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Nairn Book and Arts Festival aiming to put on a spectacular show this September

By Donald Wilson

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The Big Man.
The Big Man.

A spectacular line-up of performers and artists has been assembled for this year’s Nairn Book and Arts Festival, celebrating the town’s coastal location in support of VisitScotland’s Year of Coast and Waters.

The event kicks off on Saturday, September 4 with festival chairman Alex Williamson promising a showcase of the very best literature and art.

One of the highlights will be the appearance of 10-metre mechanical puppet STORM, the creation of Nairn man Simon Macintyre whose parents Gordon and Muriel staged many productions at the former Clifton Hotel.

From the makers of Big Man Walking STORM is a folklore giant made-real who will walk on land to share stories of the sea aided by a team of eight puppeteers.

Another local artist, musician Mike Vass, will also be performing.

Mr Williamson said: “Many of the artists, authors, musicians and performers appearing at the festival have drawn inspiration from the Highlands’ natural beauty – a reminder that we live in a place which is truly close to nature’s heart.

“But the delicate ecosystems which make the Scottish Highlands so special and unique also leave them vulnerable to climate change – especially in coastal and rural communities like Nairn.

“While we want to celebrate Nairn’s coastal environment at this year’s festival, with the COP26 UN Conference on Climate Change a matter of months away, we also want to focus on that incredibly important issue: how do we best care for the natural world and protect it for future generations?

“Which is why we’ve focused on offering more family-focused and free-to-attend events this year – plus a day of online author talks that anyone can sign up to wherever they are.

“Given that the majority of Nairn’s major events have been cancelled, we also wanted to ensure that this year’s programme would be as open and inclusive as possible.

And he added: “We’re very conscious of the ongoing situation with Covid-19 but remain optimistic that come September we will be able to deliver our festival programme safely.

“We want to keep everyone as safe as we can, so please keep an eye on our website and social media for more information.”

The festival will open with an environmentally-themed creative takeover of Nairn High Street and close with STORM’s appearance.

Other events include a performance by up-and-coming folk musician and songwriter Iona Lane and a walkabout through Nairn by visual dance performers Oceanallover.

More than 20 critically-acclaimed and award-winning authors from across Scotland and the rest of the UK are also scheduled to appear at this year’s festival.

These include Sarah Moss (Summerwater), Cal Flyn (Islands of Abandonment), David Barrie (Incredible Journeys), SG MacLean (twice winner of the CWA Historical Dagger Award), Cairngorms writer in residence Merryn Glover, Helen Sedwick (shortlisted for Saltire Fiction Book of the Year for The Growing Season), David Gange (The Frayed Atlantic Edge – co-winner of the Highland Book Prize in 2019), and wild swimming enthusiasts photographer Anna Deacon and author Vicky Allan.

Alexander Stoddart, Sculptor in Ordinary to her Majesty the Queen in Scotland, will also deliver a lunchtime lecture at Nairn Community and Arts Centre on Friday, September 10.

Elsewhere arts and culture lovers can look forward to a range of exciting and challenging workshops and pop up shops with a schools outreach programme also planned to make sure even the very youngest can get involved.

Tickets for all events are now on sale on the festival website at www.nairnfestival.co.uk

READ: WATCH: Island rockers Peat & Deisel get behind a 500-mile cycle for Maggie's Highland – by sharing a hilarious video to help with fundraising

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