Borders Book Festival unveils a packed programme for this summer’s celebration of literature and life

The Borders Book Festival programme is announced and tickets go on sale, as the annual extravaganza – now a stalwart of the literary calendarlaunches its 21st edition, featuring well-known names from fiction to politics, sport to current affairs, health and wellbeing to comedy, history to science and philosophy, and children’s literature favourites to new, emerging voices.

This year the book festival runs from Thursday 13th to Sunday 16th June, in its spiritual home of Melrose’s Harmony Garden, in the idyllic Scottish Borders.

Highlights of the packed four days of events include: two legendary female comedians – Scotland’s own Janey Godley and, from south of the border, the fantastically funny Jo Caulfield — discussing with typical humour, candour and warmth their acclaimed memoirs; from the world of politics, Labour Shadow Cabinet MP Wes Streeting with his autobiography, recounting his rise from a life of poverty in London’s East End to the Palace of Westminster; also well-informed Westminster insider, broadcaster Robert Peston and former MP Alan Johnson with their new novels; memoirs, too, from BBC stalwarts Clive Myrie and recently retired Rory Cellan-Jones; publishing sensation David Nicholls, of One Day fame, celebrating his latest sure-to-be-a-hit novel, You Are Here; former BBC Breakfast presenter Louise Minchin with astonishing female stories of courage and adventure; nature-lover and queen of cosy Kate Humble with her refreshingly pared-back approach to the good life; explorer, writer and filmmaker extraordinaire Benedict Allen; fashion designer, businessman and star of The Great British Sewing Bee, Patrick Grant; and the ever-fabulous Rory Bremner on stage with fellow legendary comedian Fred MacAulay.  

Also joining the line-up: crime-writing royalty Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre and Mark Billingham, both for bookish chat and a performance from their band The Fun Lovin Crime Writers; for history fans, Philippa Langley giving a glimpse into solving the cold case of the Princes in the Tower, royal biographer Robert Hardman on King Charles III, WW2 historian James Holland and Scottish historian Steven Veerapen examining the life and reign of James IV (James I of Scotland); Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson with his new novel What Will Survive of Us, and Charlie Higson with his latest James Bond novel; festival favourite James Naughtie returns with his personal take on the state of the nation in an election year; plus the announcement of the prestigious Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, with six shortlisted international literary talents in contention for the £25,000 prize. 

The book festival is also honoured to host, in this Paris Olympic year, a very special event on the centenary of Scotsman Eric Liddell’s historic 400m win at the 1924 Olympics — also in Paris — which was immortalised in the 1981 blockbuster film Chariots of Fire in which he is portrayed by fellow Scot Ian Charleson (and later, in 2012, by local Borders actor Jack Lowden in the West End stage play).  In an Adam & Company Event, unique to the book festival, Sally Magnusson, Liddell’s biographer, will be joined on stage by: Allan Wells, the Scottish athlete who dedicated his 1980 100m sprint win at the Moscow Olympics to Liddell, even before Chariots of Fire had been released and Liddell’s popular legacy secured; Eilidh Doyle, Olympic and Commonwealth medallist and an ambassador for the Eric Liddell 100 Programme; and Liddell’s niece Sue Caton.

Festival Director, Alistair Moffat, said:

It’s time to start making plans for those long, light, balmy days at the height of the Scottish summer, and what better event to pop in the diary than our annual celebration in our very own Borders slice of heaven, Melrose’s Harmony Garden.

This year sees our programme again offer something for every taste: whether that’s literary fiction, comedy, sport, politics, health, current affairs, history or travel – all of life is here.

And we sincerely hope that you will all be here, too, as we revel in the joy of gathering in high summer to talk about the things we love with the people we love, before whiling away a gentle afternoon or evening surrounded by (and partaking in) delicious food and drink, enjoying the gorgeous scenery, and absorbing the chitter-chatter of friends and other festival goers alike.  All the good things in life. 

So do come and join us for the biggest party in the Borders!” 

The Baillie Gifford Children’s Programme takes place throughout the day on the Saturday and Sunday (15th & 16th June), packed with exciting author events, including: beloved author and former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo OBE, now celebrating 50 years in print, with more than 35-million books sold; the wonderful Abi Elphinstone with Ember Spark and the Thunder of Dragons; festival favourites Vivian French and Alan Windram; Josh Silver and Sally Nicholls with their young adult novels Dead Happy and Yours From the Tower, respectively; Craig Graham and Mike Stirling – both former Beano editors — with a very special Beano event; and debut author Fiona Carswell with her joyful story of friendship and acceptance, The Boy Who Loves to Lick the Wind, illustrated by acclaimed artist Yu Rong.

The four-day Borders party will also play host to live music, the Orchard tented food village, and free, fun activities for all the family, making the Borders Book Festival a great day out for young and old alike (and all those in between!)  

The Borders Book Festival is committed to reducing its carbon footprint and environmental impact by implementing a number of net zero goals including: zero waste to landfill;  e-ticketing and a donation to planting trees for every ticket purchased.  

Councillor Scott Hamilton, SBC’s Executive Member for Community and Business Enhancement, said: 

I’m delighted Scottish Borders Council is again supporting the Borders Book Festival, in its 21st year.

The Scottish Borders has a great portfolio of successful home-grown strategic events, with the Borders Book Festival being one of the biggest.  Its continued success has a positive economic impact in our region, as well as bringing people to the Borders helping to showcase what this area has to offer.

It’s important to note that the support we provide to the Borders Book Festival and other event organisers goes beyond grants and includes a wide variety of in-kind support, as well as advice and signposting to other potential funding opportunities.

I’m very much looking forward to another successful and packed Borders Book Festival in the beautiful Harmony Garden.”

Tickets now available at www.bordersbookfestival.orgor by calling 0131 290 2112.