The 2013 Islay Book Festival

There was a real buzz at this year’s Islay Book Festival, held in Port Ellen on 7 and 8 September. The authors appearing on the Adult Programme were all giants in their own field and their sessions never disappointed. Each held their audience enthralled.

Val McDermid is known as the ‘Scottish Queen of Crime’. An account of her early career as a reporter meant she saw a lot of the world of crime first hand. The urge to write and craft her books became ever greater and now she is read around the world and adapted for television. A second session was more informal and all our questions were answered with a good deal of humour.

Janice Galloway challenged how anyone’s autobiography is really only about one person. Family and friends’ recollections are built into everyone’s memory and colour what you really remember. An entertaining reading from her book had the audience laughing out loud.

Matthew Fitt’s ground-breaking work in the Scots language challenges readers to take a fresh look at the Mither Tongue. Like Gaelic, many speakers were told of the ‘shame’ of speaking this way and how it must be ‘knocked out of you’. His mission to replace it firmly in the mainstream has led to poetry, novels and ‘translations’ of children’s classics. Roald Dahl’s ‘The Twits’ becomes ‘The Eejits’ or ‘ George’s Marvellous Medicine’ becomes Geordie’s Mingin’ Medicine’. Continue reading...

Sunday morning provoked much interest. Andy Wightman’s session on ‘Who owns Scotland?’ gave in insight into the long history in Scotland of a few denying the many. He answered many questions such as ‘why no crofters on the East Coast?’ or ‘why is there no common land?’ Scotland’s particular history has resulted in a land usage pattern unique in Europe and one that many regard as unfair.

And then there was Mairi Hedderwick, everyone’s favourite illustrator, telling the story of how she followed in the footsteps of a Victorian gentleman who sketched the landscape he saw on his travels. Mairi found the scenes as they appear now and she, too, drew them. Some had changed little, but some were very different - one even had a housing estate hiding the view of a castle. She wondered who might revisit these places in another 100 years.

The Islay Children’s Book Festival kicked off on Friday 6th September with a wonderful array of children and teen authors. All the primary school pupils and years 2-5 of Islay High School enjoyed sessions of the highest standard.

On Friday, at Port Charlotte and Keills Primary Schools, dressing up as dragons[P1-4] and as Romans[P5-7], brought Margaret Ryan’s stories to life. Bowmore and Port Ellen Schools visited Struay with Mairi Hedderwick and Katie Morag and then went on an adventure to find a new home with a magnificent family of otters in the ‘Utterly Otterleys’. The older pupils enjoyed the fun and wit of Keith Charters’ ‘Lee’ series. The senior pupils explored the Scots language with the humour of Matthew Fitt.

On Saturday, at the main Festival, in between his hilarious ‘Lee’ stories, Keith Charters posed wacky questions such as - ‘Is your appendix on the right side, is that the left side?’ Margaret Ryan introduced us to Jonny, who only just manages to stop his little sister from stealing his toast before starting out on his paper round on ‘Weird Street’.We also drew our own ‘Weird Street’ characters to add to the existing characters. Matthew Fitt kept us on our toes with the Scots version of ‘Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ He also read from Dahl’s ‘The Twits’. It was even funnier than the original. Mairi Hedderick enthralled everyone, from tiny tots to grandparents, with the adventures of the ‘Utterly Otterleys’ and two of her Katie Morag stories. Who would have guessed that, as a wee girl, Mairi wanted red hair just like Katie Morag’s? Or that Mairi’s daughter was never out of wellies when she was young? All in all a spellbinding three days. Come along next year for more enchantment.

Tag: book festival port ellen