Wigtown to premiere McCall Smith's song cycle

Wigtown to premiere McCall Smith's song cycle

This year's virtual Wigtown Book Festival will host the world premiere of Alexander McCall Smith's song cycle, "Ninian's Gift". 

Completed during lockdown, the work features words by the novelist, accompanied by music composed by Tom Cunningham. The piece is inspired by and reflects on the lives of Scottish saints, including St Ninian, who is said to have come to Whithorn, near Wigtown, in the 4th century. The piece will premiere on the opening evening of the festival, followed by a conversation with its creators. 

The festival, which runs from 24th September to 4th October, will see novelists including A L Kennedy, Andrew O’Hagan, Juno Dawson, Stuart Turton and Philip Hensher in conversation, alongside broadcasters Andrew Marr, Carrie Gracie, George Alagiah and Gordon Corera.

Marr, who will be discussing his forthcoming book Elizabethans: How Modern Britain Was Forged, said: “I’ve always wanted to go to the Wigtown Book Festival and I am delighted to be taking part, albeit virtually, and look forward to going there in person one day.”

Artistic director Adrian Turpin said: "Digital technology has been a lifeline during lockdown. But, as anyone who has sat through a morning of Zoom meetings knows, the online world can feel very disembodied. Wigtown is a distinctive place and we want to share its character with new and existing audiences in every way we can, putting the town in the public eye, nose and ear.  

"The past six months have been a very difficult time and part of our aim is to offer the chance to have some fun. But there’s a serious point. The UK’s book festivals — large and small — are remarkable because they each reflect the places in which they take place. We want to cherish that diversity in every way, even at a time when we can’t gather ‘in real life’.

“We also hope that next year we will be able to welcome in person many of those who experience Wigtown for the first time through this digital event.”

The festival will also see nature writers, including Helen Macdonald, Patrick Laurie and Diary of a Young Naturalist (Little Toller) author Dara McAnulty, participate. Featured poets include Inua Ellams, Michael Longley and Dean Atta, and historians Neil McGregor and Charles Spencer will also attend. 

Councillor Adam Wilson, Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Events Champion, said: “Great care has gone into the planning of the online Wigtown Book Festival this year. In normal years the mouth-watering line up of writers would have attracted many thousands of visitors to the national book town. “I hope that the festival programme is a source of inspiration to online visitors, and that people can come in person to support and enjoy the bookshops of Wigtown soon.”
Non-fiction writers Mark O'Connell, Richard Holloway and Helena Kennedy will also join the festival, with World Book Day Children's authors Pamela Butchart and Sibeal Pounder featuring. The winners of the Wigtown Poetry Prize 2020 will be announced at the final event of the festival on the evening of Sunday 4th October.

Paul Bush, VisitScotland’s director of events, added: “Already during this pandemic, Wigtown Book Festival has shown the important role digital and online events can play in connecting authors with audiences through the #WigtownWednesdays and it is wonderful to see this engagement being taken to new heights in this year’s festival programme.

"As one of the country’s unique literary festivals, the team has organised a fantastic 10-day programme that brings Scotland’s national book town to life digitally and EventScotland is proud to be continuing its support of the Wigtown Book Festival to takes this year’s event online.”