Lewis writers at Ullapool Book Festival

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WITH less than a fortnight to the start of the seventh annual Ullapool Book Festival to go, it’s not too late to plan a trip across the Minch for what the Festival’s new Honorary President, James Roberston, calls ‘the most intelligent weekend of the year’!

And this year the Festival, held in Ullapool village hall from May 6 – 8, continues to punch well above its weight attracting, as it always seems to, an impressive collection of outstanding literary names: two of whom hail from Lewis.

Peter Mackay, or BBC Alba and originally from Ness, will present and discuss his ‘stimulating and well-researched book’ (Kevin MacNeil in The Scotsman) on the major Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean as part of an Open University sponsored session on the Festival’s Saturday afternoon (May 7).

Peter, himself a poet, has lectured on 20th century literature at Trinity College, Dublin and Queen’s University, Belfast, and has written widely on contemporary Scottish, Irish and Scottish Gaelic literature.

His critical study of Sorley MacLean has already established itself as the most authoritative work on the Nobel-nominated poet, with Kevin MacNeil describing the book as: “a genuinely important work of contemporary literary criticism.”

Peter’s session at the Ullapool Book Festival therefore promises to be a rare treat.

And another treat is in store on Saturday morning with native and resident of Stornoway, Ian Stephen, taking his theme ‘islands -a journey from one to another’ to the Festival’s Breakfast Stories session.

Ian worked for many years for the Coastguard Service before becoming a full-time writer, and much of his work explores themes and concepts associated with navigation.

When he appeared at the Ullapool Book Festival in the early years, Iain mesmerised the audience, so his Breakfast Stories are defiantly an event to catch this year.

Among the other writers at the 2011 festival is Linden MacIntyre, a Canadian investigative journalist and award-winning novelist who is a native of Cape Breton, with family roots in South Uist.

His father was a native Gaelic speaker for whom Gaelic was the preferred medium of communication in his dealings with other Gaelic speakers, especially his parents who had difficulty speaking English.

Gaelic is also to the fore with Maoilios Caimbeul, the Skye poet who has published six verse collections. He is also the author of six children’s and teenage novels in Gaelic, one adult novel Teas (Ùrsgeul, 2010) and a Gaelic grammar workbook for schools.

And Robert Alan Jamieson, whose novel Da Happie Laand was short-listed for the Saltire Book of the Year award, will also be there, as well as John Burnside, poet, novelist and memoirist.

Award-winning Don Paterson will rub shoulders with Chris Powici (poet and editor of Northwords Now) and Doug Johnstone and Aidan Moffat, and all will rub shoulders with what A L Kennedy has called ‘the listeningest audience ever’, because a unique feature of Ullapool Book Festival is the extent to which audience and writers mingle and engage in a continuing ‘conversation’ throughout the weekend.

A full and detailed programme is available online on the Ullapool Book Festival website: www.ullapoolbookfestival.co.uk.