Veteran international war correspondent and photojournalist David Pratt has been invited to deliver this year’s Magnusson Lecture at the Wigtown Book Festival.

Over the past four decades he has offered understanding and insights into the people and the tumultuous events that shape today’s world.

A regular contributor to the BBC, Contributing Foreign Editor with The Herald on Sunday and Sunday National, and a columnist on international affairs with The National, David has delved behind the propaganda spread by governments and political groups in search of realities. 

He has chatted with voodoo worshipping gunmen in Haiti and hiked over the Hindu Kush mountains with Afghan guerrillas. He took tea with Osama bin Laden, interviewed Congolese warlords and reported from the frontlines of the Arab Spring uprisings and subsequent wars that erupted from them.

Delivering this year’s Magnusson Lecture he reflects on some of his most colourful and difficult experiences and reveals the new challenges facing those reporting from warzones in a changing world.

He said: “Amidst our new world disorder there has rarely been a greater need for eyewitness reporting from the frontlines of the world’s trouble spots. But with a few admirable exceptions you’d be hard pressed to find it among much of our media.”

Among many accolades for his work, David has been named Journalist of the Year in the Scottish Press Awards. He has also twice been Reporter of the Year and twice Feature Writer of the Year and is a five times finalist in the Amnesty International Media Awards for human rights reporting.  

Author of Intifada – The Long Day of Rage a book about the Palestinian uprisings, he is currently completing a memoir about his boyhood and years as a war correspondent. A BBC Scotland television documentary about this life and work will be broadcast later this year.

Adrian Turpin, Artistic Director of Wigtown Book Festival, said: “This will be an absolutely gripping talk – David has led an adventurous and dangerous life, visiting the most troubled parts of the world in order to make sure that we are fully informed about what is going on there.

“We owe an enormous debt to journalists like David, because they take the risks, face the uncomfortable truths and ask the difficult questions that stop us becoming victims of propaganda. Sadly this is something that is increasingly under threat, but must be defended.”

David Pratt’s Magnusson Lecture is entitled Witness to Warand takes place in the Festival Marquee on Saturday, 28 September, 3pm. It will be illustrated with some of the breathtaking pictures he has taken during conflicts all over the world.

The annual lectures are a centrepiece of the Wigtown Book Festival. They commemorate the life and reflect the interests of the academic and broadcaster Magnus Magnusson.

Picture by Colin Mearns.

  • You can also see David Pratt’s photographic work on display in an exhibition called Only With the Heart – War Photographs at Sogo Arts, 82-86 Saltmarket, Glasgow, G1 5LY. Opens Sunday 8 September 12 noon – 6pm then 10-am- 6pm daily except Monday and ends on 8 November.
  • For full details of Wigtown Book Festival go to

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For further information and interview requests contact Matthew Shelley on 07786 704299 or Matthew@ScottishFestivalsPR.Org  

Festival themes

Epic North: A short strand that takes a fresh look at Northern European epics, from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Finland and Scandinavia. Sessions include discussions of a key passage of the text. Book them all for a serious discount. 

This Farming Life: A series of events on the life agricultural, including the Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen and three of Galloway’s finest farmer-writers. Plus put your wellies on and see behind the scenes on inspiring visits to three very different farms. 

Lost Province: The story of Galloway is written in its place names, which reveal an extraordinary variety of languages: Gaelic, Anglo-Saxon, Scots, Norse and Cumbric, the Brittonic language closely related to Old Welsh. The Lost Province celebrates the region’s past as a melting pot, through new writing, translation, illustration, speaker events and even an archaeological survey. 

A Year of Conversation: Wigtown Book Festival is part of A Year of Conversation 2019, a Scotland-wide collaborative project about the potential for conversation to make our lives better. Events include The Wigtown Feasts, a town-wide invitation to eat together. 

Bookspired: A mini film festival within WBF19, supported by Screen Scotland, where cinema and books meet. Films include 1984The Snow Goose and Angelou on Burns, Elly M Taylor’s remarkable documentary about Maya Angelou’s fascination with Scotland’s national bard. In association with Driftwood Cinema.

Year of Indigenous Languages:In the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages, we celebrate Scotland’s own. Activities include two days of drop- in Gaelic events and the relaunch of Wigtown’s Scots and Gaelic poetry prizes. We also ask why minority languages matter and welcome Celtic cousins from Galicia. 

