Bailie Gifford Borders Book Festival


Stars of stage, screen and literature will be in the Scottish Borders this weekend for the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival (15th-18th June) in the stunning setting of Harmony Gardens in Melrose.

Thursday sees actress Anne Reid, star of Dinner Ladies and Last Tango in Halifax, opening the four-day festival with her one-woman show of songs and anecdotes spanning her 50-year career.   Some of the other big names taking to the stage over the weekend include Monty Python and Fawlty Towers star John Cleese; TV legend Michael Parkinson; bestselling novelist Joanna Trollope; top international tennis coach Judy Murray; and TV’s wildlife adventurer Steve Backshall.

Politics and our rapidly changing world are central themes for this year’s festival, with expert talks and debates by those in the know: broadcaster James Naughtie, who reported throughout the US election, now imparts his view on the surprise result and what lies ahead; former BBC correspondent Allan Little delivers the inaugural Brewin Dolphin Lecture on the ever-changing political climate and implications for the future; distinguished journalist Misha Glenny, as part of the new Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Non-Fiction series of events, talks on Russia’s use of cyber warfare on western democracies and Rory Bremner gives his unique post-Election view.

This year’s 100 event-strong programme includes gardening expert Carol Klein; No. 1 crime writers Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Mark Billingham and Ann Cleeves, best known for the TV hit series Vera and Shetland; and Top Gear and The Grand Tour TV script editor Richard Porter, who’ll talk about what it’s really like to work with Jeremy Clarkson.  One time Labour MP and Chair of CND, Joan Ruddock also talks about her life as a political campaigner, a woman ahead of her time.

Louise Gray, author of The Ethical Carnivore, will question modern attitudes to meat, while MasterChef judge and restaurant critic Jay Rayner returns to Melrose with an audio-visual romp through his Ten (Food) Commandments; and Sumayya Usmani continues her journey of discovery through the exotic cuisine of her native Pakistan.

Bringing a sense of adventure to this year’s book festival, singer-songwriter Malachy Tallack tells the enthralling story of ‘The Un-Discovered Islands’, Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent describes a journey across Arunachal Pradesh, India’s forgotten frontier, and Jamie Jauncey tells the story of Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, a  dashing aristocrat,  socialist and  founding president of the Scottish National Party.

The SBHA (Scottish Borders Housing Association) Family Book Festival runs throughout the Saturday and Sunday with fun and entertainment from an array of much-loved children’s authors including Philip Ardagh, Guy Bass, Vivian French, Petr Horacek and Derek Landy, bestselling author of the Skulduggery Pleasant series. This year, adults get to go free to any SBHA Family Book Festival event so long as they are accompanied by at least one child!

Almost 2000 children and teachers from primary schools across the Scottish Borders will also attend the Schools Gala Day on Thursday 15th.

Entry to Harmony Gardens is free, and there’s plenty to do and enjoy between events with live music; a street market offering food, drink and gifts; a family-friendly tented food village with some of the finest produce from across the Borders and Scotland; champagne and whisky tastings, as well as a bookshop to browse in, and free events including kids’ storytelling, circus skills and stilt walkers.

The winner of this year’s prestigious £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction will be announced on Saturday 17th June, from a shortlist including Sebastian Barry, Rose Tremain and Graham Swift.

Alistair Moffat, Festival Director, said:

“In a climate of political turmoil and unease, we could all do with a dose of fun and entertainment, and the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival has it in spades.  There are serious moments of reflection and contemplation too, as we examine our rapidly changing world. 

This year the book festival has something for everyone and we look forward to welcoming our audience to Harmony Gardens to enjoy a truly memorable weekend.”

James Budden, Director Marketing and Distribution at Baillie Gifford said:

“We have been trying to sponsor the Borders Book Festival for some time. It should prove a great fit with the other dozen or so festivals Baillie Gifford is associated with in the UK. So it is fantastic to be supporting such a successful literary experience. Being somewhat bookish ourselves we look forward to being involved in the occasion over the next few years at least.”

Councillor David Parker, Convener of Scottish Borders Council said,

“The Borders Book Festival has become a major event for the Scottish Borders attracting a great many visitors to our region.  This year’s programme is once again an outstanding mix of authors and events, and the team behind the Book Festival work tirelessly to deliver a truly special event.

The economic impact of the event on the Scottish Borders is now very significant, and it is fantastic that from its very small beginnings the Book Festival has become one of the UKs most respected literary events”

The festival welcomes the support of new headline sponsor Baillie Gifford and the ongoing sponsorship and backing of Scottish Borders Council, EventScotland, Brewin Dolphin, The National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Borders Housing Association, Arts & Business Scotland and the National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund, as well as the book festival’s many other loyal supporters. Local accountancy firm Douglas Homes & Co have contributed sponsorship funding towards meeting the running costs of the festival with match funding provided from Arts & Business Scotland’s New Arts Sponsorship Grants Programme. Douglas Homes & Co’s sponsorship of the festival is one of the last projects to receive match funding from the Programme as it transitions to the new Culture & Business Fund Scotland from April this year.

Kaite Welsh, Literature Officer at Creative Scotland said:

 “There is an excellent line-up of authors and events on display at the Borders Book Festival. In the stunning setting of Harmony Gardens, this year’s festival gives attendees everything from Russian spycraft to a tour of Pakistan’s gastronomic delights via Malachy Tallack’s undiscovered islands as well as appearances from television luminaries including Anne Reid, John Cleese and Michael Parkinson. It is always encouraging to see a festival that reaches such a wide audience while not being afraid to take risks – a real highlight in Scotland’s cultural calendar!”

The festival is supported by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.

             Stuart Turner, Head of EventScotland, said:

 “The Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival promises to be a wonderful event. The festival team have once again developed a fantastic programme, showcasing some of the biggest names in literature, comedy and politics.

            Scotland is the perfect stage for cultural events, and the festival is a real asset for Melrose, giving             visitors the chance to enjoy a wide-range of events on offer within the beautiful grounds of Harmony             Gardens as well as the opportunity to explore this historic borders town.”

            David Watt, Chief Executive Arts & Business Scotland, said:

“Following the successful launch of the new Culture & Business Fund Scotland in April, it’s great to see one of the last sponsorships from its predecessor, the New Arts Sponsorship Grants Programme, helping to meet the costs of running this year’s Borders Book Festival with the generous support of Douglas Homes & Co. This is a really great example of mutually beneficial collaboration between business and the cultural sector.”

People can interact with the Borders Book Festival online using #bordersbookfest17. There’ll be daily video updates on YouTube and Facebook, as well as on Twitter and Instagram @bordersbookfest. Tickets can be booked online at, by calling 0844 357 1060 or at the Box Office at the festival.