Author announcement - Ken MacTaggart

We're going a bit intergalactic this year! Not only do we have Alan Windram's new book One Button Benny for early years, but Dr Ken MacTaggart is also joining us for a family-friendly exploration of Outer Space. From the Space Age to space tourism, with slideshows and fun demonstrations, this promises to be a great session with something to interest all ages!

Ken is a journalist who covers spaceflight and astronomy topics, and he has worked in many countries as a writer and technology adviser. Ken is also co-editor of NASA’s Apollo 11 Flight Journal and has contributed to The Scotsman, The Herald, The Independent and other newspapers and magazines.

Ken is also the author of Haynes' Astronaut Manual, which was recently BBC Sky at Night ‘Book of the Month’. In it he interviewed most of the surviving astronauts who made nine trips to the Moon and back almost 50 years ago. Ken's book also features some fantastic photography by British astronauts Tim Peake and Helen Sharman.

Ken’s interests cover the human side of spaceflight, the Scottish origins of several astronauts, and how the lives of these intrepid explorers were changed by their unique viewpoint on the Earth. Ken's family originates on Islay.

Author announcement - Linda Macleod

We're delighted to announce that Linda Macleod is going to be joining us this year to visit Bowmore's Gaelic medium students and to offer a children's Gaelic storytelling and song session over the festival weekend.

Originally from North Uist, Linda is already well-known as a Gaelic singer and has more recently been busy across Scotland representing the Gaelic Books Council as its Young Gaelic Reading Ambassador.

Read more about Linda here:

Linda's sessions are sponsored by the Gaelic Books Council.

Welcome to Islay Book Festival’s new website as we enter our second decade!

Ceud mìle fàilte! We’re so thrilled to be launching this new website, created by the talented Rhianna Jones, as an online platform for Islay Book Festival as it enters its second decade. Although our programme is not yet 100% confirmed, we’ve included some of our session information here so that you can have a browse of the new site and get a glimpse of how the festival is coming together. Our finalised programme will be launched in July, so please do check back then for full details and even book a few tickets!

In the meantime, make sure you check out which events have already been opened up for early bird booking. Due to anticipated interest, we’ve opened online booking for our two evening events, Colin MacIntyre’s ‘From Stage to Page’ and Sara Sheridan and ES Thomson’s ‘Criminal Conversation’. And due to limited places and the need for pre-booking, we’ve also opened up early booking for our two adult bookbinding workshops (see one and two here) and our writing workshop. Don’t forget to use your ‘Early_bird’ discount code for 10% off when you purchase your tickets (valid until 31 July).

And while you’re visiting our website, please also take a look to the top left of your screen, where you’ll find a super logo designed for us by S1 art student, Sarah MacPherson, from Islay High, developed into digital format with the help of Brian Palmer and Rhianna Jones. We’ll be featuring this design at our festival this year, so make sure you pick up some branded merch while you’re here!

So what’s on at the festival this year? After our break in 2016, this autumn, from 29 September to 1 October, Islay Book Festival is aiming to bounce back in a big way. With an enthusiastic new team of volunteers in place, the festival is planning a lively programme of events aimed at increased variety, community engagement, and especially fun!

Islay Book Festival first grew out of a book club based in the village of Port Ellen, hosting its first festival in 2006. Islay has since held ten successful festivals in Port Ellen and has hosted a range of famous authors including Val McDermid, Ruth Rendell, Ali Smith, Julia Donaldson, Iain Banks, Chris Brookmyre and Mairi Hedderwick to name a few.

In just ten years, Islay Book Festival has gained an established presence on Islay’s busy events calendar and has also become a feature of the UK’s annual book festival circuit, and it is a particularly popular festival for authors. Who wouldn’t want a trip to Islay, after all?

As the festival approaches its eleventh instalment, the team has decided it’s time for a fresh approach. The festival is going to be on the move this year, based more centrally in Bowmore but with events happening across Islay in order to make the most of what this fantastic island has to offer and in a bid to reach as many people as possible. The festival will include writing workshops, guided walks, bookbinding, Gaelic storytelling and song, poetry, music, puppetry, crime, science, a ‘Meet the authors’ tea, books in the wild, and much more. We’re so keen, in fact, that we’re also about to add an extra day to the festival so that we can hold some events on Jura this year, so watch this space!

Authors and participants included in our exciting programme of events, for both adults and children of all ages, are Colin MacIntyre (Mull Historical Society), Helen Sedgwick, Sara Sheridan, ES Thomson, Pauline Prior-Pitt, Alan Windram, Barbara Henderson, Linda Macleod, Ken MacTaggart, Ryan Van Winkle, and Islay’s own Jenni Minto and Les Wilson, with more to confirm. Also featured will be Corinna Krause of Sollas Bookbinding.

There may also be whisky…

While you’re waiting for the confirmed programme to be announced, watch out for our authors’ books that we’ve been releasing into the wild across the island! Check phone boxes, benches, cafes, hostels, hotels, public toilets, bus shelters, distilleries. You might get lucky and find a free book! Please take it away with you, read it, and then leave it somewhere for someone else to find. Our books have already travelled as far as Hull and London. We look forward to seeing where they’ll go next and hope they'll carry news of our festival with them.

– Posted by Isla

Fundraising around Islay

Our fancy bright orange collection boxes have arrived!

If you see one of these on your travels around the island and you have a bit of loose change, we'd be really grateful if you would consider popping some of that in the box for us!

Many people don't realise that Islay Book Festival is a charity and we have to fundraise each year in order to put on the festival. The more money we raise, the more we can offer our islanders and visitors in the way of events, so every penny really does count!

