Wigtown Book Festival Pulls on its Wellies to Celebrate This Farming Life

This year’s Wigtown Book Festival is set to celebrate This Farming Life– the perfect theme for an event based in a region famed for its agriculture. 

Taking place from 27 September to 6 October the festival will offer more than 275 events for adults and children, including debates music, film, visual arts, theatre and food.

Among the authors taking part this year are Jamie Blackett (Red Rag to a Bull) who will discuss how he returned from the Army to become a farmer on the Solway Firth, Philip Walling (Till the Cows Come Home)who explores our ancient relationship with cattle and Amanda Owen writer of Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess. 

They will be joined by Arthur Anderson (Wheels Rolling at Eight) former farming journalist and producer on the BBC’s Landward who was raised on a Wigtownshire farm, Carol Drinkwater (The House on the Edge of the Cliff) one of the stars of All Creatures Great and Small and Catherine Simpson (When I Had a Little Sister) who talks about childhood in a near-silent farming household.

There will also be events and activities such as The Stables Supper and a visit to The Old Place of Mochrum – and a chance to see the Belted Galloways with which it is so closely linked.

Adrian Turpin, Artistic Director of Wigtown Book Festival, said: Agriculture has been at the heart of the life and economy of Dumfries and Galloway for thousands of years. 
“So we decided the time was right to explore the stories of the farms, farmers and animals who have shaped the region and continue to be fundamental to its culture.
“We will also be welcoming authors from many other parts of the UK to share their experiences of rural life.
“We’re also offering people the chance to tuck into a superb farm supper and to pull on their wellies for a visit to a farm which has been central to the story of our much-loved Belted Galloway cattle.”

The festival is giving away thousands of free tickets for under-26s in its ongoing work to promote a love of literature and creativity among young people.

For the first time the line-up for young people’s festival, under the new name of WigWAM, has been integrated into the main programme.

The children’s festival Big Wig, continues to grow, and will begin with a party celebrating of the 50thanniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

The festival will look north to the epics of the Atlantic seaboard and Nordic regions. It will also have a series of events under the banner of Lost Province, which will dig deep into Galloway’s ancient past.

With 2019 being the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages, the festival celebrates the power of conversation and the country’s three native languages – English, Gaelic and Scots.

The brand new Wigtown Feasts, in association with A Year of Conversation, will involve a series of simultaneous suppers in houses across the town in order to give visitors, festival guests and residents that chance to mix, chat, dine and gain new perspectives.

This Farming Life events and talks

  • A Galloway Hill Farm: Slongaber Farm Join the inspiring conservationist, farmer and author Patrick Laurie on the moor to hear about his work on a traditional upland farm in the Galloway hills to protect fragile populations of black grouse, grey partridges and rapidly declining wading birds like curlews and lapwings.
  • Catherine Simpson: When I Had a Little Sister: Catherine Simpson talks about her riveting, unsentimental account of growing up in a near-silent farming household, and her quest to discover why her sister killed herself. Drawing on her sister’s diaries, Simpson has turned grief into a moving addition to the literature of mental illness and rural life.
  • Philip Walling: Till the Cows Come Home:The bestselling author of Counting Sheep turns his attention to the relationship between humans and the cattle that have tilled our soils, borne our burdens and helped clothe us. It’s the story of civilisation itself. Mixing personal stories and interviews with farmers, butchers and breeders, Philip Walling puts our bovine companions in a new light.
  • Jamie Blackett: Red Rag to a Bull: When Jamie returned from the Army to run an estate on the Solway Firth, he found a fast-changing countryside. He recounts how he found his feet as a farmer, observing Dumfries & Galloway’s wildlife, people and peccadilloes. He also looks at the challenges facing a fragile way of life and the directions rural Scotland may take after Brexit.
  • Arthur Anderson: Wheels Rolling at Eight: Growing up on a Wigtownshire farm, Arthur Anderson went to the Scotsman at 16, before becoming a farming journalist and producer on the BBC’s Landward. From getting lost in Papua New Guinea to playing snooker with a frozen goose, it was nothing Galloway life couldn’t prepare him for.
  • The Stables Supper: Join us in Galloway House’s former stables for a farm supper.
  • The Old Place of Mochrum: Belted Galloway cattle are a Galloway icon, and nowhere has greater associations with them
than the Old Place of Mochrum, whose former owner Miss Flora Stuart worked tirelessly to save the breed. This farm visit will bring you close up with these beautiful beasts and their history, in the company of today’s herd manager Helen Ryman. Includes refreshments.
  • Amanda Owen: Adventures of theYorkshire Shepherdess:Author, social media star and mother – but, most famously, Amanda Owen is a shepherdess. Her family starred in ITV’s The Dales, and her books The Yorkshire Shepherdess and A Year in the Life of the Yorkshire Shepherdess were bestsellers. She explains how a girl from urban Huddersfield came to run a 2000- acre hill farm, overseeing a flock of 1000 sheep, nine children, 120 cows, eight horses and seven dogs.
  • Carol Drinkwater: The House on the Edge of the Cliff: Carol became a household name as Helen Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small. But she has developed an equally impressive career on the page. Her “Olive” memoirs, which tell of her life on an estate in Provence, have sold more than a million copies
and been followed by a series of epic novels. They include her latest, The House on the Edge of the Cliff,
a tale of love and betrayal from 1960s Paris to the present. She talks footlights, farming and fiction.

For full details of Wigtown Book Festival go to wigtownbookfestival.com.

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