Scotland’s National Book Town is gearing up for a friendly invasion of book lovers when the annual Wigtown Book Festival gets underway this week.

Authors and authorities of every kind will be talking about a multitude of subjects including new evidence about the Viking Age Galloway Hoard – one of the greatest discoveries of buried treasure ever made in Britain.

There will be more from the “Dark Ages” with events looking at great European Epics such as the Anglo Saxon Beowulf and the Norse sagas.

One of the festival’s key themes is The Lost Province – an exploration of Galloway’s past as a melting pot of Norse, Gaelic, Anglo Saxon, Scots and Cumbric invaders and settlers and how their languages, art and culture helped shape one of Scotland’s most remarkable regions.

The festival starts on Friday 27 September and runs until 6 October and will see a host of well-known names taking part including Kirtsy Wark, Arabella Weir, Sinead Gleeson, Kathleen Jamie, Doddie Weir, Prof. Steve Jones, Ruth Davidson MSP, Geoffrey Roberston QC, Tom Devine, Melanie Reid, supermodel Eunice Olumide and Matthew Parris.

They will be joined by the likes of wine mogul Tony Laithwaite, author and illustrator Jackie Morris and Wigtown’s own best-selling author Shaun Bythell who is publishing a new set of his bestselling diaries, called Confessions of a Bookseller.

At the same time the festival is giving away thousands of free tickets for under-26s in its ongoing work to promote a love of literature and creativity among young people.

Adrian Turpin, Artistic Director of Wigtown Book Festival, said: “The 21st Wigtown Book Festival looks like being an epic. Advance ticket sales are almost 10% higher than ever before and we are offering more than 275 events from talks, debates and readings to music, theatre, film and feasts.

“We are really looking forward to welcoming visitors of all ages and from every part of the world to Scotland’s National Book Town. 

“This year we are have a programme packed with everything from history, archaeology, Dark Age treasure hoards and mythical monster slayers to contemporary fiction, current affairs, poetry, true-life stories and young people’s literature.

“And it’s precisely the friendliness and intimacy the festival offers, plus the chance to discover the very best writers and writing, that makes Wigtown so special.”

With 2019 being the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages, the festival will celebrate the power of conversation and will celebrate the country’s three native languages – English, Gaelic and Scots. 

The brand new Wigtown Feasts, in association with A Year of Conversation, will involve a series of simultaneous suppers in houses across the town in order to give visitors, festival guests and residents that chance to mix, chat, dine and gain new perspectives.

This children’s programme Big Wig, continues to grow, and will begin with a party celebrating of the 50thanniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

For the first time the line-up for young people’s festival, under the new name of WigWAM, has been integrated into the main programme. The events are open to all but free to under 26s.

  • The Riddle of the Runes, The Whithorn Lecture – Dr David Parsons reveals new evidence relating to Saxon runes within the Galloway Hoard. Sponsored by the Whithorn Trust and taking place on Saturday, 5 October, 10.30am.

Before the festival started Dumfries and Galloway Council Events Champion Councillor Adam Wilson dropped by to see how preparations were going. While there he met Wigtown Festival Company board member Sandra McDowall, Ellie Marshall (8) who goes to Wigtown Primary School and Big Wig – mascot of the children’s programme, which Ellie is looking forward to.

For full details of Wigtown Book Festival go to

Picture by Colin Hatterley.

– Ends –

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. 

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.
  • Ruth Davidson became Scottish Conservative Party leader in 2011, just six months after becoming an MSP. She discusses her book Yes She Can which combines the story of her own rise with her conversations with 17 mould-breaking women in fields as diverse as science, politics, the military, business and sport. 
  • Barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC will spill the beans in a talk about his 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 Surfacing which 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 Show and 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.
  • 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 Sun dazzlingly 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 Fashion she talks about a remarkable career. 
  • In the 1960s Tony Laithwaite, a student from Bolton, took a job washing bottles in 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.

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 50th anniversary of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

About EventScotland  

EventScotland is working to make Scotland the perfect stage for events. By developing an exciting portfolio of sporting and cultural events, EventScotland is helping to raise Scotland’s international profile and boost the economy by attracting more visitors. For further information about EventScotland, its funding programmes and latest event news visit Follow EventScotland on Twitter @EventScotNews

EventScotland is a team within VisitScotland’s Events Directorate, the national tourism organisation which markets Scotland as a tourism destination across the world, gives support to the tourism industry and brings sustainable tourism growth to Scotland. For more information about VisitScotland see or for consumer information on Scotland as a visitor destination see

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.