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Nairn Book and Arts Festival set to launch 20th anniversary programme next week

By Federica Stefani

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Malin Makes Music.
Malin Makes Music.

LEADING authors and rising stars will be highlights of the 20th edition of one of Nairn's most popular events.

Organisers of the Nairn Book and Arts Festival – which this year runs from August 30 to September 3 – announced that tickets to the annual celebration of arts and literature will go on sale next week

Selected early bird tickets will go on sale on Tuesday (June 20) for Festival Friends, with the general sale starting on Friday following the official launch on Thursday, June 22.

The event will mark its two decades exploring the theme of The Journey.

Chair of the festival, Sean Lusk, said: “We are approaching twenty incredible years of staging arts events in Nairn and I am proud of our programme which reflects the changing times, while continuing to celebrate the arts in the Highlands, and provide a platform for home grown talent.

"We are welcoming some of the best writers in Scotland today, as well as contemporary musical talent. Creativity abounds in Nairn, and this year we celebrate the work of well-known and much-missed local artists, the late Mary and John Wilson.

Comedian Fred MacAulay will take the stage on Saturday, September 2.
Comedian Fred MacAulay will take the stage on Saturday, September 2.

"This year, our theme is ‘The Journey’ and I am particularly looking forward to the costumed ‘bird migration’ family parade along Nairn beach – it will be a real splash of colourful joy. Anyone is welcome to come along, make a bird mask and join the fun!

"Along with everyone else, we have faced severe financial challenges, and we are grateful to major funders Creative Scotland and Event Scotland, and to our first ever Headline sponsors, Meallmore Ltd, who are enabling us to engage with the elderly and vulnerable in our community. We are also extremely grateful to all the local businesses who support us, and of course our fantastic team of local volunteers - we couldn’t run the festival without them.

"We look forward to welcoming more people than ever to this year’s events.”

Visiting authors at the festival will include Scotland’s Makar Kathleen Jamie, crime novelist Lin Anderson, popular historical fiction writer SG Maclean, naturalist and conservationist John Lister-Kaye, multi-award-winning author Kapka Kassabova, and romantic novelist Jenny Colgan, among many others.

Contemporary Scottish folk musician Malin Makes Music will headline a celebratory ceilidh, comedian Fred MacAulay will take the stage, and local up-and-coming producer Morna Ross is to premiere a new work all about life in Nairn – The Fastest Town in Scotland – at the town’s Little Theatre.

Anita Sethi.
Anita Sethi.

The festival programme also features Gaelic author and broadcaster Ruairidh MacIlleathain, and Tony Davidson, owner of the Kilmorack Gallery near Beauly; his memoir, Confessions of a Highland Art Dealer, was recently shortlisted for the Highland Book Prize.

The programme cover artwork this year was created by renowned Black Isle-based storyteller and artist, Lizzie McDougall. Featuring Nairn’s beaches, sailing boats and birds in flight, it encapsulates this year’s theme of ‘The Journey’, while also quietly commemorating the late Joe Telfer, Nairn’s ‘Swan Man’ who cared for the river swans for many years.

Nature in Nairn is celebrated in various ways, with a creative nature-writing session led by well-known author and journalist Anita Sethi, a landscape painting workshop with prominent Highland artist Kirstie Cohen, and a walk hosted by environmental charity and festival partner, Green Hive.

Lin Anderson.
Lin Anderson.

‘On the Wing’, a costumed, bird-themed family parade along the beaches on the festival’s Finale Day, will feature silk banners created by the local community and pupils at Nairn Academy with artist Amy Neville. Costume designer Julia Tucknott will be creating bird wings and masks with local primary children for the event.

The parade will kickstart a day of free live music, performance and creative activities including Highland Brass playing a journey-inspired set at the Wallace Bandstand, an afternoon of acoustic music at the ‘Live at James’s’ stage, performance by Nairn Youth Theatre and members of Extinction Rebellion, art workshops and storytelling.

The festival also runs an outreach programme bringing authors and artists into five local schools and working with care home residents.

To join as a Festival Friend visit www.nairnfestival.co.uk/support/become-a-friend.

To find out more about the festival programme and to book, visit www.nairnfestival.co.uk/whats-on from 23rd June.

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