Bumper programme for return of Faclan

Faclan: the Hebridean Book Festival has announced it will return to An Lanntair at the end of October, with tickets on sale from this week.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 10:31 am
Updated Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 2:02 pm
The festival will close with an evening devoted to Harris-based artist Steve Dilworth
The festival will close with an evening devoted to Harris-based artist Steve Dilworth

Following last year’s online programme, this year’s Faclan marks a full return to live events for the annual book festival, which has been running for over a decade. The 2021 event will run for four days from Wednesday 27th October to Saturday 30th October, mostly in An Lanntair’s auditorium.

This year’s theme, ‘Islands: Worlds in Isolation’, was inspired by the lockdown, as well as the festival’s location. Subjects to be explored range from abandoned places across the world (with Cal Flynn, writer of Thicker Than Water) to the history of lighthouses and foghorns (with Donald S Murray and Jennifer Lyn Williams). The festival will close with an evening devoted to the Harris-based artist Steve Dilworth.

Festival director Roddy Murray said: “The words isolation and insular have the same Latin root: insula[ris] meaning ‘of or pertaining to an island.’ Both though, can have negative or pejorative associations. Insular being usually a synonym for withdrawn or introverted, while isolation tends to denote loneliness, incarceration or, topically, quarantine. The term ‘self-isolating’ is now in common use and has of course, become a common term.

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"In this year’s Faclan programme though, we go well beyond that. We will ‘dwell’ on islands as destinations, anchor points, oases of nature, sanctuaries. On islands inland, portable islands, the romance and mystery of islands, and the beacons that guide and warn us as we navigate our way through fog and the night in these murky times.”

As audiences tentatively return to live venues, this year’s Faclan will offer several low-priced or free events as part of its Fringe programme, as well as a festival pass priced, for the first time, at only £45.

On Wednesday 27th October, Lewis storyteller Ian Stephen hosts Spàrr/ Rivet, a storytelling and film event drawing on traditions from Lewis and Govan and featuring collaborations with fellow artists Laura Cameron-Lewis, Mike Vass and Christine Morrison. On Saturday 30 October a single £10/£8 ticket will get you into three events exploring different aspects of Gaelic culture and language. Air an Àiridh: Shielings: Islands on the Moor, will explore moorland history and the archaeology, tradition and folklore of the shieling. Ruairidh MacThòmais: Derick Thomson Centenary will consist of an hour of readings from Derick Thomson’s work in his Centenary year, with Anne Frater; while Dùileach: Elemental features an appearance from poet and musician Marcas Mac an Tuairneir.

The Faclan Fringe programme will also include a ‘scratch night’ with works in progress by Lewis artists, and Sgoil Àiridh: Moor Tour with Mairi Gillies and Tom Maciver, a guided, creative walk to a cluster of abandoned shielings on the Ness moor with stories about who used them and why.

Previous Faclans have brought a wide range of authors to Lewis, from Richard Dawkins to Jackie Kay. Notable guests this year include Gavin Francis, who spent ten years travelling across all the world’s seven continents and has written six books of non-fiction and Gavin Francis will appear on Thursday 28th October to talk about Island Dreams: Mapping an Obsession, an examination of our collective fascination with islands,

Also on Thursday 28th October, David Gange will appear to talk about his book Frayed Atlantic Edge, described as “a journal and a journey of a year kayaking the Atlantic coastlines from Shetland to Cornwall”. And Highlands writer Cal Flyn’s Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post Human Landscape, will explore ‘abandoned places: ghost towns and exclusion zones, no man’s lands and fortress islands’ and ask ‘what happens when nature is allowed to reclaim its place?

Jennifer Lucy Allan – appearing on Friday 29th October to talk about her book The Foghorn’s Lament: The Disappearing Music of the Coast – is a British musicologist, writer and radio presenter. Her book is described as ‘an obsessive odyssey told through the people who battled the sea and the sound’.

She will appear in a double header event with Lewis writer Donald S. Murray, well known for his novel While the Women Lay Dreaming. A regular contributor on BBC Radio 4 and Radio Scotland, Murray will join Allan to talk about the history and allure of Scotland’s lighthouses.

Lighthouses are also the subject of two other events on Friday 29th October. Gone: The Flannan Isles Disappearance 1900 is an illustrated account by John Love of the mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse keepers in December 1900, which has become one of the enduring mysteries of the sea. Earlier in the day you can watch a fictionalised version in the shape of the film The Vanishing, starring Gerard Butler and Peter Mullan, one of a series of films programmed in response to Faclan’s theme, from The Lighthouse to The Last Picture Show.

On Saturday 30th October, MSP Alasdair Allan will present Tweed Rins tae the Ocean.

Although he lives on Lewis, Allan originally comes from the Borders and his Faclan event will follow an east to west coast walk that explores the area’s history, literature and language. “It should be no surprise that a book by a politician about a political boundary offers occasionally opinionated views,” said Allan. “However, I hope that the account of my journey from Berwick to the Solway Firth will be appreciated by anyone who likes dry humour and wet weather.”