A special event has been held to thank the army of volunteers who make the Wigtown Book Festival possible – ahead of the 20thannual event.

Around 150 adults and children, aged from under 10 to over 80, give time throughout the year carrying out an enormous range of tasks.

Most are from Dumfries and Galloway, some are from the Central Belt and in past years they have even come from America.

Yesterday evening (5 September) a special event was held at The Print Room in Wigtown, attended by Dumfries and Galloway Council Leader Councillor Elaine Murray, Derek Crichton director of communities (who was part of the council’s support team when the town won its status) and festival Operational Director Anne Barclay, and around 80 volunteers.

Anne said: “From its earliest days to this year’s 20thevent, the story of the festival has been all about the willingness and enthusiasm of the volunteers who were determined to make the festival a success and to help revive the economy of Wigtown.

“Over the years it has built from a small weekend event into a 10-day extravaganza that attracts authors and audiences from all across the UK and the rest of the world.

“The volunteers do everything from delivering leaflets to stewarding events and even driving speakers backwards and forwards to railway stations and airports. They are the public face of the event – they are also its body and soul. It would be impossible without them.”

Many people love being a volunteer for the buzz of being at the heart of a community-based cultural event.

Among them isNanette Craig, who will be 85 on the second day of the festival, and has been helping out for more than a decade.

She said: “I love being part of the festival, it’s great fun and it keeps you young.”

Nanette moved to the area 60 years ago when she married a local farmer and they retired to a house in the town in 2002.

She said: “I love it here, there’s such a strong sense of community. But the town had become so run down with empty shops and houses. It really needed a boost and that’s what the festival has done.”

Her volunteering duties tend to be out on the streets as “a smiling face”, chatting to visitors and providing directions and information.

Among the guests she recommends this year are Clare Balding and Susan Calman and past favourites include Joanna Lumley.

One of the younger volunteers is Helena Cochrane, aged 13,whose family run the Old Bank Bookshop and who eagerly looks forward to the festival each year. Her roles extend from delivering leaflets to introducing speakers at events that are part of the children’s festival.

This time she is looking forward to catching up with the likes of Cathy Cassidy, Ross Mackenzie, Chae Strathieand Vivian French.

Helena said: “I really enjoy being part of the festival, it’s always been part of my life. And it’s great to have the chance to meet so many authors and illustrators.”

Morag Donnan, who was the head of the primary school in the nearby village of Sorbie for 20 years, provides accommodation for each year for a festival sponsor and also provides transport for visiting authors.

She began volunteering about a decade ago acting as a steward, she then began working in the box office and nowadays does an afternoon a week in the Wigtown Festival Company book shop.

She said: “I have always worked with people and I love books, so this is something I very much enjoy. And I also think it’s a wonderful thing that here, in the back of beyond, we have an event that is so successful and has become well known around the world.”

Morag also enjoys meeting authors and is particularly looking forward to Sally Magnusson’s appearance.

Councillor Adam Wilson, the Council’s Events Champion, said:“The regeneration of Wigtown has been a comprehensive community effort, based upon the efforts of volunteers.

“The obvious pride the book festival volunteers have for Wigtown and the event is crucial to its success and ensures visitors a warm, genuine welcome. The creativity and commitment of the Festival Company to support the Book Town initiative is an internationally significant example of rural development.”

For full details of the Wigtown Book Festival, from 21-30 September, go to wigtownbookfestival.com.

  • Festivalgoers 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.
  • The festival is supported by Dumfries and Galloway Council, EventScotland (part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate), Creative Scotland and The Holywood Trust.
  • 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 [email protected]

About Wigtown Book Festival

  • The event is for people of all ages and tastes. There is a strong programme for children and young people.
  • Among the guests this year are presenter Clare Balding, bestselling author Patrick Gale, comedian 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, and Mike Morley shares stories of sacrifice and bravery from his book Wigtown Warriors. 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 20th 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.

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 [email protected]

Picture by Colin Hattersley

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