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Book festival moves online for 2020 in pandemic precaution

Festival director Adrian Turpin outside The Open Book as it is announced the Wigtown Book Festival will take place online in 2020 (Wigtown Book Festival/PA)
Festival director Adrian Turpin outside The Open Book as it is announced the Wigtown Book Festival will take place online in 2020 (Wigtown Book Festival/PA)

A book festival in Scotland’s National Book Town is to take place online this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Wigtown Book Festival will keep to its original dates of September 25 to October 4 but will take place virtually with live online speaker events as well as art exhibitions, film events, music and performance.

This year the festival will have two main themes, Resilience and Connection, with the former exploring the explosion of creativity that has emerged in response to the current crisis.

Connection will celebrate Wigtown and its region’s international links in a number of events which will include link-ups with other book towns around the world.

Sally Magnusson
Sally Magnusson said she is looking forward to this year’s festival (Wigtown Book Festival/PA)

Adrian Turpin, the festival’s creative director, said: “A key aim this year will be to raise the profile of Scotland’s National Book Town in Wigtown, its businesses and the cultural attractions of Dumfries and Galloway.

“The Wigtown Book Festival has a powerful role to play as we all look forward to eventual recovery, when the region will be able to welcome visitors again.

“Nobody wanted this situation but a digital festival gives us opportunities to reach new audiences locally, nationally and internationally.”

He added: “We have already put a lot of effort into creating original digital content, because we felt it was vital to engage our existing audiences and attract new ones throughout the crisis.

“This experience will stand us in good stead as we deliver a fully digital festival this year, with the hope that in 2021 we can all gather together again in one place.”

The full programme will be announced in August and there will also be a separate children’s programme (Big Wig) and young people’s programme (WigWam).

The Magnusson Lecture, in honour of Magnus Magnusson, will go digital for the first time and will be delivered by historian Rosemary Goring.

Organisers have not ruled out the possibility that there may be some physical activities such as socially-distanced walks, and discussions about whether events should be free or paid for are ongoing, with a mixture of both possible.

Since March, Wigtown Book Festival has been offering a wide range of digital content in response to lockdown.

This includes a programme of live-streamed midweek events (#WigtownWednesdays) with writers such as Sally Magnusson, Hallie Rubenhold and Natalie Haynes, new writing commissions and a dedicated festival podcast all of which are available on the festival website wigtownbookfestival.com.

Sally Magnusson said: “I’m delighted that the Magnusson Lecture will be online and that the festival will bring some of the previous lectures to a wider audience through the creative use of digital.

“Wigtown has already been engaging wonderfully with audiences during the crisis, and I’ve enjoyed participating myself.

“I can’t wait for the autumn festival.”

Wigtown in Dumfries and Galloway was officially designated Scotland’s National Book Town in the late 1990s and is home to a range of bookshops and book-related businesses.