Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Birnam Book Festival

I'm back home after spending a wonderful long weekend in Scotland, taking part in the Birnam Book Festival. Yes, that's Birnam of Macbeth fame, a tiny village which together with Dunkeld, on the other side of the River Tay, is home to about 1500 souls but has more to offer than some places ten times the size. Including the legendary Birnam Oak (pictured above), close to the river and Birnam Hill, looming over the village. There's a strong sense of community about the place and the venue for the festival events is an extremely impressive arts centre which adjoins a Beatrix Potter garden (Beatrix loved the neighbourhood, and it's easy to see why). The village even has its own very pleasant bookshop, The Birnam Reader which also serves coffee and cake and is definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.

My event was a conversation about Lives of Crime, expertly chaired by bestselling novelist Fiona Valpy, who talked to myself and Scottish crime novelist (and true crime writer) Douglas Skelton. Douglas and I had never met before, but the session proved highly enjoyable and an hour and a half whizzed by. Other highlights were an opening reception at an art gallery and studio whose delightful proprietor, Mridula Basi, was previously one of Scotland's few women police officers of Asian heritage. She's also an extremely good artist.

We were lucky to be able to stay at Dunaird Cottage, in the grounds of the turreted home of Scott and Nicky Herbertson. If you fancy a trip to the gateway to the Highlands, this is an ideal base, and we were able to explore locally (the Hermitage and Ossian's House, a great walk) and a bit further afield - the Scone Palace (full of history) and Blairgowrie. I also loved having the chance to examine at close quarters Scott's wonderful collection of crime novels as well as the books for sale through his Hadwebutknown  book dealership.

I've often made the point that organisers of festivals work very hard to make their events a success and certainly the Birnam team deserve a great deal of congratulation. It's never an easy task, but as we emerge from lockdown life, it's even more challenging. Suffice to say that everyone rose to the challenge admirably. And from a personal point of view, I was thrilled to discover after my event was over that Manchester City had risen to the challenge of winning the Premier League for a fourth time in five years. That really put the icing on the cake!

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