Thank you for inviting me to Blairgowrie. It was a very agreeable and friendly festival – with a good and appreciative audience. There was an atmosphere of genuine enthusiasm
Congratulations to all the BOOKMARK organisers and volunteers who made it such a wonderful event. It was a huge privilege to be included in your Muriel Spark celebration. The whole festival atmosphere was so welcoming – and what a fabulous audience!
Many congratulations – BOOKMARK was a tour de force!
The Muriel Spark day was brilliant and wonderful to close on the poetry with Gerda and Stewart
I really enjoyed the event on Friday, and I am glad the audience did too. It‘s been an absolute pleasure. It went really well, with a very warm audience – laughter from the start put me immediately at ease.
Off to Canada in the morning with Mark Billingham. Hope they‘re as appreciative as in Blairgowrie.
THE hills were a blaze of scarlet and orange, the roads a sea of golden leaves. It might have been New England in the Fall, but it was better. This was Perthshire in October – to be precise, Blairgowrie, where the sixth BOOKMARK Festival was taking place, a mile out of the town centre.
The venue was the primary school in the Community Campus. As one eight-year-old gleefully informed us, the authors’ green room had usurped their Contemplation Room, where pupils retreat to gather their thoughts. He was amused to see this oasis of calm filled with writers, gabbling as fast as football pundits while filling up on coffee, croissants and gossip. Come Monday morning, it would return to its intended purpose. So too the sports hall which had been transformed into a spacious festival theatre, decked with flowers and lanterns.
BOOKMARK was also blessed with that essential for any good event: a state-of-the-art sound system. Unlike some venues, where the mics hiss like Gollum or pack in midway through the talk, this impressive audio deck was under the control of two young techies who couldn’t believe their luck in being able to indulge their love of books during working hours. Some of their less fortunate colleagues, they said, had been assigned to a Marti Pellow concert in Perth. ..
Blairgowrie might not have the same profile as the Edinburgh International Book Festival – the Mother Ship – but it is one of dozens of spin-offs devoted to books and writers that have taken root in the past couple of decades. From Lerwick to Glasgow, Tarbert to Stirling, Dumfries to Ullapool, Melrose to Inverness, these ventures have sprung up like mushrooms, testimony to an appetite for reading that grows with every year.
Some, such as Wigtown, are grant-aided, and run by salaried staff; others, like BOOKMARK, are small, relying entirely on volunteers. These bijou outfits are just as well run and inviting as the larger fixtures, with the added attraction of focussing on one event at a time, thereby creating an exceptionally relaxed, informal atmosphere. Certainly, during the first Sunday morning event in Blairgowrie, when the festival director’s husband crept into the hall a few minutes late, she could chide him from the platform. He could reply that he’d been doing the housework. ..
Even more important than the economic benefits these festivals bring is the cultural connection and inspiration they offer. Readers in cities have far more opportunities to buy books and meet authors than those in the countryside or on the islands. Festivals such as BOOKMARK act as a hub for readers and thinkers, bringing people together in a lively, friendly environment to hear fresh ideas, or simply be entertained. Above all, they encourage attendees to indulge their interest in books.
As a speaker, you quickly get an idea of the sort of audience facing you. With a long heritage of world-class novelists and poets, and a flourishing literary scene today, we pride ourselves on the calibre of literary artist this nation produces. Far too little is said, though, about readers. In my experience, and without exception, whether in village halls or country mansions, rain-battered marquees or Victorian libraries, book festival audiences are engaged, informed and enquiring. Sometimes combative or challenging too. As a writer, they remind you who you’re writing for. What a spur to upping your game.
Abstracts from a recent article by Rosemary Goring in the Herald after her appearance at BOOKMARK 2018
This exceeded our expectations
Had a great time at the Blairgowrie festival; nice audience, well looked after by the volunteers.
I enjoyed interviewing former Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, about his new book at the acclaimed Blairgowrie BOOKMARK Festival. BOOKMARK puts Blair on the cultural map. The BOOKMARK Festival has really cemented Blairgowrie as a destination for cultural events such as this…I would really like to extend my thanks to those who give up so much of their time to make sure that the BOOKMARK Festival can go ahead and attract big names such as Alan Johnson, Isla Dewar, Allan Massie and journalist Alan Taylor to name a few.
The Muriel Spark Day at the BOOKMARK Festival in Blairgowrie was a triumph yesterday (7 October).
The day began with an affectionate look back at Muriel from her friend Alan Taylor. Their friendship was full of incident and humour, uniquely portrayed. Rosemary Goring then spoke of the fiendishly difficult task of abridging Spark’s novel A Far Cry from Kensington for radio. Spark was one of the most economical and concise of writers,with no word wasted, so a tall order. The actor who delivered the radio abridgement was superb, and all went well in the end. Afterwards novelist Olga Wojtas (A Gillespie’s Girl and Committee Member of The Muriel Spark Society) then read from her hilarious book, Miss Blaine’s Prefect and The Golden Samovar. She had the hall in peals of laughter. The novel includes incidents involving a time-travelling Marcia Blaine in Morningside Library, hidden copies of Jean Brodie, and Morningside Waitrose… After a tasty lunch, inaugural Edinburgh Makar, Stewart Conn and actor Gerda Stevenson gave a lecture/presentation on Spark’s poetry, beautifully read by Stevenson; a thoughtful end to a very diverse and successful day. Congratulations to all involved in organising it. There was a tantalising heads up from Gail Wylie too: Spark admirer (and Society annual lecturer in 2017) is heading to Blairgowrie next year – Ali Smith.
Taken from http://themurielsparksociety.blogspot.com/2018/10/congratulations-bookmark-festival/
I greatly appreciated the superb organisation and was amazed at the level of enthusiasm for the Festival considering the relatively small size of the community. It was well worth it for me to come up to Perthshire and I was only sorry I couldn‘t stay around for the main events the next day.
Just wanted to say thank you, thank you for a fantastic weekend! Please pass my thanks to your wonderful team, not a thing out of place (as usual) and the guests were just tremendous. I so enjoyed every minute of it. It was a joy!
One of the best things about the BOOKMARK Festival is how intimate and friendly it is, one feels relaxed and at ease enough to approach the guests for a chat. Although I know you would prefer a bigger crowd, even when the house was full for Alan Johnson it still had a good feel.
BOOKMARK would like to say a big THANK YOU to all its
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