REVIEWS

BOOKMARK 2019

Comments from Authors, Chairs and Patrons

Ali Smith – (Via a postcard!)
THANK YOU for a really fine night at BOOKMARK…and for all the warmth, from start to finish, at Blairgowrie

First Minister (from her team)
The First Minister enjoyed the event, as did we.

Rosemary Goring
…the session with Ali Smith and Nicola Sturgeon really set the tone, what a coup that was. A fabulous opener. Alan and I had such a good time…not even a flat tyre on the way home could spoil the fun we had.

Sarah Maine
What a delightful weekend! I had such a nice time…It was a lovely and supportive audience and I really enjoyed the event and talking to people throughout the weekend. Thank you so much for inviting me and for your warm hospitality – all the way from a lovely goody bag (raspberry gin!) to the delightful Ballathie House and lots of stops in between. You and your enthusiastic committee are real stars so please pass on my thanks to all on delivering a tremendous weekend.

BOOKMARK 2019

Interviews by Clare Damodoran, Blairgowrie Advertiser at this year's Festival

The First Minister
… ‘It is always good to be in Blairgowrie and BOOKMARK is such a vibrant book festival.  It is so impressive that there’s a festival like this which is going from strength to strength and that here we are, on a Friday night, talking to one of Scotland’s best-known writers in front of such a big audience’.
John Swinney, Deputy First Minister
‘It was an absolute delight to have the First Minister in conversation with Ali Smith.  Ali is an outstanding writer and a phenomenal individual in her use of language and the thought that goes into the use of language…’
Ali Smith
‘This was an event of a lifetime to get to chat with the First Minister in such a beautiful community building that is properly used and where you know that community is the whole point.  It could not have been better, it could not have been more true.  Something truly transformative happened and I would like to say a big thank you to BOOKMARK for having me.’

BOOKMARK 2019

A Selection of Attendee Comments

  • Very interesting, enjoyable and enlightening experience in a first class venue.  Many thanks.
  • Well organised, great atmosphere, cheery volunteers, excellent venue, well done all round, fantastic job!
  • We enjoyed the lively conversation between your Presenter/BOOKMARK Chairperson and author Louis de B.  Will definitely return! (and tell our friends!)
  • This has been a wonderful Book Festival.  Congratulations to all who made it possible with their hard work.  Looking forward to next year.  
  • A marvelous discussion hosted by Fiona Armstrong in a super way.
  • Excellent presentation, interesting discussion, stories. Pleasure to sit among like-minded people.  Thanks to organisers and volunteers
  • I thought the event was great, very well organised, efficiently run with all events starting on time.  Great spread of authors too.  Well done everyone! 
  • Very much enjoyed BOOKMARK and the attendant food vans and Waterstones.  The people in red are very helpful and friendly; making people feel welcome. The programme was well thought out with a wide range of interest – so good to see the authors one has read for years and meet new faces also.
  • Ali Smith – absolutely brilliant. Inspirational. Both fantastic speakers.
  • Ali Smith/First Minister interview – EXCELLENT.
  • Ali Smith/Nicola Sturgeon – Excellent.
  • Once more, an excellent variety of speakers to suit all tastes.  Extremely well organised and thanks to all concerned.
  • Most enjoyable event – as it was last year.  So well run and well set out.  Great venue.  Many thanks to all the volunteers.  Loved the food vans too.  Looking forward to next year.

Allan Massie

Author - October 2018

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

BOOKMARK 2019

Comments from Authors, Chairs and Patrons

Dean Nelson
I would like to thank you for inviting me and for making Pamela and I so welcome…We had a wonderful time…BOOKMARK is a wonderful festival and if you ever need someone to chair a session or help in any way, I’d be delighted.

Ken Cox
Very well done on the programming and organisation of the Festival. Most impressive again and getting Nicola Sturgeon to interview Ali Smith was a triumph. Proud to be associated with BOOKMARK.

Joyce Caplan
What an excellent, professional festival. Well done!

Hania Allen
…thank you for inviting me to BOOKMARK and for looking after me so well. I had a super time…I’ll definitely keep BOOKMARK well within my radar!

BOOKMARK 2019

Interviews by Clare Damodoran, Blairgowrie Advertiser at this year's Festival

Perth & Kinross Provost, Dennis Melloy
‘At BOOKMARK authors have an opportunity to speak to an appreciative audience in a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere and on a beautifully decorated stage – it’s no wonder authors want to come here! BOOKMARK opens up new opportunities to discover new writers and stories and I would like to commend the organisers on another wonderful event.’

