The curtain is getting ready to the lift on this year’s Faclan book festival with an exciting programme of events, talks and discussions taking place in the An Lanntair arts centre Stornoway during the first week of November.
Festival organisers have confirmed some of the country’s leading writers, thinkers and commentators, who will be appearing alongside a host of high-profile authors, who are based in the Islands.
This year’s theme is North Atlantic (Cuan Siar) in celebration of the power of the sea and the festival will be rolling into shore from November 2nd to November 5th.
One of the highlights of this year’s festival is a special live event featuring ‘Akutagawa’, a new collaboration between novelist, Kevin MaNeil and close friends, Lewis-based musicians Willie Campbell (Astrid) and Colin Macleod (The Boy Who Trapped the Sun). The trio released an EP earlier this year.
Talking about the project Kevin explained: “Akutagawa is a band that consists of Willie Campbell, Colin Macleod and myself. I write the words and Willie and Colin create the music. We recorded our EP at Colin’s studio in Point and we’re thrilled with how it turned out.
“Unlike previous work I’ve done with Willie, my voice only features on one of the tracks, so I reckon it’s a better showcase for Willie’s and Colin’s musicianship and vocals.”
The band name ‘Akutagawa’ is a after a Japanese writer whose work is sensitive, but powerful and although he had a tragic life his books very much live on.
The whole idea for the project was kick-started via an invitation from Alex Smith from XpoNorth/The Ironworks. Most of the material was created by Willie, Colin and Kevin, however Jane Hepburn also added strings to the songs, adding an extra ‘wow’ factor, and Jim Hope filmed and documented the recording of the EP.
Kevin explained the creative process a little further: “We spent a fair amount of time coming up with ideas. I worked on words in London, while Willie came up with ideas when touring about the Highlands. We got together to record and Colin’s amazing knowledge of recording and songwriting skills meant the songs took on fresh layers of depth and new musical directions. The EP is very rich and tuneful and one of the songs, ‘nadarrach, miorbhaileach’/’natural, miraculous’ is a real anthem.”
It certainly seems that the live event featuring the fruits of Akutagawa’s labour will be a performance not to be missed, but this year’s sixth outing of the festival has a cornucopia of goodies for audiences.
A film programme will run alongside the literary extravaganza. And Scots Makar (poet laureate), Jackie Kay, is making her first visit to the Hebrides as part of her bid to travel all around Scotland as the new national poet.
She said; “I am enormously excited to be coming to the Faclan Festival, and to be in a part of the world I have always wanted to visit.”
She will appear in both Stornoway (An Lanntair) and North Uist (Taigh Chearsabhagh) reading from her poetry collections. See one of her works far left.
The Faclan programme also includes: Madeleine Bunting launches Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey. This new book by the award-winning former Guardian writer builds on her fascination with the outer reaches of Scotland and explores Hebridean history and culture.
Amy Liptrot has received widespread critical acclaim for her memoir of addiction The Outrun. The story tells of how, after more than a decade in London, and unable to control her drinking, Liptrot returned to the Orkney sheep farm where she grew up.
Artist Marion Coutts won The Welcome Book Prize in 2015 for her deeply moving memoir, The Iceberg, which was a response to the diagnosis, illness and death of her husband, the art critic, Tom Lubbock.
Philip Hoare’s Samuel Johnson Prize-winning book, Leviathan, or the whale, is an investigation into the dark shadowy creatures lurking in the depths of our seas which retain a perennial fascination to humankind.
Lewis-based writers Kevin MacNeil and Ian Stephen will join the line-up alongside fellow islander, writer and musician, Peter Urpeth. Urpeth will unveil a brand new live music commission to accompany a screening of the seminal silent documentary film, Nanook of the North (1922).
Tickets and full line-up are available at www.facalan.org