Meet Gavin Barwell at Wigtown Book Festival – as a former PM’s chief of staff, journalists across the country have been turning to him for insights into the current turmoil at Number 10.

Serving under Theresa May he had the closest possible view of what it’s like when governments are in a period of acute crisis.

Lord Barwell, who is at the festival on Saturday to discuss his book Chief of Staff, is just one of many attractions during Wigtown’s second weekend.

The 10-day celebration of literature, stories and storytelling has been enjoying a first week packed with great speakers, events and activities of all kinds.

Among the hits have been two special commissions supported by EventScotland for Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022 – the Into The Nicht literary and poetic night-time guided walks and a performance piece called The Bookshop Untold.

The Bookshop Untold, which takes place in the Old Bank Bookshop, has been created by director and theatre-maker Nikki Kalkman from Glasgow. She said: “Audiences find themselves in an enchanted bookshop, a strange place where, once the closed sign has been turned and the customers have departed, weird and wonderful things start to take place.”

It’s a storytelling performance where a mysterious bookseller who takes audiences on a journey through history, Scottish literature, art, love, and loss. 

A sell-out success has been Deception Island, a fully immersive arts and poetry experience inside a replica Antarctic scientists’ hut, which takes audiences back to a remote and frozen research station in the late 1950s and 60s.

Adrian Turpin, Wigtown Book Festival artistic director, said: “In a week that’s seen the most astonishing turmoil we are all wondering what it must be like in Number 10. 

“Gavin Barwell is one of the few people who has had a ringside view of what it’s like for a prime minister, cabinet ministers and their aides during a political tempest. 

“Right now journalists are turning to him for his insights and we suspect that a lot of Wigtown Book Festival visitors are going to be fascinated by what he has to say.

“And this is just one of the many superb events and activities we have lined up for the second weekend – and comes in the wake of a first week that has seen audiences enjoy great speakers, live music, theatre, film, guided walks and so much more.”

Among the guests so far have been former Teletubby Nikky Smedley (who played Laa Laa) who met Big Wig, the festival’s children’s mascot, writer, columnist, political activist and rapper Darren McGarvey aka Loki, Deacon Blue frontman Ricky Ross, TV’s Red Shepherdess Hannah Jackson and actor Gerda Stevenson.

Among the events still to come are:


  • The Whithorn Trust Event: Bishops, Bones and Burials – see new talking 3D reconstructions unveiled of a 14th-century woman and high status priest excavated at Whithorn Priory.
  • Sally Hinchcliffe: Hare House – a folk horror tale on a Scottish estate.
  • Andrew Cotter: Dog Days – the lockdown hero whose videos of Olive and Mabel cheered millions during the pandemic.
  • Imogen Stirling: Love the Sinner – show from one of Glasgow’s top poet-performers.


  • Murray Pittock: The Magnusson Lecture – Scotland: The Global History.
  • Steve Brusatte: The Rise and Reign of the Mammals.
  • Chitra Ramaswamy: Homelands – a true tale of friendship between a girl from India and a refugee from Nazi Germany.
  • Jeremy Bowen: The Making of the Modern Middle East.
  • Mairi Kidd: We are all Witches.
  • Wigtown Poetry Prize – unveiling the winners of Scotland’s international three-language annual poetry awards.


  • Gavin Esler and Joyce McMillan: Panel discussion – Crisis. What happens next?
  • Flora Fraser: Pretty Young Rebel – a life of Flora Macdonald.
  • Gerry Hassan: Scotland Rising – fresh arguments for Scottish political autonomy.
  • Melinda Salisbury: Her Dark Wings – on an island near the entrance to the underworld lives a modern-day Persephone.
  • Jack Hunter’s Galloway: a celebration of Wigtownshire’s great chronicler. 
  • All in a Day’s Work: Book launch in which local writers respond to items at The Devil’s Porridge museum which records the history of the vast WWI ordnance factory at Gretna. 

Tickets and full programme

– Ends –

Notes for editors

Picture by Colin Hattersley

About Scotland’s Year of Stories

  • Led by VisitScotland, the Year of Stories 2022 will sustain and build upon the momentum of preceding Themed Years, showcasing a nationwide programme of major events and community celebrations.
  • From icons of literature to local tales, Scotland’s Year of Stories encourages locals and visitors to experience a diversity of voices, take part in events and explore the places, people and cultures connected to all forms of our stories, past and present.
  • Scotland’s Year of Stories will encourage responsible engagement and inclusive participation from the people of Scotland and our visitors.
  • Join the conversation using #YS2022 and #TalesOfScotland.
  • Following an industry consultation, Themed Years will take place every second year to enable more time for planning and collaboration. The next Themed Year will take place in 2024.

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

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