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