The return of the festival: Scottish book events return after Covid restrictions


Scottish Book Festivals are returning to their “old” live format after being reduced due to the Covid pandemic last year.

The Borders Book Festival plans to return to its traditional date and venue for the first time in three years.

Organizers hope to return to Harmony Garden in Melrose from June 16-19 and hope to recapture “pre-pandemic bliss”.

Last year the event took place at Abbotsford House in November after being canceled the previous year.

The Wigtown Book Festival will also return in September and is said to bring in over £4m to the economy.

Research that included high-profile events such as the Bloody Scotland detective writing festival in Stirling, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Aye Write in Glasgow revealed that major Scottish literary events attracted an overall audience of more of 780,000 people when they were last held in full in 2019.

They were worth more than £11.3million for the economy.

In 2020, total audience fell to 344,000, with 91% online or digital, as festivals worked to find new ways to reach audiences, or were forced to cancel.

But festivals are now looking to take advantage of the easing of Covid restrictions.

Alistair Moffat, director of the Borders Book Festival, said they hoped to be able to return to “relative pre-pandemic bliss” this summer.

The full schedule of over 100 events will be announced next month but some names have already been confirmed.

Joanna Lumley, Andrew Marr, Julian Clary, Val McDermid and James Naughtie will all be part of the proceedings.

A special show with Scottish impressionists Rory Bremner, Ronni Ancona and Lewis MacLeod is also planned.

Mr Moffat said: “We couldn’t be more excited about our return to Harmony Garden this summer.

“There is no doubt that Abbotsford made a fabulous venue last November and was particularly well suited to the 250th anniversary year of Sir Walter Scott’s birth, but our hearts rest in Harmony Garden.

“Coming back there more than two years since the pandemic interrupted life as we knew it is a poignant cause for reflection and celebration.”

Along with dozens of events, the winner of this year’s Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction will also be announced at the festival.

Last year’s winner of the prestigious £25,000 prize was Hilary Mantel for The Mirror and the Light.

Candidates on the long list include Colm Toíbín, Nadifa Mohamed, Sebastian Faulks, Sarah Winman, Andrew Greig and Stacey Halls.

HeraldScotland:

“This year, while all relevant Covid-19 measures will still be in place to ensure the safety and peace of mind of festival-goers, we hope to be able to return to relative pre-pandemic bliss, spending long, light days in a beautiful setting, surrounding itself with inspiring debates and exchange of ideas to fuel the mind and soul and enjoy, once again, the delights of the Food and Drink Village to fuel (equally important) the body said Mr. Moffat.

And this year, the event aims to proclaim the power of strong storytelling as part of the Year of Storytelling 2022.

The initiative will highlight, celebrate and promote the wealth of stories inspired, written or created in Scotland.

From literary icons to local tales, Year of Stories encourages locals and visitors to experience a diversity of voices, participate in events, and explore the places, people, and cultures connected to all forms of our stories, past and present.

In 2019 there were over 2,500 events featuring 2,800 authors organized across the country by festivals as far afield as St Andrews, Nairn, Mallaig and the islands of Islay and Skye over the course of 12 months.

Over 450 permanent and part-time jobs were created by Scottish Book Festivals in 2019.

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