Boswell Book Festival – 11-13th May 2012

We are so lucky to have on our doorstep the wonderful Boswell Book Festival. Only in its second year, it brought a plethora of inspiring, entertaining and thought-provoking speakers to talk about their lives or the lives of those they chose to write about. There was so much to choose from and not enough time or energy to see and do everything.
We began on the Friday night with Dr Johnson’s Dictionary of Crime starring Timothy West as Johnson. David Ashton, who wrote it, played Boswell and two excellent supporting actors played everybody else. A crime story set in 1781, Dr Johnson was called on to save a man from hanging for a crime he did not commit.
Saturday, we were spoiled for choice and had to forego various life-writing classes run by such luminaries as Sally Cline and Billy Kay in favour of Tam Dalyell, Tony Banks and Christopher Ward.
Tam Dalyell has not lost any of his pithiness or principles, entertaining us with his views on events of the last 50 years. You may not agree with his opinions but you can’t help but admire his determination to stick to his guns especially on something as important as the West Lothian question!
Tony Banks was a recent ‘Secret Millionaire’ but his book was about his experiences in the Falklands during the war and its effects on him afterwards. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder only eased after revisiting the past and meeting up with a former enemy, whose trumpet he returned to him.
Christopher Ward’s grandfather was a violinist in the Titanic orchestra who went down in the disaster. His book was concerned more with the aftermath of the tragedy – of how the residents of Halifax, Nova Scotia buried as many bodies as were found, including Ward’s grandfather, of how the first class passengers’ bodies were embalmed on the ship sent to pick up the dead while the steerage passengers were simply stored on ice in the hold. Even in death, class mattered.
Ward’s great-grandfather made violins and one of them was played by a music student, Catriona, who had us all moved with Nearer my God to Thee.
Sunday brought less rain and a blast of wit and energy in the form of Janice Galloway, talking about her latest memoir, ‘All Made Up’. Continuing on from where her first memoir, ‘This is Not About Me’ left off, Janice is now at Ardrossan Academy and discovering Latin and boys. Her readings added an extra layer of meaning to her superb prose. Janice will be one of our speakers next year and on this outing, it should be a night to remember.
We finished with Timothy West talking to Jackie McGlone about his memoir of life in the acting profession. He has played Churchill, Edward viii and Lear as well as many other major roles and admires Johnson so much that he named his son Sam in his honour.
An exhilarating and exhausting three days but one that we couldn’t have missed. But where were you all? Only Janice, Pearl and myself were there from the club. (And Michael. I spoke to him after the Timothy West talk. Janice) To the rest of you, you missed yourselves!
Ann Burnett

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