Inspirational talks and a taste of herring at Tarbert Book Festival

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There was plenty for fans to enjoy at this year’s Tarbert Book Festival.

The seventh annual book festival featured a wide variety of fascinating writers who offered audiences a range of quality events.

The event opened with a special treat for school pupils.

On Friday October 25 in Tarbert Academy, Scottish artist and illustrator Kate Leiper visited to talk to the children about how to illustrate a book – featuring  her work ‘The Book of the Howlat’.

There followed an afternoon Gaelic session with Donald S Murray, writer and poet, for upper primary pupils.

Lucy Blake ran a primary school poetry competition on the theme of nature and had a fantastic response to this – Tarbert Academy Primary, Clachan and Achahoish each had poems on display at the Templar Arts and Leisure Centre and the winners prizes from Loch Fyne Gallery and a framed copy to take home.

The public part of the festival dawned on Saturday, opening on a bright but showery autumn day with ‘Herring tales’ – Donald S Murray’s non-fiction book about the history of how the herring has impacted on European culture. The subject matter proved popular in the setting of Tarbert.

Next on was Herald and Sunday Herald columnist Rosemary Goring with ‘Scotland, Her Story: The nation’s history by the women who lived it’. The audience enjoyed a fascinating talk from Rosemary and discussion afterwards.

Donald S Murray presented ‘As the Women Lay Dreaming’, his well-received novel of the Iolaire disaster, the anniversary of which was in January this year. It was powerful stuff.

Saturday afternoon saw one of the highlights of the festival when delighted  organisers welcomed Melanie Reid, journalist and writer of ‘The World I Fell Out Of’, recently shortlisted for the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year.

The feeling among the packed Templar hall audience was of privilege to hear this remarkable woman talk about her book which chronicles how she became disabled after a horrific riding accident and how she continues to battle against the life-changing effects of it.

On Saturday evening, Stonefield Castle Hotel was the venue for acclaimed Scottish musician Freeland Barbour and actor Gerda Stevenson, who took the audience on a journey of music and song focused on Freeland’s book ‘The White Rose of Gask’ – Lady Nairne, Scotland’s prolific songwriter.

Gin tasting provided by Bienn An Tuirc distillery started the evening off nicely.

As Sunday dawned, Alan Brown, up for the Saltire Scottish First Book of the Year award for ‘Overlander: Bikepacking coast to coast across the heart of the Highlands’ presented a fascinating account of his work.

Next was Catherine Czerkawska, on a return visit to the festival with her true crime book investigating the murder in 1881 of her ancestor John Manley and the impact this had on her family.

On Sunday afternoon, bringing the festival to a tasty conclusion, cookery writer Sue Lawrence took the audience on a recipe tour of the Scottish islands in conversation with Loch Fyne Gallery owner Lesley Taylor.

Roll on 2020 and the eighth Tarbert Book Festival.


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Melanie Reid offered a candid and moving account of her life since a horse riding accident in 2010. no_a44TarbBookFestMelanieReid01

The cover of Melanie Reid’s book, recently shortlisted for the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year award. no_a44TarbBookFestMelanieReid02