We should learn to celebrate death according to Professor Dame Sue Black and we should be hugely grateful to all those who donate their bodies to science.

Speaking this weekend at a packed event at the Wigtown Book Festival the forensic anthropologist discussed a range of subjects – from her Scottish upbringing through to the gratitude we should feel to those who donate their bodies to science.

Black’s new book All That Remainsis the work of someone who has spent her career restoring identities to the dead – including the victims of massacres in Kosovo.

Her work in the Balkans included helping identify the remains of more than 40 boys and men, aged 14 and over, who had been massacred and partly burned by Serb forces.

Over the years her work with the UK police has helped identify numerous murder victims and contributed to many criminal convictions.

Despite the profoundly challenging nature of her work, Black sees death as something we need to face up to as a society.

“We celebrate birth, when there is that lovely little baby. At the other end we ought to celebrate death – which means celebrating the life that has come in between.”

Although we live longer than in the past she does not see us being able to extend human existences indefinitely.

“As a scientist I see the body as something that wears out. No matter how many organs you replace or what you do, this is a machine that wears out.”

Despite the enormous advances in computer technology she believes that for students to learn human anatomy there is no substitute for carrying out dissections.

She used to tell students before their first dissection that what they were about to experience was “a level of gift they would never receive again”.

Black said: “It is the most incredible thing to do, to make this gift that allows young people to learn.”

The legacy is that the knowledge a student gains will inform their entire careers, potentially benefiting countless other people.

This year’s Wigtown Book Festival, from 21 to 30 September, is a landmark for an event that has grown from small beginnings to be one of Scotland’s best-loved festivals.

The line up of guests includes fiction writers, poets, broadcasters, philosophers, countryside lovers, historians and many more. There is, as ever, a substantial presence from the political sphere including Liberal Democrat MP and equality campaigner Jo Swinson and former Conservative Home Secretary Kenneth Baker.

Among the other guests are Clare Balding, Patrick Gale, Susan Calman, Louis de Bernières, comedian and radio presenter Robin Ince, historian Tom Devine, crime writer Ann Cleeves, actor, writer and comedian Arabella Weir, philosopher John Gray,mountain walker and writer Cameron McNeish and broadcaster and writer Sally Magnusson.

The festival always puts an emphasis on authors from and books that are relevant to Dumfries and Galloway. Historian Ted Cowan will discuss John Ross of Stranraer’s ill-fated voyage to discover the Northwest Passage, Shaun Bythell talks about his bestselling Diary of a Booksellerone year on and Sara Maitland presents A Pocket Pilgrimage – St Ninian’s Cave.

Julia Muir Watt will look at Whithorn: An Economy of People. Meanwhile journalist Stephen Norris explains the unique charm of the Galloway hills and Jessica Fox discusses her re-released memoir Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets, which has now been optioned by a major Hollywood film company.

There will also be a series of events as special celebrations for the 20thfestival. These include panel discussions offering writers’ perspectives on how Scotland has changed in the past two decades and what Europe will look like 20 years from now.

The festival is supported by Dumfries and Galloway Council, EventScotland part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate, Creative Scotland and The Holywood Trust.

For full details of Wigtown Book Festival go to wigtownbookfestival.com.

  • Festival goers will also be warmly invited to attend another colourful regional event – The Kirkcudbright Festival of Light, which will be taking place in Scotland’s Artists’ Town from 5 to 14 October – see kirkcudbrightlight.com.
  • Lovers of crime writing can also enjoy the Bloody Scotland festival in Stirling from 21-23 September. See https://bloodyscotland.com.

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

Picture by Colin Hattersley

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 www.EventScotland.org. 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 www.visitscotland.orgor for consumer information on Scotland as a visitor destination see www.visitscotland.com.

About Year of Young People 2018

  • A global first, YoYP 2018 is a part of the Scottish Government’s themed-year programme which focuses on celebrating Scotland’s greatest assets.
  • A year-long programme of events and festivals are taking place across the whole of the country for all ages to enjoy, led by EventScotland part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate. More information at www.visitscotland.com/yoyp2018
  • Local authorities, schools, youth groups and organisations are running their own YoYP 2018 activity. Search #YOYP2018 on Twitter for the latest news.
  • Young people co-designed the Year. A group of young leaders, Communic18, lead on all key decision making.
  • The Year is delivered in partnership between the Scottish Government, VisitScotland and EventScotland – part of the VisitScotland Events Directorate, Young Scot, Scottish Youth Parliament, Children in Scotland, YouthLink Scotland and Creative Scotland.
  • More information can be found at yoyp2018.scot, searching @YOYP2018 #YOYP2018 on Twitter or by emailing yoyp2018@gov.scot

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