The Skye Book Festival springs to life again from the start of September (Thursday-Saturday September 1-3)
Over the last five years, the Festival has become firmly established as one of the highlights of Skye’s cultural calendar.
This year’s programme explores everything from gripping crime thrillers, Skye family history, music and Gaelic culture to wild outdoor activities in a series of events, discussions and debates.
A range of personalities, local and national, are involved, including The Campbells of Canna, Joanne Harris, Peter May, Ian Stephen, Cailean Maclean, Norman Macdonald and Fiona Bird.
Thursday September 1 sees a major event in the history of Skye at midday – with the launch of the The Great Book of Skye Volume 2, by Professor Norman Macdonald and photographer and writer Cailean Maclean. The first volume of this comprehensive study was launched at Skye Book Festival in 2014 and featured almost 600 significant Skye people.
The new volume, timed exclusively for Skye Book Festival 2016, brings to notice a further 275 women and men. Compiled from local and national resources, oral and written, its medley of themes makes it of interest to the scholar as well as to the person who wishes to find out about the ordinary, and the not-so-ordinary people of Skye and their kin.
Later the same day there is an event based around Cuimhneachan – Remembrance, the first anthology on Gaelic verse from the First World War. From spirited patriotic verse composed at the beginning of the war to the final tragedy of New Year’s Day 1919 and the loss of over 200 returning servicemen in the sea off Stornoway on the Iolaire, this work – published by Acair in Stornoway - is a poignant view of the war as experienced by Gaelic speakers.
Then there's Alan McKirdy, with Skye Landscapes in Stone. Skye’s geological history involves some of the most ancient rocks on the planet; a grandstand view as the Highlands of Scotland were formed over 400 million years ago and the development of one of the mightiest volcanoes ever to blow its top.
In the evening there is Stornoway-based author and storyteller Ian Stephen with his novel A Book of Death and Fish at Portree Community Library from 6.30pm and a double event at Aros starting at 7.30pm, Freeland Barbour - The Music and the Land with photography by Cailean Maclean, and Campbells of Canna in Words and Music.
Freeland Barbour is a well-known on the Scottish music scene. He is a former member of ground-breaking folk group Silly Wizard, and a founder member of two of the country’s most successful cèilidh dance bands, the Wallochmor Cèilidh Band and the Occasionals. Freeland Barbour will present his books in words, photographs and musical notation through the lands that have inspired him - covering the whole of Scotland and beyond. ‘Campbells of Canna in Words and Music with Ray Perman, Hugh Cheape and Fiona J Mackenzie looks back at how for 60 years the remarkable partnership of John Lorne Campbell and his wife Margaret Fay Shaw fought for the rights of the inhabitants of the West Highlands and Islands and sought to preserve their vanishing Gaelic culture of song and story. Together they farmed the island of Canna for 40 years before gifting it to the National Trust for Scotland to preserve for the nation.
On the second day, Friday September 2, renowned storyteller Ian Stephen will be involved in the festival’s Community and Schools Engagement programme.
Hailing from the Isle of Lewis, Ian Stephen made his name initially as a poetry-writing Coastguard in the 1990s and is now a full-time writer, storyteller and artist who draws great inspiration from being a sailor, often of traditional sailing boats.
His prose, poetry and drama have been published around the world and garnered several awards. He was both the first winner of a Robert Louis Stevenson Award and the first artist-in-residence at StAnza, Scotland’s annual poetry festival.
As a storyteller Ian sweeps listeners of all ages away into the realms of his own imagination, creating superbly crafted experience in which narrative, song, music and evocative visuals all combine to draw you into other parts of time and space.
Ian will conduct storytelling workshops in Skye schools that will include historical tales, art making and practical skills.
In the afternoon, Skye-based Morag Henriksen will launch her new book Tapestry of Scenes at a events chaired by local photographer Cailean Maclean. Cailean was born and brought up in the Outer Hebrides and has lived on the Isle of Skye for 30 years. His passion for photography developed as a Geography under-graduate at Aberdeen University and the fruits of his photographic endeavours since then include many exhibitions, publications, products and specially commissioned images. While much of his work focuses on Scotland's Highland and Islands, Cailean has also worked in Canada, France, Spain and Portugal.
Local author Morag launched her second book, Scenery of Dreams at the Skye Book Festival in 2014. By popular request, Tapestry of Scenes is a companion volume and contains a similar mix of her short stories and poetry, with artwork by herself and her family. Morag grew up in Lochcarron and was a teacher at schools in Edinburgh, Portree and Uig. An artist, poet and singer, she has lived on the Isle of Skye since 1967 and has two sons, Ross and Scott, both artists.
In the evening, the guest writer is Joanne Harris who will present her latest work, a gripping new psychological thriller Different Class which is set in the same eerie fictional town of Malbry as her previous thrillers Gentlemen and Players and Blueeyedboy.
Joanne Harris was born in Barnsley in 1964, of a French mother and an English father. She studied Modern and Mediaeval Languages at Cambridge and was a teacher for 15 years, during which time she published three novels, including Chocolat (1999), which was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.
Since then, she has written 15 more novels, two collections of short stories and three cookbooks. Her books are now published in over 50 countries and have won a number of British and international awards.
