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This year's programme is built around identity

By Margaret Chrystall

POPULAR political journalist and former Strictly Come Dancing contestant John Sergeant will headline the 16th Nairn Book and Arts Festival which runs from from September 10-15.

Sergeant, who reports for BBC1’s The One Show, has hosted Have I Got News For You? and appears regularly on Radio 4 panel shows.

But he became a hugely popular star of Strictly Come Dancing as a contestant in 2008.

He is named as one of the line-up of authors, poets, playwrights, and musicians, including poet Don Paterson, author and playwright Des Dillon, authors Leila Aboulela, Rosemary Goring, Sara Sheridan, Donald Murray, Mandy Haggith, Jess Smith and Karen Campbell, and award-winning travel writer Kapka Kassabova.

Alan Bissett returns with his critically-acclaimed More Moira Monologues, outdoor enthusiast and expert Cameron McNeish talks about his life and career.

Scotland’s most eminent historian, Tom Devine, discusses his latest, acclaimed book, The Scottish Clearances.

Award-winning poet Janet Sutherland joins Diana Hendry, Hamish Whyte and Richard Barnett on the Poetry Platform, the festival’s poetry afternoon.

And Cinemor77’s Yurt Cinema comes to the festival for the first time, with two days of film for all ages.

Carnegie Medal-winning author Geraldine McCaughrean, along with Theresa Breslin and Lesley Glaister will be visiting local schools.

And the popular Wine And Crime event will feature Denzil Meyrick, co-founder of literary crime festival Bloody Scotland Lin Anderson, and ‘Highland Noir’ Inverness author Margaret Kirk, with Sandra Ireland speaking earlier the same day.

The festival’s music line up features Adam Ross of Randolph’s Leap returning to his home town of Nairn, Glasgow-based trio Avocet, poet and accomplished jazz musician Don Paterson with Aberdonian guitarist and composer Graham Stephen, Scottish Renaissance music ensemble Musick Fyne, plus David Godden and Friends, who will present a night of folk and traditional music in aid of MS Society Scotland.

‘Gaitherin’ Day’, on Saturday, September 7, will showcase local dance, music and drama, artisan food producers and creative workshops and activities for children.

The festival will again stage a Teen Music event, curated by a young musician and featuring music, poetry and short performances.

The festival’s music line up features Glasgow-based trio Avocet , Adam Ross of Randolph’s Leap (returning to his home town of Nairn), poet and accomplished jazz musician Don Paterson with Aberdonian guitarist and composer Graham Stephen, Scottish Renaissance music ensemble Musick Fyne, and David Godden and Friends, who will present a night of folk and traditional music in aid of MS Society Scotland.

Mavis Macdonald, chairwoman of the Nairn Book and Arts Festival, commented: “The festival’s programme is built around the concept of identity, and our events delve into who we are as people, as a small seaside community, as Highlanders, and as a nation, and the mobility and diversity of our population throughout history. Our languages are a part of our culture, and we are hosting Gaelic authors and Scots poetry and prose. We will celebrate the rich culture of the Scottish Gypsy/ Traveller community, while our Portrait of Nairnproject will tease out what Nairn means – as a place and community – to the people who live there. The festival works closely with schools, bringing visits from three of the UK’s most eminent writers. Our pre-festival Gaitherin’ Day – with music, song, dance and storytelling - will, we hope, attract many visitors from far and wide, in addition to local residents.

John Sergeant.
John Sergeant.

The festival has evolved over its 16 years to create a very desirable destination for the country’s top authors, poets and playwrights – they love coming here, and are met with highly appreciative audiences. We have more speakers coming to Nairn this year than ever before, only made possible with essential funding from Creative Scotland and the Highland Council, together with many local sponsors - we’re very grateful for that support.”

