The first Lennoxlove Book Festival was held in the wonderful old Lennoxlove House (seat of the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton) on Friday and Saturday last week. I went along as a volunteer on the Saturday, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Whether it was setting up chairs for events in the Great Hall, marshalling queues for signings and the genetics ‘spit-kits’, checking tickets in the big marquee, aligning spotlights, or just smiling and greeting folk, it was all enjoyable. Best of all was stewarding within events, when I got to hear the authors as bonus. Those events included Jim Wilson’s Scottish DNA project (I am an ex-scientist after all), Lari Don’s mesmerising storytelling for children event (about wolves), in the Great Hall, with the daylight fading and the log fire burning in the huge fireplace, Simon King’s fascinating talk in the marquee, with the tent sides flapping in the breeze, Martine McCutcheon’s illuminating and entertaining interview, and Hardeep Singh Kohli’s late night corduroy cabaret spot. Lari and I were judges for the North of Scotland leg of the BBC’s Off By Heart competition earlier this year, so I had met her, but I hadn’t seen do her storytelling until Saturday – she was wonderful, and the children clearly enjoyed it. Martine is intelligent, articulate and extremely engaging. There was no hint of showbiz or celebrity in her sparkling personality – she came across very naturally and very well. Simon King was another one whose personality impressed and engaged. He’s passionate about wildlife, and I loved hearing the ‘behind the scenes’ stories of the making of wildlife documentaries. Hardeep was very funny, but managed to get across some serious points about the BBC and its management culture.
After the final performance, we volunteers were asked to a party, which was a fantastic bonus. Alistair Moffat, Festival Director, was a fine host, and it was lovely to get the chance to talk to Martine and to Simon, and to renew acquaintance with Michael Morpurgo and Hardeep, both of whom I’d met at StAnzas past. Apropos of nothing, I’ve never seen heels higher than those Martine was wearing, but they suited her. The team spirit of staff, volunteers and participants was tremendous, and I’m looking forward to next year already.