A crowd of staff and volunteers stand in front of a view over the Wigtown marshes. Each of them is holding a 2023 programme brochure.

Volunteer Army Gears Up For 25th Festival

Scotland’s Book Town Volunteer Army Gears Up For 25th Wigtown Book Festival

  • Meet authors including Nigel Planer, Katherine Rundell and Pat Nevin
  • The Festival is a 10-day feast of literature and storytelling – plus music, debate, film and a selling fair for Galloway arts, crafts, food and drink

Scotland’s National Book Town, with a population of under 1,000, is mustering an army of 120 volunteers to make this year’s 25th Wigtown Book Festival the most memorable yet.

The staging of the annual 10-day feast of storytelling, literature, poetry, debate, music and arts is a truly community-wide endeavour.

A small core of 10 staff, half aged under 30, provide a professional core for the festival and the other events run year-round by Wigtown Festival Company.

The volunteers do everything from stewarding events, distributing brochures and selling tickets to putting up visiting authors in their homes and driving them to and from railway stations and airports.

Many others, such as bookshop owners and accommodation providers, also play a vital role.

That’s not to mention the efforts of a large blue, furry creature who lives in the nearby woods and comes to the town to be the mascot for the Big Wig children’s literature festival that has been named after him.

Anne Barclay, Wigtown Book Festival, said: “This festival is so much of a community effort – it’s astonishing that we can muster an army of 120 volunteers from a town of less than 1,000 people.

“Wigtown Book Festival has become an important part of Scotland’s rich cultural life and without the volunteers, it simply couldn’t happen.

“The commitment shown by them and our small group of staff is incredible. The way people have taken it to their hearts and devoted themselves to making it a success is astonishing. There are even some who have been part of every festival that’s taken place, right back to 1999.”

The festival, which runs from 22 September to 1 October in Scotland’s National Book Town, is expected to attract thousands of visitors.

Among this year’s attractions are:

  • Nigel Planer – famously Neil from The Young Ones – talks about his magical novel Jeremiah Bourne In Time and also appears in a separate event to talk about his friendship with Fay Weldon
  • Sarah Thomas – author of Queen K, lays bare the lives of the super-rich
  • Pat Nevin – former footballer, pundit and bestselling author on Football and How to Survive It
  • Katherine Rundell, author of Impossible Creatures (Big Wig event)
  • Henry Dimbleby, author of Ravenous – former food Tsar discusses how the food industry is killing us
  • Vanessa Woolf, That’s not my … (Big Wig event).

Beyond the author and other literary events there is also The Kist – where visitors can buy locally made products.

As the name suggests, it’s like a treasure chest full of treats including artwork, crafts, artisan beers, whiskies from local distilleries, textiles, sweets and many other delights.

Cathy Agnew, Chair of festival trustees, said: “We are incredibly proud of the way so many people give their time and energy – rolling up their sleeves to deliver one of the best events of its kind in the country – and we hope this year will be the best yet.

“It is only the volunteers and the small group of professional staff that make the festival possible. And it’s an event that is of huge value as it brings joy to thousands of people, supports literature and storytelling and has been highly successful in raising the profile of Wigtown, and Galloway, nationally and internationally.”

Starting in 1999, a central aim of the festival has been to help drive regeneration across a highly rural area which has seen a steep decline in its traditional industries.

In that time it has generated over £50 million for the regional economy and each year more than 10 times the town’s population (of just under 1,000) come along to enjoy the event.

Crucially the festival has provided a platform for artists, craft makers, food and drink producers, accommodation providers and bookdealers, as well as authors.

Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events, VisitScotland, said: “EventScotland is delighted to be supporting the 25th anniversary edition of the Wigtown Book Festival through our International Funding Programme.

“For 10 days, Scotland’s National Book Town will provide a platform for literary celebration, discussion and ideas from well-known figures alongside local talent, as well as film, music and theatre performances.

“Community spirit is at the heart of this cultural gem and enthralling events such as Wigtown Book Festival further showcase Scotland’s profile as the perfect stage for events.”