2020/10/02 18:00:00

BOOKMARK Book Festival 2019

Did I hear the sound of the BOOKMARK engine going up a gear? Larger audiences, visiting writers staying for the whole weekend, eleven different topics and events and a real buzz of conversation certainly made the weekend go faster than ever.

Our opening sold-out session, with the acclaimed writer Ali Smith in conversation with the First Minister, ensured that we were off to a flying start. Their wide-ranging discussion set the tone for the rest of the weekend: reading is about listening and engaging with each other, being open-minded and open-hearted. Magnus Linklater’s following talk with Sarah Maine, last year’s Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year Winner, effortlessly combined fiction and archaeology. The energy from both these talks, which carried on at the Lord Provost’s Reception, never let up over the whole weekend.

Saturday took us first to India, where Dean Nelson and Ken Cox uncovered the Indian Art of Problem Solving; then to Dundee (as we know in these parts, an obvious destination from India) and that city’s criminal problems uncovered by Hania Allen’s Polish detective. Kathleen Jamie, another keen traveller in the Far East, spoke in the afternoon about nature closer to home and her poetry with her friend John Glenday, who then read his own poetry with Alan Riach and John Purser about objects in The Hunterian Museum in Glasgow. Louis de Bernières brought Saturday’s events to a close as he spoke about love, travelling, war, dogs and being kissed on the cheek by Penelope Cruz.

The engine kept the show on the road on Sunday too. The delightful Gordon Kerr (also known as Winifred and Charlotte, yes please ask!) took us to Italy and its partisans during World War Two, (check out ‘A Partisan Heart’, played by his band ‘Elsie on the Piano’ on YouTube); Fiona Armstrong chaired a fascinating discussion about wool, knitting, embroidery and textiles with Esther Rutter (our first on-stage knitter!) and Clare Hunter. In the afternoon Melanie Reid, the award-winning journalist who suffered a catastrophic injury in a horse-riding accident nine years ago, spoke to her friend Sally McNair in an hour’s funny, tragic, emotional and entirely honest discussion that we all felt privileged to be part of.

And finally, Freeland Barbour accompanied by Gerda Stevenson, spoke about and sang the songs of Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne. The hall echoed to Charlie is my Darling, had its heart in its mouth as Gerda sang The Lands o’ the Leel and sent us off with a rousing message for BOOKMARK 2020 Will Ye No Come Back Again? Surely, we ALL will!

The books we were all there to hear about included:
Spring, Ali Smith
The Woman of the Dunes, Sarah Maine
Juggad Yatra, the Indian Art of Problem Solving, Dean Nelson
Clearing the Dark, Hania Allen
Surfacing, Kathleen Jamie
The Hunterian Poets
So Much Life Left Over, Louis de Bernières
A Partisan Heart, Gordon Kerr
This Golden Fleece, Esther Rutter
Threads of Life, Clare Hunter
The World I Fell Out Of, Melanie Reid
The White Rose of Gask, Freeland Barbour


None of this would have had quite the impact it did without the following professional help: an excellent bookshop provided by Waterstones Perth, with Angie and Anne-Marie; our beautiful stage decorated by Gillian and her staff of Something Special Flowers of Blairgowrie; and the incomparable Callum, the sound engineer from Horsecross Perth who found every piece of music and video I asked for to accompany our speakers.

All this and BOOKMARK’s exceptional team of committee members and volunteers (and husbands who proved to be first class taxi drivers, tour guides and important support staff) make Blairgowrie’s Book Festival a true community event.

Our sponsors and supporters 
A Proctor Group Ltd 
Castle Water
Waterstones Perth
Horsecross Arts
Ballathie House Hotel
Lyon & Turnbull
Perth and Kinross Council
The Sorting Office
Blairgowrie Library
Wood Leisure
Drumderg Wind Farm
Scottish Book Trust
The Gannochy Trust
Kelly McIntyre
Something Special Flowers

For the Authors’ ‘goodie’ bags:
Bourtree Jam
Perthshire Preserves
Taystful Chocolate
Joyce Moulton
Jan Farquhar

The BOOKMARK Committee
Rhona Christie
Kathleen Walker
Christine Fraser
Jan Farquhar
Jen Geddes
Jacqui Rutherford
June Hastings
Christine Findlay
Jean Squires
Liz Mason
Kay Thomson

Anne Glass
Marion Duffy
Linda Clark
Sheila & Howard Sadd
Catriona Innes
Aileen Davidson
Ian Fraser
Ian Hastings
Les Squires
Euan Walker

Blairgowrie Community Campus
Live Active, Jaclyn Meikle and the janitorial staff

Our final event for 2019 has the Booker Prize nominated Gordon Macrae Burnett (His Bloody Project) coming to St Catharine’s Community Centre, on November 23rd at 2 pm. He’ll be talking to his uncle Alasdair Macrae, previously Senior Lecturer at Stirling University, in what will be an extremely entertaining event. Tickets are going very quickly for this. All details on this website / 2019programme

Gail Wylie

October 2019

Welcome to BOOKMARK, your very own Scottish Book Festival set in Blairgowrie, Rattray and The Glens of East Perthshire

Go With The Flow!

The motto of BOOKMARK is ‘Go with the Flow’; a phrase which evokes the river Ericht that flows through the centre of Blairgowrie, our home. It’s an encouraging and forward-thinking motto, reminding us that it is often a liberating thing to be free of concerns and constraints and to look ahead, not backwards.  It suggests, rather than demands, that we should be caught up in the moment for our own good.

