Wigtown Book Festival 2010
David Pollock chats to Wigtown Book Festival director Adrian Turpin about the event’s unique spirit
‘The best way to explain the Wigtown Book Festival is to explain Wigtown first of all,’ says festival director Adrian Turpin. ‘It’s Scotland’s National Book Town, which means it has lots of bookshops and book businesses. It’s like a mini Hay-on-Wye … Hay-on-Wye with a kilt, you might say. That’s been the case for the last 12 years, but before that it was rather a run-down place. There were two big businesses here, the creamery and the distillery, which both shut down pretty much overnight. Yet winning a national competition to become Scotland’s Book Town in 1997 has had a regenerative effect on the place.’
In this context, the fact that the Wigtown Book Festival is Scotland’s second biggest after Edinburgh is almost beside the point. While visitors are there for the authors, the events, the celebrities and the book-buying, they’re also there for the environment itself. Situated near the food town of Castle Douglas and the artists’ town of Kirkcudbright, Wigtown offers a chance for visitors to immerse themselves in culture. ‘The whole point about coming down here is that you get a sense of place,’ says Turpin. ‘With most other book festivals, you blink and you could be somewhere else, whereas we have a real sense of identity and we play up to that. We hold events in halls, churches and the Bladnoch Distillery, right the way down to tiny events in bookshops.’
Although the programme for 2010 won’t be announced until the end of July, Turpin points to a line-up in ‘09 which featured Roddy Doyle, Julia Donaldson, Iain Banks, Quintin Jardine, Nick Nairn, David Owen, Louise Welsh and Brian Keenan as indicative of the quality of guests. Moreover, there will be a programme of family events, a series of music, theatre and film performances which often have a related literary theme and, for the second year running, Wigtown’s Got Talent, an audience-judged talent contest that pits authors against festival-goers and locals. ‘Last year saw Louis de Bernieres storm out after everyone laughed at his attempt at Greek dancing,’ recalls Turpin.
Wigtown, near Dumfries, Fri 24 Sep–Sun 3 Oct. www.wigtownbookfestival.com