Comments about Different Class include: “A magnificently plotted and twisty journey...darkly humorous...constantly wrong-foots and misdirects...up to a satisfyingly eccentric conclusion” – Observer
“Slowly, Harris reveals tiny clues, withholding full explanations until the startling denouement. Classy writing, sensitive and moving” – The Times
“A masterpiece of misdirection” – Val McDermid
The chair for this session is acclaimed writer Roger Hutchinson, who has been based on Raasay for many years. His books include Camanachd: The Story of Shinty; Polly: The True Story Behind Whisky Galore; The Toon: A Complete History of Newcastle United; and Aleister Crowley: the Beast Demystified. His first book for Scottish publishers Birlinn, The Soap Man was short-listed for the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year award in 2004. His second for the company was the bestselling Calum’s Road.
The Saturday events encompass walks, poetry, craft-making, conservation, local history…and, of course, books and authors, including the internationally recognised Peter May.
Saturday 3rd September starts with South Uist-based author Fiona Bird and her Let Your Kids Go Wild, an Outside Workshop for Families and Children at 11am
Those taking part are asked to get crafty and creative with nature. Introducing her new book, Let Your Kids Go Wild Outside, Fiona will help those involved discover the best places to forage and play. Fiona’s workshop will include outdoor craft making, seashore discovery, animal tracking, attracting bugs, as well as developing hunting and gathering skills and maybe even a chance to tuck into some wild edibles!
Fiona teaches children about their environment, including conservation guidelines and tips on how to forecast the weather. Armed with this knowledge, the outside adventure goes into the woods, meadows, seashore, water and wetlands and finishes with my wild garden and kitchen developing hunting and gathering skills, with seasonal recipes made from natural ingredients.
NFU Countryside said of Let Your Kids Go Wild Outside: ‘In this inspirational book, with ideas for children of all ages... Fiona Bird shows the value of playing outside and discovering nature…it’s nicely illustrated and packed full of exciting projects that will keep your children interested and outdoors for hours on end!’
Another morning events is a Poetry Walk with former Portree librarian Davie McClymont and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Professor Norman Macdonald. Only 15 spaces are available for a walk which includes the landscapes of Coilleshadder and Fingal’s Seat, the views of Ben Tianavaig and the Sound of Raasay. And chance to hear, made relevant to a Skye landscape, the poetry of local and international writers, such as Meg Bateman, Seumas Heaney, Sorley MacLean, John Keats, Aonghas MacNeacail (Angus MacNicol), and Robert Frost. Book ahead to enjoy the craic, the history, the grasshoppers and the nightingales.
In the afternoon, there’s the chance to join Fiona Bird again for The Forager’s Kitchen Workshop. Foraging may be the latest food trend, but it is a pastime that passionate cooks have long enjoyed. The Forager’s Kitchen demonstrates, foraging can result in some truly scrumptious dishes.
Fiona Bird, a tenacious forager who has been gathering food for many years, will show that you can eat off the land wherever you live. Once you have brought your bounty home, there are more than 100 simple recipes for you to try.
The last event of the Festival brings celebrated author Peter May to Portree, for an occasion sponsored by Talisker whisky. Peter May is the multi award-winning author of the Lewis Trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides; China Thrillers, featuring Beijing detective Li Yan and American forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell; Enzo Files, featuring Scottish forensic scientist Enzo MacLeod, set in France; and Entry Island, the latest of several standalone books
He has also had a successful career as a television writer, creator, and producer. In his latest work, Peter May brings murder back to the Outer Hebrides with his recently published Coffin Road. A man is washed up on a deserted beach on the Isle of Harris, barely alive. He has no idea who he is or how he got there. The only clue to his identity is a map tracing a track called the Coffin Road…
FESTIVAL AT A GLANCE
Thursday 1st September
The Great Book of Skye 2 with Norman Macdonald and Cailean Maclean 12.00pm • £4.00
Cuimhneachan - Remembrance Chair: Murdo Beaton. 2.00pm • £4.00
Alan McKirdy - Skye Landscapes in Stone Chair: Davie McClymont. 3.00pm • £4.00
Ian Stephen - A Book of Death and Fish at Portree Community Library. 6.30pm • FREE
DOUBLE EVENT: Freeland Barbour - The Music and the Land with photography by Cailean Maclean. Chair: Cailean Maclean. Followed by Campbells of Canna in Words and Music with Ray Perman, Hugh Cheape and Fiona J Mackenzie. 7.30pm • £8
FRIDAY 2ND SEPTEMBER
Ian Stephen - Storytelling Events – Community and schools engagement. FREE
Morag Henriksen - Tapestry of Scenes Chair: Cailean Maclean. 2.00pm • £4.00
Joanne Harris - Different Class Chair: Roger Hutchinson. 7.30pm • £8.00
SATURDAY 3RD SEPTEMBER
Fiona Bird - Let Your Kids Go Wild Workshop for Families and Children 11.00am • £2.00
Poetry Walk with Davie McClymont and Norman Macdonald 11.00Am • FREE
Fiona Bird - The Forager’s Kitchen Workshop. 2.00pm • £4.00
Peter May - Coffin Road Chair: Mark Wringe. 7.30pm • £8.00 This event is sponsored by Talisker