Scotland's former world snooker champion Stephen Hendry
Scotland's former world snooker champion Stephen Hendry

The 2019 Borders Book Festival is underway today

Scotland’s sporting legend Stephen Hendry; TV’s wildlife expert Kate Humble and leading historian Neil Oliver open this year’s Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival, beginning today.

Melrose is abuzz as final preparations take place for the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival.

Anticipation mounts for the four-day extravaganza in the Scottish Borders of live events featuring top writers, stars of stage and screen, sporting heroes and political pundits.

Alistair Moffat, festival director said: ‘The marquees are up in Harmony Garden and the stage is set for four glorious days of lively debate, fun and laughter. As well as the big names in sport, entertainment and politics, the programme has some lesser known, but equally fascinating, unexpected storytellers too.

‘The epic tale of Lara Prior-Palmer’s victory in a thousand-kilometre Mongolian horse race and David Wilson’s amazing life as a former prison governor and criminologist are just two of the many highlights for me.

‘We look forward to welcoming our audience, authors and supporters to another bumper weekend of pure enjoyment.’

Scotland’s former world snooker champion Stephen Hendry

Opening night audiences will hear snooker legend Stephen Hendry discussing the highs and lows of an incredible sporting career and Neil Oliver’s passion for the history of the British Isles; whilst wildlife expert Kate Humble will share her joy on the simple act of walking and encountering life in its many unexpected forms.

On Friday, the world of sport dominates further as David Coulthard opens the door to the secret world of F1; Bob Champion talks about dealing with a life-threatening illness as a professional jump jockey and inspirational rugby coach Gregor Townsend discusses his staggering career as coach and player of the national side.

Further highlights include one of Britain’s comedy greats Alexei Sayle; gardening expert and much-loved writer Alan Titchmarsh, wildlife TV-presenter Michaela Strachan; comedian and writer Susan Calman; politician Ruth Davidson on inspirational women; comedian and impressionist Jan Ravens and BBC Newsnight presenter turned novelist Kirsty Wark.

Attempting to make sense of the current political turmoil will be Dominic Grieve MP on the Brexit process and what lies ahead; political commentator Matt Chorley with a light-hearted view of inside Parliament; Fintan O’Toole setting Brexit into historical perspective; James Naughtie’s authoritative take on what is happening to our political system and, to top it off, firm favourite, political satirist and impressionist Rory Bremner.

Broadcaster and writer Sally Magnusson

Whilst four of Britain’s most experienced news broadcasters James Naughtie, Kirsty Wark, Sally Magnusson and Sarah Smith spill the beans on what happens behind the scenes and sometimes in front of them.

Michelle McLeod, sponsorship manager at Baillie Gifford said: ‘It’s incredible how much the festival has grown since it started 15 years ago. From its humble beginnings of four authors and fewer than 300 people, it’s now a thriving literary festival with more than 100 events and near 30,000 visitors.

‘Highlights this year will be Sue Armstrong talking about the science of ageing, Kate Humble discussing the joy of walking and Rosemary Goring bringing to life our nation’s history through the eyes of the women who lived it. We look forward to a weekend of learning, entertainment and reflection.’

The 10th anniversary of the prestigious Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction will be marked by the world premiere of the Dandie Dinmont operetta written by Alexander McCall Smith, with music composed by Tom Cunningham and directed by David Lyle (music) and Alan Borthwick (artistic) and acclaimed actor Jack Lowden, reading extracts from the shortlisted books.

The £25,000 prize will be awarded to the winner at the Book Festival on Saturday 15 June from a shortlist including Peter Carey, Cressida Connolly, Samantha Harvey, Andrew Miller, Michael Ondaatje and Robin Robertson.

The McInroy and Wood lecture will this year feature War Doctor David Nott, who for over 25 years has taken unpaid leave from the NHS to volunteer in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones.

Alexander McCall Smith

Health and well-being features prominently with events by renowned psychotherapist Philippa Perry on redefining the art of parenting; Eve Simmons and LauraDennison revealing the myths behind healthy eating; Kim Jones with practical advice on achieving a good night’s sleep and Michelle Thomas’s honest account of living with mental ill health.

How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell; Vivian French, artist Catherine Rayner; bestselling Beetle Boy author MG Leonard, Doctor Who writer David Solomons and cooks Mary Contini and Pru Irvine will entertain and energise the younger crowd in the popular Family Book Festival, which takes place throughout the weekend of Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th June, and includes kids craft activities, storytelling and creative workshops.

Adults get to go free to any Family Book Festival event so long as they are accompanied by at least one child!

In addition, throughout the four days there will be live music, the Orchard tented food village and plenty of free, fun activities making the book festival a great day out for all the family to enjoy.

The festival welcomes the continued support of title sponsor Baillie Gifford and Key Sponsor McInroy & Wood, as well as Douglas Home & Co, The National Trust for Scotland and the on-going funding of Scottish Borders Council, Creative Scotland and many other loyal supporters.

Tickets for this year’s Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival are available from Hub Tickets, at or at 0131 473 2000.