YA authors of the last decade, and we hope that it will appeal to an intergenerational audience.” 

In order to broaden accessibility there will be StageTEXT subtitles for some live events including Rosemary Goring’s Magnusson Lecture The Afterlife of Mary Queen of Scots and Colum McCann’s discussion of his book Apeirogon as well as the presentation of the annual international Wigtown Poetry Prize.

Big Wig also returns, offering a wide range of events and activities for children – some of them highly interactive. Authors Renita Boyle and Vivian French, along with illustrator Shoo Raynor, will take on the challenge of creating and illustrating a story about Wigtown in just 60 minutes.

The audience is invited to join in as storyteller Ailie Finlay presents The Bookshop Brownie – the tale of a tiny man who used to live under the stairs in Wigtown’s bookshops.

There will also be events with Evernight author Ross MacKenzie. Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar will present their heart-warming picture book While We Can’t Hug which is full of ideas for children about how to show affection while social distancing.

Anne Barclay, Wigtown Book Festival operational director, said: “We want Wigtown to be a festival for everyone, so we are trying to make the most of digital technology. One advantage is that you don’t even have to be in Wigtown to hear readings, take part in discussions or enjoy interactive events. 
“Another is that events will be available online for at least a month, so people can enjoy them anytime – whether it’s live in the living room or in their pyjamas over breakfast.” 

The Wigtown Festival Company has also been awarded £5,000 from the Scottish Children’s Lottery to support its work with young readers.

The grant is part of Chance to Connect which supports projects working in the areas of community development and citizenship, giving young people across Scotland the chance to live in a safe, supportive and stimulating community.

Ken Barclay, Chair of Trustees for the Scottish Children’s Lottery, said: “I am delighted that we have been able to provide funding to Wigtown Festival Company from the monies generated from the Scottish Children’s Lottery which was established to promote and support the development and potential of children and young people in Scotland.” 

Wigtown Festival Company would also like to thank the Holywood Trust for its support of Wigtown YA and Baillie Gifford for supporting the Big Wig children’s programme.

  1. This year’s Wigtown Book Festival runs from 24 September to 4 October. Events are free but donations are requested as part of a £20,000 fundraising drive to assure its future.

For full details see www.wigtownbookfestival.com.