Apparently is the hot question on many authors’ lips. And having attended my first Ullapool Book Festival, as a reader I hasten to add, I understand why. Ullapool is a small book festival with a cosy atmosphere that attracts great writing talent.
Where is it? Ullapool is a picturesque fishing village nestled in the Scottish Highlands.
So why do artists and writers flock to its shores? Well, this is no sleepy hideaway. Ullapool is a forward-thinking community, which knows how to work its strengths. For years it’s been a staple stop-off point on the tourist trail, with both local and foreign visitors enjoying views across the scenic harbour, sampling scrummy fish and chips – and now Ullapool has established itself as an arts hub, attracting musicians, painters and book lovers, by hosting a variety of festivals throughout the year.
It was phrases such as ‘better than any other’ and ‘different to other book festivals,’ that made me decide I wanted to experience the Ullapool Book Festival for myself.
So were its advocates right? Well for starters, the village hall is where it all happens – with a single event running at any time. I attended on Friday this year (the book festival runs from Friday till Sunday) and by the end of the day I’d met other writers, chatted with members of the press, sat next to those involved with Ullapool’s two independent bookstores, made new friends… Another highlight has to be the Fair-trade tent next door, which offers a stunning selection of tray bakes – imagine something Mary Berry would be proud to serve with tea.
But back to books – and here are the writers I was lucky enough to hear…
Chris Dolan – the award-winning novelist, poet and playwright set the tone in his relaxed, humourous style by opening the event as acting chair.
Janice Galloway – is perhaps Scotland’s most famous living short story writer. Galloway used to be a schoolteacher and knows how to command an audience as she read from her latest collection ‘Jellyfish’. A fierce enthusiast of the short story form, she likened the process of pulling together a collection as not dissimilar to creating a music album – balancing the long and short, leaving the wonderful crescendo until the end.
Malachy Tallack – having heard Tallack’s travelogue, ‘Sixty Degrees North’,
J. David Simons – began with an engaging talk of what if felt like to be growing up as a Jewish boy in 1950s Glasgow and how his years working on a kibbutz shaped his writing. ‘The Credit Draper’ and ‘The Liberation of Celia Kahn’ are both novels based in Glasgow’s Jewish community in the 1920’s, whilst his latest work and third in the trilogy – ‘The Land Agent’ – is set in Palestine during the same period.
Jim Carruth – read from his verse novella, ‘Killochries’, which tells the story of a burned-out writer from the city, who spends a year in a remote sheep farm working alongside an elderly, religious farmer. Carruth is a master at saying so much, with few words.
Merryn Glover – born to a missionary family in a former palace in Kathmandu and brought up in. Her debut novel, it follows the epic journey of three generations of an American missionary family through the sights, sounds and often violent history of India from Partition to the present day.
Fiona Rintoul – journalist and translator, gave readings from her debut novel, ‘The Leipzig Affair’, which was published in November 2014 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Rintoul also shared her candid experiences of studying at university in East Germany before unification.
All this on one day. If only I’d had the time to enjoy the full three days, this blog might have been twenty pages long!
With such a wide range of thought-provoking work being discussed, I now understand why being Ullapool-d is quickly becoming a badge of prestige for authors on the book festival circuit.
Will I attend the Ullapool Book Festival again? Definitely.
Are there any book festivals you'd like to recommend?
Small it may be but look out Edinburgh, Ullapool is hot on your heels…