Dark Skies and audience participation take centre stage at Wigtown Book Festival

Set among some of Scotland’s most unspoilt landscapes, the 14th Wigtown Book Festival will be the

largest and most ambitious yet. Scotland’s National Book Town will host more than 175 events over 10 days. As well as welcoming some of the UK’s most interesting writers, the festival will feature theatre, jazz, traditional and classical music events and a strong programme of visual arts. The programme also features more than 30 events for children.

A central theme of this year’s festival marks the fact that the area around Wigtown has some of the clearest night skies in Europe, and looks at how the heavens have inspired the creative imagination through the ages. Highlights of this Dark Skies strand include a star-gazing supper with Marek Kukula,
public astronomer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich; Scotland’s own Astronomer Royal, John Brown, on the numbers that define the universe; Marina Warner & Tahir Shah on the enduring appeal of The Arabian Nights; novelist AL Kennedy on her passion for Dr Who; a tribute to the late Ray Bradbury; an illustrated voyage through the universe with Stuart Clark; and a drive-in movie showing of Ian Cheney’s hit documentary The City Dark, under the stars in Galloway Forest Park.

Dark Skies entertainment for children includes Scottish Opera’s A Little Northern Light and Edinburgh Royal Observatory’s inflatable Starlab Planetarium. The Dark Skies strand kicks off on Friday 28 September when Lee Graham, project integration lead at Nasa’s Johnson Space Centre, will talk about The Future of Space Exploration.

Wigtown was this year officially declared the most creative small town in Scotland*. To celebrate, the festival’s Audience as Artist strand will be encouraging festival-goers to get creative themselves, with a series of hands-on events and workshops. Activities range from baking cakes and sculpting, to helping to write a “crowd-sourced” self-help book and learning to draw at a drop-in “drawing gym”. Spring Fling Artist in Residence Joanne B Kaar will be asking audience members to literally “spin a yarn”, using flowers and plants from local gardens, while Wigtown’s Got Talent – the talent contest for writers, locals and visitors – returns for a fourth year after last year’s sell-out. Work created by audience members during the festival will be displayed in a specially created new venue, The Gallery, with exhibitions changing each day. In parallel, a series of events will look at the nature of creativity and craft: Alexander McCall Smith talks about the part music plays in his life and why he is championing a “Great Tapestry of Scotland”, to be woven by volunteers; acclaimed art historian Elizabeth Cumming considers the Scottish Arts and Crafts Movement’s contribution to our cultural history; Edinburgh Festival stalwart Richard Demarco talks about creativity and risk-taking; former Scottish Arts Council chairman Richard Holloway examines the link between culture and boredom; writers John-Paul Flintoff and Robert Twigger make the case for working with your hands; writer Janice Galloway explains why knitting is a part of her creative life – and invites the audience to share a few stitches with her.

This year’s event builds on Wigtown Book Festival’s reputation for original programming and for reinventing traditional formats of book festival events. Festival director Adrian Turpin says: “A festival shouldn’t be a passive experience. It should be an exchange of ideas. So we are really looking forward to seeing what our audience comes up with and to showing why Wigtown was recently declared Scotland’s most creative small community.”

Reflecting its growing popularity, the festival is proud to be working this year, for the first time, with the Daily Telegraph as its media partner. A PDF of the full programme can be downloaded from:

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