Out and About

From brewery tours to birding, cycling to botany, we encourage visitors to make the most of a trip to the festival by getting out of Wigtown and seeing some of the many other attractions that make Galloway special. We even provide ride shares. 

For younger visitors

  • WigWAM is the new name for our young people’s festival, programmed and run by a dedicated team of volunteers aged 13-25. For the first time this year, you will find WigWAM events in our main listings. And they are open to all ages – but free for under 26s. 
  • Big Wig will offer lots of fun and inspiring events for our youngest festival goers – starting off with a Caterpillar Party to celebrate the 50thanniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Some of this year’s guests

  • Kirsty Wark, bestselling author and one of the most trusted names in British news will be talking about The House by the Loch, inspired by her own childhood memories and set in rural Galloway.
  • Legendary barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC will spill the beans in a talk about his entertaining memoir Rather His Own Man, recalling his battles on behalf of everyone from George Harrison and the Sex Pistols to Salman Rushdie and Julian Assange.
  • Melanie Reid, who was paralysed from the top of her chest down after falling from a horse, talks about The World I Fell Out Of, a powerful account of how she rebuilt her life.
  • Matthew Parris looks ahead to his forthcoming work Fractured, which draws on his Radio 4 series Great Lives to consider whether genius comes from the wreckage of a fractured childhood – considering eminent figures from Freddie Mercury to Marie Curie. 
  • Scottish rugby legend Doddie Weir will be a particular highlight as he discusses a remarkable sporting career and his campaigning for motor neurone disease research.
  • Kathleen Jamie, winner of the Saltire Book of the Year and the Costa Award for Poetry, talks about her new book Surfacingwhich blends memoir, cultural history and travelogue, exploring how the changing natural world alters our sense of time. 
  • The mother of all confessional shows from the bestselling author and star of The Fast Showand Two Doors DownArabella WeirDoes My Mum Loom Big in This?is for everyone who’s had a mother or been a mother, featuring hair-raising hilarious true stories from Arabella’s dysfunctional childhood and her life as a single working mother.
  • Carol Drinkwater became a household name as Helen Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small. Her “Olive” memoirs sold more than a million copies
  • and have been followed by a series of epic novels. They latest is The House on the Edge of the Cliff
  • Nathan Filer, former mental health, won the Costa Book of the Year Award for his bestselling debut novel The Shock of the Fallabout a young man with schizophrenia. In his non-fiction work A Breath on Dying Embershe returns to the subject, debunking myths.   
  • Steve Jones, one of the UK’s best-known scientists, shows how life on Earth is ruled by our nearest star which nourishes and destroys all life. Here Comes the Sundazzlingly links science, politics and culture. Steve is a Senior Research Fellow at University College London. 
  • Historian Tom Devine speaks on The ‘Death’ and Reinvention
  • of Scotland. By the late 18th century Scotland was prospering in the Union. But some believed this came at a cost: Anglicisation and the end of an ancient identity. Sir Tom looks at this “crisis” and reaches surprising conclusions. 
  • Eunice Olumide was signed to the catwalk when she was just 16. Since then she has worked all over the world for designers including Mulberry, Alexander McQueen and Harris Tweed, as well as collaborating with the V&A. Along the way, she has championed diversity and stood up for ethical fashion. In How to Get Into Fashionshe talks about a remarkable career. 
  • In the 1960s Tony Laithwaite, a student from Bolton, took a job washing bottlesin Bordeaux. So began a 50-year affair with wine. His wonderfully engaging memoir Direct is a love letter to France and the grape, and the wonderful characters he met on his unlikely journey to becoming Britain’s most successful wine merchant. 
  • When Jackie Morris heard about the removal of words such as kingfisher, bramble, and acorn from a junior dictionary, she had to act. The result was The Lost Words, her award-winning, beautiful collaboration with Robert Macfarlane. She talks about our relationship to the natural world under threat, a subject she has also written about in the introduction to the lost childhood classic The House Without Windows
  • Shaun Bythell runs The Bookshop in Wigtown. It should be an idyll for bookworms. Unfortunately, Shaun also has to contend with bizarre requests from people who don’t understand what a shop is, home invasions during the Wigtown Book Festival, and his neurotic Italian assistant who likes digging for river mud to make poultices. He tells
  • all about his new set of bestselling diaries.

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Wigtown Festival Company Ltd, 11 North Main Street, Wigtown, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland, UK, DG8 9HN © 1999 – 2018. Wigtown Festival Company Ltd is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status.                                       Scottish Charity No. SCO37984.