Key events in Scottish history, and the evolution of our identity as a people through migration and immigration, are explored by Professor Emeritus of Scottish History and Palaeography at the University of Edinburgh, Tom Devine (The Clearances: A History of the Dispossessed), Hebridean author Donald Murray (the Iolaire tragedy), Jane Nadel-Klein, an American professor of Anthropology (Fishing for Heritage: Modernity and Loss along the Scottish Coast), and the University of the Highlands and Islands’ David Worthington, who has written two books on the Scottish Community in Poland. Mandy Haggith’s novels bring Iron Age Scotland to life, and Gordon Noble, Reader in Archaeloogy at Aberdeen University, explores the Pictish History of the Moray Firth. Sara Sheridan, author of Where are the Women? A Guide to an imagined Scotland and Rosemary Goring, author of Scotland: Her Story, explore the roles and profile of women in Scottish history.

There will be a simultaneously translated Gaelic author talk with Maureen MacLeod discussing Banais na Bliadhna (The Wedding of the Year); former Scots Scriever, playwright, poet and novelist Hamish MacDonald is the festival’s roving poet, while Amanda Thomson discusses her Scots Dictionary of Nature.

Scotland’s Gypsy/Traveller community is a focus for the festival, featuring author Jess Smith describing the traveller lifestyle of her youth, which she has written about in a series of six books, and an exhibition, Moving Minds created from an anthology of work composed by Gypsy/Travellers across Scotland, facilitated by MECOPP, Scotland’s leading Black and Minority Ethnic carers organisation.

Portraiture and identity weave a strong thread throughout the festival’s visual arts programme with a photographic display by Lithuanian artist Evija Laivina, portraits of authors by photographer marc marnie, and a Portrait Of Nairn, combining portraits of local residents by local artists with thoughts and memories of the town by its residents and diaspora.

More festival highlights:

Kapka Kassabova discusses her book Border (2017) winner of the British Academy Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, Saltire Book of the Year, Stanford-Dolman Travel Book of the Year, and the Highland Book Prize. She will explore Bulgaria’s demilitarised triple borderland– this is followed by a screening of The Good Postman set in the same area.

Local history: Editor of The Nairnshire Telegraph Iain Bain discuses the history of Nairn’s weekly newspaper, owned and run by his family for 150 years. Professor Roy Bridges on Nairn resident James Augustus Grant’s search for the source of the Nile. In the Footsteps of Chaplin and Grigor will take visitors on a guided tour of the haunts of two well-known figures.

Guided tour of Darnaway Castle private art collection and 15th century festal hall.

Gala Dinner at Nairn Academy with Farmer Jones, former agricultural correspondent for MFR, partnered by The Sundancer and UHI.

Exhibitions also include Crossing Borders, Breaking Boundaries – an exhibition of work by five Scottish textiles artists, and a display of work by artists from Nairn’s WASPS Links Studios, the sixth New Highland Contemporary exhibition of work by Fine Art students and this year’s KEEK space artist, Charis&I.

Author and community banner facilitator Clare Hunter will produce a special festival banner celebrating Nairn at a two day workshop, and give a talk about her acclaimed book Threads of Life.

Art talks by photographic historian Lauren Barnett and this year’s festival programme cover artist Shaun MacDonald, art and creative writing workshops led by Jonathan Luxon, Jana Emburey, Martin Secret and Jayne Milne and Diana and Hamish Whyte.

The festival will again stage a Teen Music event, curated by a young musician and featuring music, poetry and short performances.

Authors in schools: Geraldine McCaughrean, Theresa Breslin, Lesley Glaister and Hamish MacDonald, and Gaelic authors Morag Anna MacNeil and BBC Alba and Cbeebies’ Linda Macleod, will visit local primary and secondary schools.

Meet your local authors: talks by James Andrew and Sarah Jane Douglas, about their creative journey.

Roving portrait artist William Mather will be carrying out three-minute sketch portraits in various venues throughout the festival week.

For further information on the festival programme, and to book tickets, visit www.nairnfestival.co.uk.

To book tickets by telephone contact: 01667 453476 / 01667 455528.

Nairn Book and Arts Festival is on Facebook and Twitter @Nairn_Festival

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