Book lovers invited to the Edge as Colonsay opens latest festivals chapter

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ISLANDERS on Colonsay are preparing to host Scotland’s most remote literary festival in one of the country’s most intimate communities.

Organisers of the event, called Conversations on the Edge, hope to capitalise on the island’s remote location – a two-and-a-half hour ferry ride from the Scottish mainland – to attract writers and book lovers. With a population of just 120, one hotel, a pub and a shop, Colonsay will also offer an intimate atmosphere.

So far Alexander McCall Smith, James Robertson and Scotland’s poet laureate Liz Lochhead are among the authors who have signed up to attend the event in April.

Scotland now boasts more than 40 book festivals and literary celebrations, but none so remote as Colonsay.

Readings and book signings will take place in the tiny village hall at Scalasaig and visitors are being urged to snap up accommodation as soon as possible because of the lack of bedspace on the island.

The event is the brainchild of a group of literary lovers on the island, including Georgina Hobhouse, who runs a bookshop during the summer months. Its other sponsors include the local estate and the island’s micro-brewery. The event has been partly inspired by the success of Colonsay’s music festival, which now attracts 200 visitors to the island every September, as well as a new “spring festival,” held for the first time last year.

Co-director Dilly Emslie said: “It’s a love of books among some of the islanders that is really behind the event.

“There is a committee of nine of us working on the first event, including the estate and the local tourism and marketing group. We’re thrilled to be welcoming all the writers who have agreed to take part.”

Colonsay’s fledgling line-up will also feature Sophie Cook, Robin Laing, Margaret Elphinstone and Kenneth Stevenson. Ms Emslie added: “We’re promoting Conversations at the Edge as the most boutique book festival in Scotland. We know there are other island festivals, and some pretty small festivals elsewhere, but it is the combination of the size of our venue and our distance from the mainland that is the selling point.

“This one really means coming over for the whole weekend, and we’re doing a weekend pass costing just £40 which will allow people to see all the authors.”

Donald MacNeill, island development officer, who is also helping to organise the event, said: “We’ve managed to bring some top-notch musicians over here for the music festival and we’re hoping to do the same with writers.

“It’s very much an event for the islanders, although the music festival has been successful in bringing visitors over here.”

There is already a book festival on nearby Islay.