by Margaret Chrystall
INVERNESS Book Festival's direcotr Robert Davidson has stood down to concentrate on his role as director running Dingwall-based publisher Sandstone Press.
He said earlier this week, following the close of this year's event: "It has been a great joy to direct Inverness Book Festival in 2013 and 2014.
"Shortly before this year’s festival began I let Eden Court Theatre know that I am not able to continue into another year as the demands of Sandstone Press, probably the most rapidly growing literary publishing house in Britain, have become too great for me to continue. It’s a big enough job."
Looking back on his two festivals, Robert said: "The great lesson of these two years is more about the potential than what has actually been achieved, although much has been achieved.
"We have brought major writers to our area and they have gone away raving about their reception and the natural beauty of this area, as have our two agents-in-residence.
"We have a core audience who, by now, I feel I know.
"In fact, they almost feel like family, but our numbers are too small. There is the challenge, to reach out to a greater number of people and persuade them that we have something great here.
"It will be typical of us, I suggest, and perhaps of the wider Scotland, that others have to tell us how good we are.
"A low point - one famous author had to pull out. High points? Too many to mention. Last year there was Roy Hattersley’s unscripted, unprompted tour de force on his historical writing. And last year’s environmental evening.
"This year, Bonnie Greer’s almost spiritual exposition on nothing less than civilisation. Also this year’s young adult events."
Robert shared his biggest surprise of this year's event.
"Biggest surprise? When they first approached us the Big Book Group said they would turn up with a writer.
"It turned out to be Kate Mosse. I would have shot my way into a crowded room, thrown her over my shoulder, and shot my way out again to bring Kate Mosse to Eden Court."
And he has many best moments.
"This will surprise you. It was when we had what might be considered disappointing numbers (such as, say, seven enthusiastic but slightly self-conscious fans) turn up. What we would do is bring a few seats to the front of the One Touch and range them round the author and interviewer chairs. The effect was extraordinarily intimate and warm.
"Imagine your favourite singer by a log fire with just a guitar or piano, singing and talking just for you and a few friends. The lover of intelligent speech, the lover of companionship, the lover of narrative and language can ask no more."
Robert shared some ideas for the future of the festival that had come to him over his time as director: "To improve this festival I would change its name to the Highland Book Festival because, as in all things, we are by now a single conurbation around the Inner Moray Firth. Let it be the Highland Book Festival.
"Let there also be contrived, somehow, a year round engagement with the reading public, the core of which I have already appreciatively and gratefully mentioned.
"Perhaps we should move to the spring.
"Eden Court Theatre is a marvellous facility, a most tremendous enhancement to our area with great staff and dynamic leadership. Let’s stay there.
"I miss the festival, allow me to say it this one last time - MY festival - already.’