All donations will support this year's festival.


Many thanks from us 😊

Author announcement - Alan Windram

And it's time for another author announcement! One for our younger audience this time!

We are really looking forward to Alan Windram's visit this year, which is going to be lively! Alan is the author of the hugely popular Mac and Bob series of picture books. Alan's exciting new robot picture book, One Button Benny, illustrated by Chloe Holwill-Hunter, will be published this summer.

Alan also works with Sticky Kids theatre, which regularly tours schools and theatres throughout the UK, and Alan is an accomplished singer-songwriter with four independent albums under his belt. He has toured extensively with some of Scotland's top musical artists.

Alan lives in Argyll and Bute with his wife and two cats, Sparkie and George.

Our travelling books - An update (1)

Exciting times as our first #IBFwildbooks catch from Port Askaig bus shelter has travelled all the way to Hull Interchange!

Here's the great note about Sara Sheridan's On Starlit Seas that we received from the person who picked up the book:

"My husband and I were at the annual whisky and music festival, waiting for a bus to a distillery. My husband loves whisky and I love the settings of most distilleries and enjoy learning about the process. I saw the book and thought it a great idea to release a book to encourage reading. I love reading but this was a new author to me. It came with us from Islay down to Hull for the City of Culture festival and I found it a great read. We are travellers and it was interesting to read of a historic female writer who travelled independently. I recommend this book for a journey. I am leaving the book at Hull Interchange."

We hope to see many more of these #reviewsfromthewild

Our travelling books

We have lift-off for our travelling books! 📚

To coincide with whisky week, we're going to start releasing our festival authors' books out into the wild around Islay! Watch out for them over the next few weeks in phone boxes, bus shelters, benches, cafes, hotels, public toilets, ferries... Who knows where else?

Many thanks to the generosity of our authors' publishers for gifting us the books, and to our volunteers for helping to place them around the island. Even the Islay Book Festival baby 'helped' with the packing!

We look forward to seeing where the books end up! Please pick one up, take it with you, log it on with the code provided in the book, read it (of course!), review it (if you want to), and then leave it somewhere for someone else to pick up.

Tweet us if you find one of our books at @IslayBookFest #IBFwildbooks


Author announcement - Pauline Prior-Pitt

Author announcement: We're really looking forward to welcoming Pauline Prior-Pitt to Islay to inject some lively poetry into the book festival this year!

Pauline is an award-winning poet based on North Uist, whose readings attract large audiences. She has appeared on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Pick of the Week and With Great Pleasure, and on Channel 4 and Central Television. Pauline will share some of her poems on islands, growing older, and read from her new anthology about women.

Fundraising for Islay Book Festival

Just a wee reminder that we have a fundraising page set up with Just Giving. We're not aiming to raise all of our festival funds from this (you'll be pleased to know because there's currently only £20 on there so far!), but it's mainly intended to facilitate individual online donations, should people feel inclined to be generous.

We have a lot of new initiatives planned for this year, including travelling books, book gifting, workshops, and community outreach events. Every penny counts towards making these a reality.

Want to donate? Visit -

Author announcement - Colin MacIntyre

Author announcement: we're delighted to have the multi-talented Colin MacIntyre, aka Mull Historical Society, joining us this year for an evening of music and words featuring his fabulous debut, 'The Letters of Ivor Punch', which won Edinburgh International Book Festival's First Book Award in 2015.

Colin is already a well-known, award-winning musician, having toured with the likes of The Strokes, Elbow and REM. But Colin also comes from a family of storytellers. He is the grandson of Angus MacIntyre, the 'Bard of Mull', and has promised to read some of his grandfather's poems. Something about Islay cheese being an aphrodisiac in Italy... If you want to find out more, you'll have to come along!

Author announcement - Helen Sedgwick

Author announcement: We're very pleased to have Helen Sedgwick joining us this year to talk about her wonderful debut novel, The Comet Seekers, which won wide critical acclaim across the UK and now also in the States. According to The Herald, “Helen Sedgwick’s story of many lives linked by comets over earth is brave, tender, vivid and magical.”

Helen will also be talking about her next book, The Growing Season, which is out in September this year, and generally joining in the festival fun!

Find out more about Helen here -

Author announcement - Barbara Henderson

Author announcement: we're thrilled that children's author Barbara Henderson will be joining us at this year's festival to talk about her wonderful book 'Fir for Luck', which is a great little Highland Clearances drama centred around a feisty twelve-year-old girl.

Barbara has been building up quite a following with her fun school visits, which have included baking beremeal scones, drama workshops, and more, so we're looking forward to a fun-filled event (no pressure, Barbara)!

We'll run an author feature on Barbara in the Ileach soon, and we'll keep you updated with details of her festival session over the next few months.

Check out her website here -

Author announcement - ES Thomson

ES Thomson was the very first author we invited and we're really excited that she'll be joining us at this year's festival to discuss gothic Victorian crime writing and gory surgical procedures!

Elaine's first book in the Jem Flockhart series, 'Beloved Poison', was so well received that it was shortlisted for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year in 2016 alongside Val McDermid, Doug Johnstone, and Chris Brookmyre. Her next instalment, 'Dark Asylum', has just been released and people are already raving about it!

Author announcement - Sara Sheridan

Author announcement: we're super excited to be welcoming Sara Sheridan to this year's festival to talk about historical thrillers, intrepid women, and much much more! There'll be an author feature on Sara appearing in the next Ileach, and we'll keep you updated about Sara and the details of her festival session over the next few months.