Big names line up for the Borders' biggest-ever book festival

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MICHAEL Palin, Chris Bonnington, Vince Caborn and Joan Bakewell will all be in Melrose in midsummer as part of the biggest books festival ever to take place in the Borders.

Unveiling the programme for the sixth Borders Book Festival yesterday, festival director Alistair Moffat said that it was the strongest and best line-up yet.

"The 53 authors include world-famous names, writers such as Booker Prize-winner James Kelman, and people who are absolutely central to public life in this country," he said.

Among the other best-selling writers attending the festival in the gardens of Harmony House are Jim Naughtie, Ian Rankin, Diana Athill, Gervase Finn, Hardeep Singh Kohli, and Christopher Brookmyre.

Rory Bremner, who has agreed to be a patron of the festival, will also be appearing twice – as compere of Scotland's largest literary awards and in conversation with fellow-satirist John Fortune.

"This is a fantastic festival for Homecoming Year when everyone is coming back to Scotland with the possible exception of Fred Goodwin," he said. "I saw him in London the other day. He was window shopping. Buying windows, I think."

Bremner added that he first fell in love with the Borders Book Festival on his first visit three years ago. "It was midsummer, the Borders, the weather was perfect and the setting couldn't be better.

"But the programme for this year is wonderful too. Take Vince Caborn. Henry Kissinger once said that it was 90 per cent of politicians who gave the other 10 per cent a bad name. Vince Caborn is one of the 10 per cent. He will be a real treat."

For a festival which only began with four author events, this year's programme shows how fully it has diversified.

Scottish writers attending include poets such as Jackie Kay and Tom Pow and novelists such as James Robertson, Allan Massie, and the Scotsman's assistant editor Douglas Jackson, who will be talking about his debut novel Caligula.

But while Moffat emphasises the continuing importance of the traditional format of authors talking about their books, he also has a few innovations up his sleeves. Ian Rankin and Jim Naughtie, for example, won't be talking about their own work but someone else's – Muriel Spark and Barack Obama respectively.

And in a new strand, they will also be joining other guests such as David Aaronovitch, Bill Paterson and Diana Quick in talking about the first books that sparked their love of reading.

Other types of events the festival will be trying out for the first time include the Bookish Prize – with fiendishly difficult questions set by Harvard's renowned literary critic Professor James Woods – and having Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain talking about their careers before going on to give the closing concert.

Also new is the Family Book Festival, with tickets for families to identified shows that adults and children might enjoy together. The children's programme has a number of its own highlights too – among them Julia Donaldson on the tenth anniversary of her Gruffalo books, Clare Grogan with "little chick lit", and nursery stories read by Diana Quick and Bill Paterson

&#149 The Borders Book Festival is on 18-21 June. Tickets can be booked on www.bordersbookfestival.org or on 07929 435575.

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