News

Literary stars to deliver online tonic for troubled times

Angus MacKinnon previews this month’s online Islay Book Festival.

Scots Makar Jackie Kay has agreed to open this month’s Islay Book Festival in a welcome filip for the event, which is being held online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alexander McCall Smith, the bestselling author famed for his uplifting storytelling and optimistic view of the world, will also help deliver a literary tonic for troubled times.

The big names’ support was described as ‘fabulous news’ by festival chair Isla Rosser-Owen. ‘Alexander McCall Smith is a global bestseller and Jackie always has something insightful and interesting to say. We’re really looking forward to hosting them and of course all the other writers taking part in our first digital festival.’

Real-time poetry writing with Kornel Kossuth, a children’s ‘How to Draw a Dragon’ session with Kate Leiper, and music from Islay Sessions regular Gráinne Brady and The Bookshop Band are also on the menu for the 27–30 August event.

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Islands facing “calamitous” Covid fallout

Islay and the rest of the Highlands and Islands are facing a “calamitous” fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, one of Scotland’s leading historians has warned.

Speaking to The Ileach ahead of his participation in this year’s online Islay Book Festival, Professor Jim Hunter said the collapse of tourism under lockdown underlined the need for new thinking on how to diversify island economies and unlock their full potential.

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Our Hebridean offering to the digital landscape

Our chair, Isla Rosser-Owen, introduces this year’s digifest, which she calls “our own unique, informal Hebridean offering to the digital landscape”. As well as highlighting some of the events she’s most looking forward to, Isla also talks a bit about why we decided to go digital this year, saying that “just because we’re a small festival on an island off the south-west coast of Scotland does not mean that we don’t have a valid contribution [to make], it does not mean that we can’t have a seat at the digital table too”.

Watch the full announcement below, and while you’re at it, please do subscribe to our YouTube channel!

IBF2020 to go digital

Dear friends and supporters

All of us on the Islay Book Festival committee are very sorry to announce that we won’t be holding a physical festival this year.

We had been hoping that the situation might have improved enough by the end of August to allow us to hold this year’s event as planned, but due to the current lockdown we have found it increasingly difficult to progress with our planning in the meantime and, more importantly, we do not want to be the cause of any additional risk to the health of our volunteers or the island communities in which we operate over the next few months.

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IBF2020: Alexander McCall Smith and Sally Magnusson to headline island book festival

Alexander McCall Smith will be setting sail for Islay this summer after the international bestseller was confirmed as part of a stellar line-up for the whisky island’s annual book festival.

Joining him at the August 27-30 event will be broadcaster and writer Sally Magnusson, Highland historian Jim Hunter, and acclaimed poet and writer Kathleen Jamie.

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Stacey MacLean talks about her residency on Islay last summer

Cape Breton native Stacey MacLean spent three weeks on Islay last summer on a Gaelic writer’s residency organised by Islay Book Festival and funded by a grant from the British Council. During her time on the island, Stacey visited local schools and community groups, and joined in with conversation classes at the Bowmore Gaelic college. She also took part in several events at the 2019 book festival, including a memorable bilingual evening of song and storytelling that was supported by funding from the Islay Energy Trust.

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Charity whisky auction for Down’s Syndrome Association

Many of you may know Orla, Islay Book Festival’s youngest volunteer whose principal role is to charm the authors! Orla is a very cute three-year-old, and she also happens to have Down’s Syndrome.

At this year’s festival, Orla worked her magic again and managed to schmooze Ian Rankin into signing a couple of whisky bottles for our raffle (not that she drinks them herself!). The winner of the raffle prize has kindly offered to auction it off as a charity bottle in aid of Down’s Syndrome Association, and you can find it listed at Royal Mile Whisky Auctions, one of Edinburgh’s online auction sites.

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A dram with Ian Rankin: Islay Book Festival special event unveiled

Ian Rankin is to discuss the role whisky has played in his work and life at this summer’s Islay Book Festival, organisers announced on Friday as tickets for a special event at Laphroaig Distillery went on sale.

In the atmospheric setting of the 200-year-old distillery’s Filling Store, Rankin will be chatting to leading whisky writer Dave Broom about his passion for single malt and how he passed it on to his most famous creation, Inspector John Rebus.

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The Sound of the Hours: An Interview with Karen Campbell

Scots novelist Karen Campbell made her name with the Anna Cameron series of police novels before publishing two critically acclaimed contemporary dramas: Rise, set against the backdrop of the 2014 independence referendum, and the refugee story This is Where I Am.

Now the graduate of Glasgow University’s Creative Writing Masters programme has turned her hand to historical fiction with The Sound of the Hours, a powerful tale set in the final stages of World War II around Barga, the Tuscan hill town to which many Scots Italians can trace their roots.

Published in July by Bloomsbury, Campbell’s latest work tells the story of Frank Chapel, one of the black American “Buffalo Soldiers” who played a pivotal but long-underplayed role in the liberation of Italy, and Vittoria Guidi, a young Scottish-Italian woman caught in the middle of an occupied town and a divided family.

Karen, who will be talking about her new novel at this year’s Islay Book Festival, spoke to the festival’s Angus MacKinnon about how her latest work came about and how it fits into her eclectic writing career.

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