Ullapool Book Festival announces 2015 guests

Val McDERMID, photographed by Charlie Hopkinson � 2009
Val McDERMID, photographed by Charlie Hopkinson � 2009

Ullapool Book Festival has announced the names of the writers who will be guests at its eleventh festival to be held from Friday 8 May to Sunday 10 May in Ullapool Village Hall.

Its honorary president, Scottish author Louise Welsh (who will also be reading at the festival) said: “The Ullapool Book Festival has long been a highlight on my calendar. It is a truly international, truly local weekend. This year it offers an opportunity to engage with writers from Canada, South Africa, Malaysia, Dublin and around the corner. Readers can meet bestselling authors whose books they may have followed for years and discover new favourites that might otherwise have eluded them. Whatever the weather, the welcome is always warm, the level of debate high and the home baking superlative.

“If I had to sum up the festival in two words I would say, Variety and Quality.”

The festival’s Canadian author this year is Michael Crummey, an award winning poet and novelist from Newfoundland. Zoë Wicomb is a South African writer who lives in Scotland where she is Emeritus Professor in English Studies at Strathclyde University. In 2013 she was a recipient of Yale’s 2013 Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction.

Chiew-Siah Tei was born and grew up in Malaysia. She has since the 90s won awards for her Chinese prose, including Hua Zong International Chinese Fiction Award and National Prose Writing Award. In 2002, Chiew was nominated Best Prose Writer of the year. She came to Scotland in 2002 and has since published two novels.

Dublin author Nuala Ní Chonchúir will be talking about her novel The Closet of Savage Momentos set in a fictionalised version of Ullapool. Nuala worked in a hotel in Ullapool for several months in the early 1990s following university and the book is based on her own experiences.

The festival is delighted to welcome the two bestselling Scottish authors Val McDermid and Christopher Brookmyre, both of whom have been on its wish list for a number of years.

Aberdeen-born novelist Kerry Hudson’s first novel, Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma was winner of the Scottish First Book Award. Her second novel Thirst was published last year.

Two previous Ullapool Book festival guests make a return but this time with their debut novels. Lewisman Ian Stephen has been twice before with his storyteller hat on and Michael F Russell, deputy editor of the West Highland Free Press, was there last year in the free half hour early morning slot for unpublished writers.

Another journalist taking part is Peter Ross with his book Daunderlust - Dispatches From Unreported Scotland - a collection of his best reports on Scottish life and culture.

There is more non-fiction from Linda Cracknell. Doubling Back: Ten Paths Trodden in Memory was broadcast as a BBC Radio Four’s Book of the Week. Murray Armstrong’s The Liberty Tree is a historical novel about the life and struggles of the Scottish Radical Thomas Muir (1765 – 1799); it also recreates events using the actual recorded words of the participants.

Once again there will be a session in Gaelic using simultaneous translation. The authors are Duncan Gillies and Alison Lang. Duncan’s second collection for adults, Màiri Dhall agus Sgeulachdan Eile was shortlisted for the Saltire Society Book of the Year Award 2013.

Alison’s first collection of short stories, Cainnt na Caileige Caillte was shortlisted for a Saltire Society first book award in 2009.

This event will be chaired by Mark Wringe with simultaneous translation by Morag Stewart.

The poets this year are Jen Hadfield, Shetland resident and winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize with her second collection Nigh-No-Place, and Highland resident John Glenday whose most recent collection was shortlisted for both the Ted Hughes Award and the Griffin International Poetry Prize.

Two further sessions are music-based. Composer and musician Mike Vass wrote In the Wake of Neil Gunn, a suite of music inspired by his own voyage in May 2014 mirroring Neil Gunn’s 1937 odyssey Off In A Boat.

And Friday evening will finish off with a late-night ceilidh dance with Highland Ceilidh Band.

One of the two early morning half hour sessions will be by Ullapool resident Lisa MacDonald who won the 2014 Wigtown Book Festival award for Gaelic poetry.

The other will be on Tales and Legends from Lochbroom. This year the festival will bring back the popular Read in the Parlour in a different form; now they will be held very early in the morning and they will be renamed Read by the Sea as they will be in the new glass-fronted building on the pier.