Boswell Book Festival: Andrew Marr and Janey Godley to feature in online celebration

Boswell Book Festival: Andrew Marr and Janey Godley to feature in online celebration

Janey Godley / credit: Murdo MacLeod

As the literary festival returns with a virtual programme, other big names on the bill include Bill Paterson, Rory Stewart and Deborah Frances-White

The world's only literary festival dedicated to biography and memoir, Ayrshire-based Boswell Book Festival returns this summer with a rich programme that takes advantage of its online format to expand across borders and platform personal stories from further afield. Running from Thursday 10–Wednesday 16 June, the festival – which takes its inspiration from the writings of noted Scottish biographer James Boswell – will feature writing in the form of biographies, letters, journalism and blogs, from local voices to places as far-flung as Canada, Australia, the US and Italy.

Before the festivities kick off in earnest, Sunday 16 May (which happens to be National Biographers' Day) will feature a 'pre-festival warm up event' with a live broadcast from Auchinleck Churchyard in Ayrshire, in honour of Boswell himself. From the programme itself, highlights include an online session with broadcaster and journalist Andrew Marr (Thu 10 June), who will be making an impassioned argument in favour of Boswell's inclusion in the canon of great British writers, and a talk between travel writers (and one erstwhile politician) Kapka Kassabova and Rory Stewart (Fri 11 June) about chronicling their journeys from Albania to Afghanistan.

Later in the week, Alex Renton and Geoff Palmer bring their personal perspectives to reckon with Scotland's colonial past and historic role in the slave trade (Sat 12 June), while comedian Janey Godley discusses her memoir Handstands in the Dark and the forging of her indominable spirit during her tough childhood in the East End of Glasgow (Sat 12 June).

Boswell Book Festival: Andrew Marr and Janey Godley to feature in online celebration

Andrew Marr

Host of popular podcast The Guilty Feminist Deborah Frances-White then joins Ned Sedgwick to discuss her writing career and what the future holds (Sun 13 June), while bestselling author of Olive, Mabel & Me Andrew Cotter discusses life in lockdown and going viral with his ultra-competitive labradors (Sun 13 June).

In addition to the roster of talks, Monday 14 June features a schedule of online masterclasses led by the likes of Professor Jane Ridley, Ned Sedgwick and Melanie Reid on biographical writing and podcasting. Running alongside the programme are readings from author Bill Paterson (Shetland, Fleabag), performances by pianist Kenneth Dunsmuir, and a series of wine tastings held over Zoom.

Also taking place concurrently with the programme is Boswell Book Festival's Schools and Family educational event series, which seeks to engage children with history and influential figures from around the world, from Mary Queen of Scots to Beatrix Potter.

Boswell Book Festival runs from Thursday 10--Wednesday 16 June, for more details visit

Boswell Book Festival

A quirky literary festival devoted to biography and the first modern biographer, James Boswell. The festival spans talks, performances and workshops by writers, actors and artists.

Online events

Thu 10 Jun

Donations welcome / 01563 554900

Fri 11 Jun

Donations welcome / 01563 554900

Sat 12 Jun

Donations welcome / 01563 554900

…and 4 more dates until 16 Jun

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