Book festival review

The Orkney Book Festival, a festival with many high points.

If the measure of a good festival is enjoyment, participation and the furthering of interest then the Orkney Book Festival (9th-12th November) was very successful indeed. The festival included a diverse range of workshops, readings and opportunities to meet and speak with writers from the local area and abroad in venues from Shapinsay to South Ronaldsay and across the mainland.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the Orcadian open mic session held at the Orkney Library and Archive on Saturday afternoon. The audience were entertained by Simon Hall’s almost seasonal Skipper Gunn’s Christmas and Morag Macinnes’s telling of the tale of Isobel Gunn. Emma Grieve spoke of the ‘warmth of words’ and the particular sweetness on Orkney of hearing the words, ‘You’ll dae.’

Two new writers emerging from Alison Miller’s sessions supported by Scottish PEN treated the gathering to new work. Ingrid Grieve put spring back in our minds, much needed this time of year, with the ‘peedie wren singin its heart oot,’ in her gem of a poem about the seasons, while Barbara Johnson took us down memory lane with her piece Entering the Orkney Library sixty-three years on.

The end of the festival on Sunday evening in Stromness Town Hall also provided excellent entertainment with Tim Morrison in fine form, wonderful Shetlandic poems from Christine De Luca and a chance to hear Amy Liptrot on home turf.

The George Mackay Brown Fellowship should be congratulated for organising and hosting a festival with a truly inclusive and inspirational atmosphere that brought together and showcased the many diverse writing talents connected to Orkney.

Gabrielle Barnby

Orcadian, Dec 7th, 2017