Death becomes them: Writers at Wigtown

Death becomes them: Writers at Wigtown

Sue Black / Morgan Silk / Wired © The Conde Nast Publications Ltd

Richard Holloway, Dame Sue Black and Stuart Kelly will discuss mortality in a variety of guises at Wigtown this autumn

It comes to us all, yet remains the subject of some of life's most essential and unanswerable questions. Three writers, former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway, forensic anthropologist Professor Dame Sue Black and literary critic Stuart Kelly, are currently united by a common purpose – the desire to tackle the topic of death.

All are set to discuss their recent work during events at Wigtown Book Festival later this month, and audiences can expect contemplative examinations of what it means to face death here and now. Holloway's latest book, Waiting for the Last Bus, considers our attitudes towards our final moments.

He suggests that the great flight from death that society is currently experiencing causes great heartache, explaining that 'Death is one of nature's great necessities but it freaks many people out. By denying reality people make themselves more unhappy, not less.'

For Black, death is an integral part of her job. Working to restore identities to the dead, ranging from recent atrocities to the uncovering of insights into lifestyles from many centuries ago, she says 'Death has many faces but its commonality is something that exists across all humanity and all time.'

Kelly's book The Minister and the Murderer explores human ethics and behaviour through the telling of one of the most unusual true stories in recent Scottish church history, that of James Nelson's matricide in 1969. He believes that there's much to be done to improve attitudes towards living our best lives while we can.

He explains: 'Our contemporary morals are so shriven and shrunk. We are no longer the best we can be. There must be a way to be more moral. You can't make a difference by just going on a march. It's by talking to people.

'Like micro-economics, there is micro-morality. I do not want to change 1,000 people, just a couple would be great.'

Catch the three authors discussing their work at Wigtown Book Festival, which takes place in Scotland's National Book Town from 21 to 30 September.

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information displayed here is accurate, always check with the venue before attending (especially during the Covid-19 pandemic).

Wigtown Book Festival

An established and celebrated feature in the Scottish literary calendar attracting many big names. For ten days Scotland’s National Book Town buzzes with book events as well as theatre, music and site-specific events in quirky venues. The 2020 event will now take place online and will feature two main themes: Resilience…

Various venues: Dumfries & Galloway

Fri 23 Sep

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Sat 24 Sep

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Sun 25 Sep

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…and 7 more dates until 2 Oct

Stuart Kelly || The Minister and the Murderer

In 1969, James Nelson confessed to murder, served a prison sentence, then applied to be ordained as a minister in the Church of Scotland - titillating the tabloids and dividing national opinion. Stuart Kelly discusses his remarkable account of the affair. Part detective story, part memoir, it is also a moving meditation…

Richard Holloway || Waiting for the Last Bus

Radical, joyful and moving, Waiting for the Last Bus is an invitation to reconsider life's greatest mystery. The former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway has spent a lifetime at the bedsides of the dying. He reflects on the most important lessons we can learn from death. "Thought-provoking, revelatory, grave and…

Sue Black || All That Remains

Professor Dame Sue Black is one of the world's leading anatomists and forensic anthropologists. She talks about her gripping - and strangely life-affirming - account of a career staring death in the face, from war crime investigations in Kosovo to the Indian Ocean tsunami. [108] Sponsored by ReadingLasses