Literary triumph for Wigtown Book Festival

Wigtown’s children made a memorable contribution to the Dark Skies strand of activities at this year’s Wigtown Book Festival on Monday, when around 15 youngsters aged seven to 11 joined in with local singer-songwriter duo The Cochranes to entertain festival-goers.

The concert, A Little Night Music, took its inspiration from the region’s unspoiled night skies and the nearby Dark Sky Park in the Galloway Forest. The programme included songs written for the occasion. Booksellers Ian Cochrane and Joyce Watson have sung at the Edinburgh Fringe and numerous folk festivals and appeared on BBC1’s Countryfile and the popular TV series Dales Diary. They perform original songs based on travels in America, Europe and Scotland. With the help of Wigtown’s children, they presented Shooting Star and 2000 Men from Galloway.

“The children have only been practising for about six weeks with the help of their music teacher Rachel Hart,” said Joyce. “They were truly amazing and once they started singing there wasn’t a dry eye in the Baillie Gifford!”

A Little Night Music aimed to celebrate Wigtown’s success in the 2012 Creative Place Awards, when the town won the sought-after accolade of Scotland’s Most Creative Small Town.

This year’s Wigtown Book Festival was made possible by the backing of principal sponsor Baillie Gifford. The festival’s funders include EventScotland, Dumfries & Galloway Council and Creative Scotland.

Children’s Marquee

Saturday, October 6

It was a great day in the Children’s Festival both in the marquee and elsewhere with a host of great writers providing entertainment for all ages.

There was a quiet start to the second weekend with Dumfries and Galloway poet and writer Tom Pow appearing to talk about his book “When the Rains Come”. The small gathering of children enjoyed an enlightening and instructive event, going away having learnt a little of the language of Malawi, how to identify Africa on a map and the charity Malawi Underprivileged Mums. This sounds like a lesson but Tom Pow is an experienced story teller and he engaged the children from the word go with a presentation that was both informative and fun.

Shalla Gray

Charlotte’s Woolly Yarn

It’s not easy keeping a young audience interested for almost an hour but new writer Shalla Gray managed very well. The Kirkcowan-based author and illustrator of “Charlotte’s Woolly Yarn: A Spin Around South West Scotland” had interactive songs, a reading of her lovely book, colouring and a fantastic activity in her event. Each child received a laminated picture of the shorn Charlotte with a sticky body so that they could recreate her fluffy fleece with cotton wool balls they had to find from places all over the Baptist Church hall. The toddlers, and older children, loved it and went home clutching their pictures and prizes from the colouring competition.

Jonathan Meres

The World of Norm: May Cause Irritation

The kids who went along to see Edinburgh based author Jonathan Meres soon counted themselves very lucky; the man is hilarious. Children and adults laughed till their tummies hurt for the full hour of his event. It came as no real surprise that the man used to be a stand up comedian, though he complained that no one goes on about his jobs as an ice cream driver, failed rock star and seaman. He eventually got round to reading from the latest in his series of books about the World of Norm, written because he dislikes books about fantasy and magic. Norm is a 13 year old struggling with the demands of real life in a really funny way, no wonder tv comedian Harry Hill describes him as ‘one of my comic heroes.’ The character is about to feature in one of the author’s hero comics. At the end of this month Norm will be making a star appearance in The Beano. Although Jonathan has had previous books turned into television series he was more excited by The Beano guest slot than anything else; quite right too.

Debi Gliori

What’s the Time, Mr Wolf?

Debi Gliori is a firm favourite at Wigtown Book Festival and a quick look at any of her extensive back catalogue would show you why. Her books are as delightful and entertaining as the author herself. She gave a little illustrated talk starting from her passion for drawing as a child before going through some of her books and explaining why she wanted to create a story where the wolf is not the villain. Her new book features a friendly wolf and many familiar fairy tale characters. In an insight into the working life of a writer she explained how her children came back from school one day to find her in the garden shed squeaking with her eyes closed – trying to understand the three blind mice might feel. After a reading of this wonderful new book Debi taught everyone how to draw a friendly wolf and everyone went home happy.

Stuart Reid

Gorgeous George and the Geriatric Generator

It was great to see many new faces amongst the authors at this year’s Children’s Festival and I’m sure many of the audiences will be hoping that they become regulars like Debi Gliori. Jonathan Meres was certainly one in that list and new writer Stuart Reid was another. It is hard to believe that until relatively recently he was working in a managerial role for Asda as he’s taken to his new job like a duck to water. Since the publication of his first book the demand for school appearances has meant that he’s now become a full time writer. Just as well, as following a stint at the London Book Fair he has been signed up by a top agency and asked to write scripts for a tv version of his books which will begin filming next year. At this rate Wigtown will be lucky if they can book him next year even though this was his first appearance at a book festival. He was a huge hit with the kids as he talked about bogies, baddies, bums and a town called Little Pumpington.

Steve Smallman

The Monkey with a Bright Blue Bottom

The fun didn’t stop until the final whistle at the Children’s Festival with another fun day in the marquee on Sunday. Steve Smallman, who has been illustrating and writing for 20 years read just a small selection of his past work and entertained the kids with drawings of characters suggested by them. He had a large, very young audience, many were toddlers and he did well to keep them all entertained for a full hour. He finished with a recital of his very latest story which will not hit the shops until next spring, Dr Duck. It sounds like it’s going to be another winner from this witty and accomplished writer.

Chae Strathie

The Loon on the Moon

What’s fascinating about the Children’s Festival is how different the authors are, though many are writing for the same audience, and how contrasting their presentations can be. Fife based author Chae Strathie entertained the children with action songs, rhymes, a story hat, and his guitar. Oh, and he did a little drawing, though he admits he’s not an illustrator. It was all great fun and showed that the Children’s Festival had been great from start to finish in terms of author events. The grand finale in the marquee was a Winnie the Pooh party for all the family featuring games, stories and songs inspired by the classic books by AA Milne.