Extraordinary tales of humanity and landscape at Faclan 2019

Niall Iain Macdonald will share the compelling testimony of  his  two  dramatic solo attempts to row across the Atlantic.
Niall Iain Macdonald will share the compelling testimony of his two dramatic solo attempts to row across the Atlantic.

‘Human Nature’ is the theme for this year’s Hebridean Book Festival, Faclan 2019, when it gets underway this autumn.

Faclan is a flagship cultural event, with Stornoway providing a great backdrop to attract audiences and top-level authors from all over the UK.

The event kicks off at the town’s An Lanntair arts centre from Wednesday, October 30th and runs until November 2nd.

This year’s theme brings together extraordinary stories of humanity and landscape across an eclectic four-day programme.

In one of the headline events, Niall Iain Macdonald will share the compelling testimony of his two dramatic solo attempts to row across the Atlantic from NY to SY - New York to Stornoway – and his reasons for making the trip. It will feature hitherto unseen footage.

Dan Richards will discuss his new book ‘Outpost: A Journey to the Wild Ends of the Earth’ (“by turns beautiful, funny, evocative and learned” – The Observer), in which he travels to mountains, tundra, forests, oceans and deserts to embrace the appeal of


His event is twinned with Tìde in which land-artist Julie Brook will expound on the philosophy behind her dramatic, elemental sea fire-stacks; conceived on Jura and reignited phoenix-like on the west coast of Lewis.

Elsewhere, Faclan will explore aspects of Hebridean Gaelic culture.

Fiona Mackenzie of the National Trust for Scotland will celebrate the life, photography and film of the American anthropologist Margaret Fay Shaw and her time on Uist in the early 1930s.

While Neil Rackham will launch ‘A Telling of Stones’, by Lewis-based publishers Acair, a re-interpretation of the prophecies of the semi-mythical Brahan Seer - ‘the Gaelic Nostradamus’.

‘Insurrection: Scotland’s Famine Winter’, by James Hunter, one of our finest historians, tells the story of the Islands and West Highlands famine of the 1840s and the subsequent riots over the price of food: a dramatic, yet largely forgotten slice of Hebridean history.

Self-described “knit-aholic” Esther Rutter unravels the social history and allure of knitting, from Fair Isle to Cornwall via the Hebrides as described in her fascinating book ‘This Golden Fleece’, published by Granta.

Finally, Donna Heddle from the University of the Highlands and Islands takes us on a tour of the history, heritage and meaning of the Hebrides’ many Norse place names.

A very different kind of Hebridean adventure will be on offer courtesy of cult Scottish writer and musician Momus – aka Nick Currie – who will bring his Unreliable Tour Guide to Stornoway for the first time as part of the Faclan Fringe.

A surreal, comic walking tour, Unreliable Tour Guide has been performed at festivals across the world. Momus also appears in the main programme, marking the thirtieth anniversary of his best known song, ‘Hairstyle of the Devil’, with a talk on transgressive lyrics in pop music, from his own influences such as Jacques Brel and David Bowie, to bands he has influenced such as Pulp and the Pet Shop Boys.

As well as food for thought, the Faclan Fringe will also include a lunch event – Spirit & Spice - by Scottish food and travel writer Ghillie Başan, whose books have been nominated for the Glenfiddich Guild of Food Writers and Cordon Bleu Awards.

More Fringe events will be announced in the coming months.

As ever, Faclan will include classic, thematic films. Among them the original 1963 version of ‘Lord of the Flies’, a dark parable for our times about schoolboys marooned on an island who descend into savagery.

‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’, from 1948, is a morality tale of greed and gold fever directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart.

Wim Wenders’ 2014 documentary ‘Salt of the Earth’ is a testament to the Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado’s work with the world’s poor, exploited and deprived.

An Lanntair’s Head of Visual Arts and Literature, Roddy Murray, said: “The theme this year broaches philosophical questions about our inherent, innate nature, who we are, the environment we inhabit, how we shape it and how it shapes us. In these ‘interesting times’ it takes us inside and outside ourselves.”

Early Bird Festival Passes are available priced £55. Tickets for individual events will go on sale on September 3rd, when the full programme for Faclan Fringe and Faclan Òg will also be announced.

For more information and to book a festival pass, visit www.lanntair.com/faclan. Early Bird Festival Passes can be booked via An Lanntair’s box office on 01851 708480.