Andrew Marr
Andrew Marr

Boswell Book Festival is an international hit

People from across the world tuned in to the Boswell Book Festival’s virtual events last week with viewers from the UK, America, Italy, Canada, Australia, China and Norway amongst other countries.

The Schools and Families programme saw over 40 schools signing up.

The festival delivered a star-studded cast including broadcaster Andrew Marr, Andrew Cotter with ‘labradorable’ Olive and Mabel, Royal lady-in-waiting Lady Anne Glenconner, stand-up comedian Janey Godley and Melanie Reid, who, in her master class session pointed out that ‘Memoir is the ultimate selfie.’

Festival Director, Caroline Knox, said: ‘The response to our first virtual book festival exceeded all our expectations with the registrations pouring in over the week.

‘Talks will be available on demand until the end of June so there is still time to watch those you missed. It was wonderful to see our faithful Scottish audience extend around the globe and attract people who would never have been able to attend in person.

‘The reaction this year has made us realise the appetite for this genre is worldwide and future festivals are likely to be hybrid events with both live and digital talks.’

At the opening event, broadcaster Andrew Marr explained why Ayrshire writer James Boswell was his all-time literary hero as, speaking from London on the eve of the G7 summit, he revealed that “Boswell is always in my mind wherever I go as a journalist or writer.”

With international links, through the Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee, the Toronto International Festival of Authors and the Italian Pisa Book Festival, an audience without borders was guaranteed. There was special interest in America in Lady Glenconner’s memoir and she accepted an invitation from the bookseller, Daniel Goldin, to speak in Milwaukee in person when restrictions are lifted.

Andrew Marr

Although reaching far and wide, there was a strong Scottish flavour with broadcasting legends Sally Magnusson and James Naughtie greeting the audiences. The highly diverse programme, which paired big name authors in new combinations including TV shepherd Amanda Owen with Edinburgh GP Gavin Francis, proved extremely popular.

From the historic wine cellars of Corney & Barrow underneath Ayr town centre, wine tastings were part of the programme. An additional attraction was the magic voice of actor Bill Paterson (currently the narrator of the hugely successful The Repair Shop on BBC1) who was specially commissioned by the Festival to read extracts from James Boswell’s very own journals.

The Schools and Family programme also produced bumper results linking with schools, home schoolers, theatres and families from Chicago to London and Ireland to Aberdeenshire to Ayrshire attending this first Boswell event for young people. Programme curator, Janet Smyth, says “Our wonderful on-line Children’s Festival Gallery is a space where people are submitting all the great work inspired by the brilliant writers and illustrators and this will provide an archive of our first online festival.”

Caroline added: ‘It was a joy to finally deliver the Festival after a year of setbacks and to find that our unique theme of life stories, biography and memoir for which we have built a loyal Ayrshire audience also has appeal nationally and globally.

‘We are delighted that the online availability has made the festival more accessible to audiences who might have been unable to attend due to financial or transport issues and we hope to include live streaming for future events. We are extremely grateful for the generous donations we have received that allow us to look forward with confidence to being back at Dumfries House from 12 to 15 May, 2022.’

Find out more about the festival HERE.