Judy Murray stands in a garden, arms folded.

First Weekend 2023


Judy Murray, Hamza Yassin, Henry Dimbleby Get 25thFestival Off To An Outstanding Start

  • Former Food Tsar warns we are in danger of becoming a sick and impoverished nation
  • So much more to look forward to as Book Town prepares to welcome Nigel Planer and Louise Minchin

The first weekend of the 25th Wigtown Book Festival saw Scotland’s National Book Town welcome a host of celebrities and special guests.

Among those taking part were Judy Murray, who spoke about her new novel The Wild Card, and Hamza Yassin, the Strictly champion, cameraman and CBeebies ranger, who led a birdwatching walk and discussed his book How to be a Birder.

Former UK Food Tsar Henry Dimbleby, who resigned in February due to the government’s failure to tackle junk food, spoke about his book Ravenous – How to Get Ourselves and our Planet into Shape.

His book explores why our world food systems are going so badly wrong and the disastrous consequences for individuals, health systems and the whole of UK society due to poor diet and highly processed foods.

It also looks at the immense damage the food industry causes to the environment and its impact on climate change.

Dimbleby gave a stark warning that: “It isn't just the planet that our food system is destroying it is also destroying our bodies.

“In this country, by 2035, the NHS estimates that it's going to spend as much treating type two diabetes, which is one condition of diet related disease alone, as it spends on cancers today.

“The Treasury thinks that of the 2.5 million people who are out of work a huge number are being affected by muscular skeletal diseases, type two diabetes, hypertension, diseases of diet

“If you play this forward, we become not just a sick nation, but an impoverished one.”

Dimbleby calls for “modest” reductions in meat consumption, the shift of some agricultural land to new and more environmentally-friendly uses, action to reduce junk food consumption and improve people’s diets.

He was deeply critical of the current “junk food cycle” which makes it so profitable for companies to sell the highly processed foods which make up 55% of UK diets.

Dimbleby said: “This is what the junk food cycle looks like – huge multinational conglomerates battling it out at Children's eye level in supermarkets for share of our stomachs. And you're not going to tackle that unless you tackle the financial incentives.”

He pointed to the success there has been in areas such as reducing smoking to show that change is possible.

Dimbleby also argued that grassroots action can make bring huge progress and said that many of the best examples of progress he has seen had been from actions taken by “people who cared”. This could range from teaching young people to cook from scratch and getting them interested in good food, through to taking an interest in meals served in schools.

Other well-known names included Pat Nevin, who discussed his book Football and How to Survive It, his highly entertaining account as life as a player then CEO of Motherwell.

Over the weekend children and families were also invited by visiting Belgian illustrator Tom Schamp to help create a large artwork inspired by Wigtown and the book festival.

Adrian Turpin, festival artistic director said: “We couldn’t have wished for a better start to the 25th annual Wigtown Book Festival. The town has been really buzzing with energy – and there’s still a week left to go with a huge amount more to look forward to.”

Among the attractions during the rest of the festival, which runs until 1 October, are:

  • Jeremiah Bourne in Time – Nigel Planer – who shot to fame as Neil in The Young Ones - discusses his new time-travel novel. Saturday, 30 September, 8pm.
  • Remembering Fay Weldon, My Mentor – Nigel Planer reveals how their close friendship was sparked by a short fan letter. Sunday, 1 October, 10.30am.
  • Fearless – Meet Louise Minchin for her first-hand account of swimming to the California shore from Alcatraz, free-diving under ice in darkest Finland and cycling across Argentina. Tuesday, 26 September, 6pm.