It seems to me that it’s what Book Festivals are all about.  Go with the flow of ideas from all the invited authors – don’t just step into the stream of those you’ve heard of. Trust the direction of the current and meet new writers, new topics, new ways of thinking. Go with the flow and travel to other times, other countries, other ideas.  Re-connect with the familiar by encountering the strange.

BOOKMARK is a unique Festival in a beautiful part of Perthshire. Let us celebrate all that it has to offer, step into that river of ideas and ‘Go with the Flow’.

Gail Wylie




Patrons: Fiona Armstrong, Ken Cox, Rosemary Goring, Magnus Linklater

BOOKMARK, which began in 2012, brings the world of books to Blairgowrie, Perthshire and beyond. Writers and their readers engage with each other in friendly, well-organised events.

BOOKMARK organises not only a three-day Festival in October, but also holds local ‘Meet the Author’ events for adults and local schools. At all our meetings, for adults and children, readers meet, listen to and question writers.

BOOKMARK realises that readers defy categories therefore we invite writers from all disciplines: novelists, historians, poets, journalists, biographers – the list is as varied as the world of books itself.

BOOKMARK’s October Festival is an engaging mix of household names and the up-and-coming; from prize-winners entertaining newcomers; what BOOKMARK promises is a first-class experience promoting the best of the world of books from Scotland and beyond.

BOOKMARK continues to grow in size and reputation. Our four distinguished Patrons are delighted to be associated with us; literary agents and publishers now contact us about possible author visits; increased funding from local sponsors is testament to their acknowledgement of the quality of our Festival.

BOOKMARK is a Festival with a future.

Alexander McCall Smith

Writing makes sense of the world.

Ian McEwan's Advice for Aspiring Writers

BOOKMARK Book Festival

Goodbye 2019 - Hello 2020

With our final author event of the year, Graeme Macrae Burnet, being another sell-out, BOOKMARK would like to thank all our audiences for making 2019 the most successful year yet. In an earlier article, I wrote that BOOKMARK is a Festival with a future – and that future is now assured.

BOOKMARK Book Festival in October welcomed larger numbers than ever and received extremely positive messages from writers, interviewers and members of the public. What all of the committee and our volunteers endeavour to do is to encourage conversation within a small, welcoming space which is large enough to house argument, discourse, agreement and discussion. In October, there were people in our audience who entered into conversations about topics entirely new to them; from sewing and knitting to Indian space missions. Devoted history readers listened to novelists; non-readers enjoyed the conversations; those allergic to poetry confessed themselves won over.

Well-known writers such as Ali Smith and Louis de Bernières loved their time in Blairgowrie because of the engaged audiences and the strong sense of community they felt. Melanie Reid said that she left BOOKMARK with ‘a warm glow’. Many of those involved have asked to come back – and they will!

But we also have to look ahead for new ideas, new writers, new ways of engaging with readers. In 2020 we’re having a Literary Lunch on a Sunday in June; we’ve invited well-known as well as debut writers – after all, no writer is immediately famous. Our topics over the year will range from Scottish legend to our relationship with animals. Nature and the outdoors feature, as does photography and crime fiction set in an exotic past. And we’re only at the start of our programming ideas.

None of this would be possible without the support of everyone who attends our events. Word of mouth is the most effective way of telling the world about BOOKMARK – if you’re already a fan please spread the word. If you’ve never been to any of our events, why not give us a try?

Our first event in 2020 is the perfect introduction to BOOKMARK. On February 1st, after our AGM (which will be short but to the point!) Sandra Ireland will read from and talk about her acclaimed novel The Unmaking of Ellie Rook, which caused quite a stir this year. You’ll hear about our plans for the year in more detail, meet all those involved – and enjoy a delicious afternoon tea as well. All tickets are available in advance, details on our website.

I look forward personally to welcoming you in 2020.

Gail Wylie
Chair, BOOKMARK Book Festival



By Martin Bell - guest author at BOOKMARK on two occasions

‘BOOKMARK Blairgowrie, Rattray and the Glens
By blending writers’ words and presence
Distils a very special essence
Its varied ingredients
Command our allegiance
And the pleasure it gives is immense.’

Save The Dates

We have lots of events throughout the year, please check our calendar.

2, 3, 4 October 2020
BOOKMARK Book Festival
will return


View Full Calendar>


‘What is the bird on your logo?’

We’re often asked, ‘What is the bird on your logo?’

The BOOKMARK bird (liber festival scotica)
A rare sub-species of the Dipper (cinclus cinclus)

Stocky with white breast; red wings, back and tail all with white markings.

13 cm: wing span 18-20 cm. Medium-sized, rotund, aquatic passerine. Plumage generally red with white breast.

Unmistakeable. Flight direct and rapid along runs of water but can often be seen dipping into books.

Territorial throughout the year in Blairgowrie. No discernible song as it spends much of its time feeding on its staple diet of words. Becomes active and sociable at times of ‘Meet the Author’ events and in particular in October at the weekend Book Festival.

Their neat nests, resembling book shelves, can be spotted near libraries and bookshops. Blairgowrie Library and Waterstones Perth are popular nesting sites.

Reference: The Wishful Book of Scottish Birds (2019) published by Cargill Books. POA


BOOKMARK would like to say a big THANK YOU to all its
Sponsors and Supporters