Show time at book festival

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
The Hall that Swallowed the Tent sounds like a suitably curious venue for children's events at a book festival. The festival takes place in Scotland's official book town, Wigtown, on the Galloway coast, this week.

"It's an all-weather marquis inside a building," explains festival director Michael McCreath.

The children's programme features 14 authors, from local writers Cathy Cassidy, Tony Bonning, Andrew Wolffe and Anne Butler to big names Debi Gliori, Karen McCombie and Eleanor Updale. The inclusion of Nick Arnold, author of the successful Horrible Science series, packed with revolting experiments, adds a bit of fun.

Mr McCreath says: "We try to get a broad range to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. The children's programme is crucial to the success of the festival." Some of the children's events take place at the festival itself, in the Hall that Swallowed the Tent, but many will be held in primary schools. A separate programme for older children will also run at Douglas Ewart High.

"It's important to educate the pupils about writing and descriptive writing," says Mr McCreath.

"Then the children start educating their parents and the parents begin taking an interest in a book festival. Initially, we brought children's events into the festival to get children involved but now we find that children bring their parents.

"Wigtown's status as Scotland's book town has focused everyone's attention in this region on books. Because of that, the festival and the fact that there's a fantastic children's bookshop in the town, suddenly children are finding it a lot easier to get books they like."

Fiona Murphie, who runs The Box of Frogs bookshop, is a member of the committee that decided which authors to invite.

She says: "We try and have maybe six events over the weekend appealing to various ages. We also try to get a couple of local authors and we've got the Horrible Science author Nick Arnold, which boys in particular like."

Arnold's event, she says, will be more of a show, while Tickling in Public with Stewart Henderson and Paul Cookson is a two-man poetry show, with rhymes about everything from forgotten homework to wizards' cats from their collections Staying Out Late, Playing Out Late and Who Left Grandad at the Chip Shop?

Best-selling picture book illustrator and author Debi Gliori will be doing two events - a storytelling session for 3- to 7-year-olds and an introduction to the bizarre world of the Strega-Borgia family, where dragons grapple with the Atkins diet, toddlers learn to fly, frozen grannies self-defrost and bats speak like air hostesses, for the over-7s.

"Kids laugh out loud when they're reading them," says Ms Murphie.

Taking the festival to local schools, she says, is important: "All the kids have a chance to meet an author. It's really bringing the festival to them and then hopefully they will be encouraged to come along to the festival."

This is the seventh year of the festival and it spans 10 days.

Wigtown Book Festival, September 23-October 2, tel 01988 403222 www.wigtown-booktown.co.uk

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