BOOKMARK 2019

More Attendee Comments

  • Excellent presentation, interesting discussion, stories.  Pleasure to sit among likeminded people. Thanks to the organisers and volunteers.
  • I have really enjoyed the Book Festival.  Lovely venue (flowers/seating), so warm and welcoming.  Fantastic for Blairgowrie getting opportunity to listen to interesting and charming authors.
  • Thank you for laying on a homely and informal Festival – enjoyable, as always. Sad that toilet facilities are so limited. There’s not a lot you can do about this. It would be excellent if you could provide light refreshments inside the premises with more extensive seating areas – but there may be good reasons why this can’t be done.
  • A great range of speakers and chairs. It’s a joy to come and join in the buzz of chatting and discussing reading and books and the ideas and issues they inspire.
  • Excellent 1st class speakers, well organised, friendly stewards, thank you.
  • We have had a lovely time at the Book Festival. It is fantastic the variety and diversity of authors. It is fascinating getting an insight into the Literary World. Brilliant people came to Blairgowrie . Thank you.
  • I have really enjoyed the Book Festival. Lovely venue (flowers/seating), so warm and welcoming. Fantastic for Blairgowrie getting opportunity to listen to interesting and charming authors.
  • 1) Friday 18.00-19.00 – Ali Smith with Nicola Sturgeon – excellent dialogue about The Seasons covering ‘society’ and the environment. However, being near the back there was a bit of difficulty hearing all Ali said but got the main part of the discussion. 2) Friday 19.30-20.30 – Sarah Maine with Magnus Linklater. I found the expertise of Sarah’s archaeology with fiction very interesting. Some excellent anecdotes. 3) Sunday 13.30-14.30 – Melanie Reid with Sally McNair. Wonderful and amazing human being – ‘black humour’ great.

Olga Wojtas

Author - October 2018

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!

BOOKMARK 2019

Comments from Authors, Chairs and Patrons

Louis de Bernières
…I very much enjoyed my time in Blairgowrie, and my interview with you. I put on several pounds from all the scoffing!…thanks to everyone involved.

Fiona Armstrong
Well done to the team on the Festival

Sally McNair
Huge plaudits for a fantastic feat of organisation!

Gerda Stevenson
I love the welcome that the excellent, professional BOOKMARK team of wonderful women gives to its authors and its ability to always bring together a terrific audience – really very special.

Freeland Barbour
It was a real treat to be a guest at the Festival and we were so well looked after, so enormous thanks to everyone involved. I really enjoyed it…Congratulations to you all for putting on these terrific festivals and warm thanks for inviting us to be part of it.

BOOKMARK 2019

Interviews by Clare Damodoran, Blairgowrie Advertiser at this year's Festival

Gail Wylie, Chair of the BOOKMARK Committee
‘It is fitting that Blairgowrie is in what is known as ‘Big Tree Country’ as, seven years ago, an acorn of an idea was planted by a book club in Blairgowrie.  That festival has now grown to attract writers and guest interviewers of the calibre that we have, not least of which was the sold-out opening event featuring the First Minister and Ali Smith.  This was probably the best BOOKMARK Festival yet… I would like to say a massive thank you to all the committee, all the writers and presenters, Waterstones, Something Special, Horsecross and Kelly McIntyre for all their hard work making it another fantastic success.’

BOOKMARK 2019

More Attendee Comments

  • I attended the opening event and Melanie Reid’s.  I found the experience wonderful and way beyond any expectations I had.  It’s a fantastic event and I can only commend and thank all the people who made it possible.  I thought the First Minister and Ali Smith were a brilliant combination – so different in style but perfect for each other.  Nicola gave structure but allowed Ali to tell her story .
  • Excellent free pen – Excellent to get a ticket at the door – Excellent the red outfits of the staff – Excellent the bonhomie of fellow attendees.
  • Thoroughly enjoyable.  Love the variety of authors in programme. Very affordable, good venue; well organised; lovely ambience; volunteers manning the event are always so nice and helpful.  Looking forward to next year.
  • Excellent! Loved Melanie Reid and Sally McNair.
  • Excellent book festival from Nicola Sturgeon and Ali Smith to Freeland Barbour and Gerda Stevenson.  All the presentations were of an extremely high standard.  The final song – a fitting end to a most enjoyable weekend.
  • Excellent authors – an asset to Blairgowrie.
  • Thank you to the organisers of such a wonderful event.  The setting works really well and the volunteers are all friendly and helpful.  The timings of the events  make time for mingling and discussing books after every do.
    And from two members of the audience who came for the weekend from Edinburgh (and who are frequent members of the EIBF)
  • Each talk was interesting, humorous and informative and even full of hope for the future…Everyone involved, back and front of house, was friendly and helpful and it felt like being in a band of friends all weekend.
  • What a truly great weekend that was! That was the best Book Festival I’ve ever been to. The amount of thought and work you had all put into it really showed and everyone was so friendly, helpful and kind.

Deborah Bennett, Lyon & Turnbull

Sponsors of Celebrating 100 Years of Muriel Spark - October 2018

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

Chris Brookmyre

Author - October 2017

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.

Rosemary Goring

Author - October 2018

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.

Rosemary Goring,

Abstracts from a recent article by Rosemary Goring in the Herald after her appearance at BOOKMARK 2018

A Festival Attendee

October 2018

This exceeded our expectations

Russel D McLean

Author - October 2016

Had a great time at the Blairgowrie festival; nice audience, well looked after by the volunteers.

Pete Wishart MP

Chair - October 2018

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.

Muriel Spark Day

October 2018

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/

Rachel Crowther

Author - October 2017

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.

A Festival Attendee

October 2018

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
Sponsors and Supporters