I was helping out again this year, mostly behind the scenes. However, the organisers did ask me at very short notice to chair a Friday night session in the Great Hall with the crime fiction writer Quintin Jardine. It’s a genre I don’t generally read, so I had to acquire and read his latest novel very quickly to prepare for the event. I thoroughly enjoyed his book, as it happens, and I quickly drafted my list of questions. Quintin, with more than 30 novels published, is a thorough professional, and we got on well. It was a relaxed and friendly evening, and the audience were very appreciative.
For the rest of the weekend I was in the Great Hall team, setting up and taking down the room, stewarding, doing the safety announcements, and otherwise smoothing the wheels. Lennoxlove House is a magnificent building, the seat of the Dukes of Hamilton, with some parts dating back to the 1300s.
The capacity of the Great Hall is around 100 – 120, and the really big events were staged in the main marquee, which has 250+ seats. One of the highlights for me was the Sunday morning session with children’s author Kristina Stephenson, autor of the Sir Charlie Stinky Socks books. The little ones sat on the floor as she marched up and down, sang songs, opened giant foamboard books and handled umpteen props. Even the grownups joined in the songs. Huge fun.
Other authors who impressed me very much were Sarah Dunant and William Fiennes. Sarah’s a historical novelist who discussed her themes with great passion and authority. William’s latest book, The Music Room, is an autobiographical piece which deals with the epilepsy and death of his older brother, in a moving but unsentimental way. His writing is poetic and intense.
Over the course of the weekend I met and talked to many of the authors taking part in the Festival. James Naughtie was friendly, informal and approachable, Simon King was delightful and enthusiastic, as was Mary Contini.
I’m already loking forward to next year.