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Ullapool bookfest guests will be ...

By Margaret Chrystall

A CHAT in a bar one night 15 years ago led to the Ullapool Book Festival - this year celebrating that 15th birthday with one of its most eclectic guestlists so far.

This year's festival (from May 10-12) includes events from well-known names to debut writers.

Broadcaster and journalist Sally Magnusson has written her first novel The Sealwoman's Gift, following 10 books, most famously, her Sunday Times bestseller, Where Memories Go in 2014 about her mother's dementia.

Leading to a hit TV drama series on Sky Atlantic, Babylon Berlin, German writer Volker Kutscher’s historical crime novels about Gereon Rath and his adventures in late Weimar Republic Berlin have sold over one million copies worldwide. Shetland writer robert Alan Jamieson has set his novel macCloud Falls in Canada, while fellow Shtelander Malachy Tallack will be talking about his longlisted Highland Book Prize contender, novel. Angus Peter Campbell's English language novel Memory And Straw won the Saltire Scottish fiction bookof the year award in 2017.

Poet Roseanne Watt, winner of the 2018 Edwin Morgan Prize, will appear as will Jo Shapcott, who has won, among others, The Commonwealth Poetry Prize, the Costa Book of the Year Award and a Forward Poetry Prize. In 2011 she was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry.

Prize-inning poets Michael Pedersen and Hollie McNish will appear with cult music maker Withered Hand, sharing their own work and some thoughts on their dear friend, the late musician Scott Hutchison best-known as frontman of Scottish band Frightened Rabbit.

As a four-piece, they appeared a couple of times as the Cold Turkey collective, whilst Michael and Scott had been due to perform together at Ullapool Book Festival last year, just days after Scott's passing. As well as the show,some unique products will be available with profits going to The Scott Hutchison fund, to which UBF donated in 2018.

Three award-winning journalists will also guest.

David Pratt is a regular contributor to the BBC, contributing foreign editor with The Herald and Sunday National and a columnist with The National and Neil Mackay was the editor of the Sunday Herald for three years, and is now Writer at Large for the Herald and the Herald on Sunday.

Melanie Reid MBE was an award-winning journalist at The Herald before joining The Times in 2007. Having broken her neck and back in a riding accident in 2010, she writes her Spinal Column in the Times Magazine every week. Her memoir The World I Fell Out Of is published by 4 Estate in March this year.

Born in America, Penny Johnson lives in Ramallah and in her book Companions In Conflict, due out in spring, she explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a surprising lens - the animals trying to survive in occupied hotspots.

Sara Sheridan is a historical novelist and will be talking about her non-fiction book Where Are The Women due out in May.It’s an imagined atlas of Scotland where women are commemorated in statues and streets and buildings.

And, closer to home, there will be examinations of different periods in Ullapool’s past. Daniel Maudlin is an award-winning historian of architecture and material culture who will be going back to the beginnings of Ullapool to explore how a small village in the Highlands fitted into and played its part in the history of a big empire. Andy Drummond has been researching the various proposed railways to Ullapool as well as proposals of ones to Aultbea, Lochinver and Laxford, against the background of one of the most fascinating periods in Scottish history.

Each year there is a bilingual Gaelic/English session, but this year there will be two Gaelic novelists. Author, bàrd and storyteller Martin Macintyre, a previous winner of the Saltire Society’s First Book Award, whose latest novel Samhradh ’78 (The Summer of ’78) was launched in July 2018 and Roddy Maclean will be speaking about his newly-published novel Còig Duilleagan na Seamraig (CLÀR), a historical political thriller based in Ireland, Scotland, London and Paris, which won first prize in the Donald Meek Awards in 2018.

This year’s guest from Canada is Kathleen Winter who was born in the industrial northeast of England, spent many years in Newfoundland, and now lives in Montreal. Her novel Annabel, published in 2010 became a No1 bestseller in Canada and was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General's Award for Fiction, the Rogers Writers' Trust Award, and the Orange Prize. It won the 2011 Thomas Head Raddall Award for Atlantic Fiction. Her latest novel is Lost In September published in Canada a few months ago.

Add to that the announcement of the second Highland Book Prize which will be followed by a session with the winne.

The four shortlisted writers will each have done a short reading earlier that day.

There will also be a session with those who been taking part in the young local writers’ project Green Ink, outreach work in the community with Martin Macintyre, and a dance with Cask Strength Ceilidh Band.

And there is the return of the marquee - that delights festival-goers and writers - full of homemade cake and coffee!

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