Media Release: Boswell Book Festival launches 2016 programme

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BOSWELL Book Festival today announces its programme of headline-grabbing authors and uniquely curated talks and events that have established the festival, now in its sixth edition, as a landmark in Scotland’s cultural year.

More than just another book festival…

Famously inspired by James Boswell (b. 1740), recognised as the inventor of modern biography, this is believed to be the world’s only festival dedicated to biography and memoir.

It is being staged at Dumfries House in Ayrshire.

World-renowned actor, Martin Jarvis, will be reprising his roles of Just William and Jeeves and Wooster, as well as talking about his legendary career on stage and screen; fellow thespian, Gregor Fisher, will be exploring his extraordinary childhood with journalist, Melanie Reid.

Meanwhile, polymath, Loyd Grossman, will be talking of Americans on the make; while stand-up comic, Susan Calman, will be revealing her inner life and WWII hero, Victor Gregg, will recount his extraordinary survival of the Dresden fire bombing.

Festival director, Caroline Knox, said: “Our unique theme – ‘biography and memoir’ – chosen in homage to the great Ayrshire writer, James Boswell, has led us to uncover the amazing variety of life stories in this year’s programme marking us out from all other book festivals.”

The cast also includes 87 year-old super-model, Daphne Selfe; art sleuth, Philip Mould, of Antiques Road Show fame; the founder of Mary’s Meals, Magnus Macfarlane-Barrow; as well as James Naughtie, Mona Siddiqui, Charles Moore, A.N.Wilson, Ben Stewart, Erwin James, Gavin Francis, Ferdinand Mount, Charles Jencks and Dr. Gordon Turnbull – on the great Boswell himself.

Ayrshire’s magnificent Dumfries House, famously saved for the nation by the Prince of Wales, sets the scene for portrayals of Queen Victoria, Margaret Thatcher, the Scots in India, Guy Burgess, and many more, plus discussions on the lot of writers’ wives and the long tradition of politicians in fiction…

Each year, the programme guarantees challenging discourse, creative inspiration and intellectual stimulation as well as fabulous fun and entertainment for all the family.

The Boswell Book Festival is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland Open Project Funding.

Aly Barr, Creative Scotland’s head of Literature, Languages and Publishing, said: “The Boswell Book Festival is an outstanding hub for books, ideas and the delicate art of bringing literature to life. This year’s programme continues to challenge, intrigue and offer audiences a mixture of both familiar and new names.”

Key features – new for 2016

Bozzy’s Book Bang! – for children and families

One of this year’s highlights is the enhanced children’s programme – extended to run over several days in local schools, in the local community and over the festival weekend in and around the Engineering Centre on Dumfries House Estate.

Caroline Knox has always been fiercely committed to developing the festival’s role in the community and says: “Over the years, the festival has widened and deepened its offering for children both in and out of the Ayrshire schools. We are very excited this year to be pairing up with the Engineering Centre at Dumfries House to launch our first full festival weekend for children and their families too, enabling us to offer a wonderful and diverse choice of events and activities from which to choose.”

Count Down: a journey of exploration of the four elements – earth, water, air and fire – celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter. A set of illustrated panels of the four elements will be created with accompanying text by local primary schools, mentored by exciting new illustrator, Eilidh Muldoon, and best-selling writer, Vivian French, and will be on show for the first time in the Engineering Centre at Dumfries House during the festival.

Blast Off! Family Fun Weekend: continuing the elemental journey of exploration in words and activities through earth, water, air and fire: from Nick Sharratt’s Laughter Laboratory and Kjartan Poskitt’s Murderous Maths to Adam Murphy’s interviews with the ‘reanimated zombie corpses’ of science superheroes, Marie Curie and Charles Darwin. Popular biologist, Gill Arbuthnott, explores what exactly makes a living thing while storyteller Vivian French entertains the under-sevens.

Plus: Outdoor interactive activities over the whole weekend

The Royal Drawing School – Anyone can draw… pick up a pencil!

Says Caroline Knox: “We have always seen portraiture as part of our biography theme – capturing a personality on paper – so, it is hugely exciting to include, for the first time, a programme of Royal Drawing School sessions.”

People are welcome to drop in and draw with practising artists from the Royal Drawing School at the pop-up studio in The Rothesay Room at Dumfries House. Classes running on 7 and 8 May include drawing the head, drawing the body clothed, drawing with props and drawing out and about in the beautiful, surrounding landscape.

Artistic director of the Royal Drawing School, Catherine Goodman, said: “The Royal Drawing School is thrilled to be part of the Boswell Book Festival this year, for what will be an exciting synthesis of artistic and literary creativity. We encourage festival-goers of all abilities to participate in our observational drawing sessions, exploring narrative through drawings in tandem with the festival’s literary programme”.

Satellite events – guided tours

Auchinleck House

Renowned in literary history, short guided tours of Boswell’s family home in the company of the great Enlightenment expert, Dr. William Zachs.

The Temple

The newly-restored Gateway, Temple and Porter’s Lodge on the Dumfries House estate, built in the 1760s, became a gateway to nowhere no sooner had it been built. Yale’s Dr Gordon Turnbull will be on hand to tell the tale of the rows it caused between the Boswell and Dumfries families.

Crawick Multiverse

World-famous landform artist and 
writer, Charles Jencks, will be speaking 
at the festival on Sunday 8 at 4.45pm. Visit his new masterpiece, Crawick Multiverse, Sanquhar – a cosmic landscape worthy of the ancients, just a 30-minute drive from Dumfries House.

Dumfries House

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience the superb interiors and treasures of Dumfries House which have been restored to their original splendour.

Notes to editors:

Photographs: full selection of authors, logos, images etc. on Dropbox here:

Full festival programme:

For Interviews, filming opportunities, further information and additional photographs please contact:

Carol Carr PR: marketing/press for Boswell Book Festival


Tel: 01988 700 974

Mb: 07766 754 877

Facebook and @bozzyfest for regular updates

Festival facts

Location: Dumfries House, Cumnock, Ayrshire, KA18 2NJ

Directions and site plan: /Location

Tickets: Author talks: £8 £6 (c) children’s/families: £1 Some events vary in price; some are free.

Online at:

Box Office: 01563 554 900

In person: Cumnock Town Hall and Waterstones, High Street, Ayr

Book signing: Authors will sign books in the new Café/Bookshop Marquee immediately after their events.

Booksellers: Waterstones of Ayr will run the festival bookshop from the café/bookshop marquee

Catering: On site: festival café bar, Woodlands Restaurant, Coach House Café

Parking: There is parking on the Dumfries House Estate. Access to Dumfries House is from the A70 Ayr/Cumnock or Cummnock/Ayr direction. There is only ONE entrance to the festival, marked ‘Dumfries House Cars Only’.

Sponsors: We are eternally grateful to all our funders and sponsors without whom this event could not proceed. We thank them for their invaluable support. In particular we thank Creative Scotland who has kindly supported the festival since 2011.

The Boswell Trust:

The Boswell Book Festival is an event inaugurated and staged by The Boswell Trust, a charity registered in Scotland that is established for the promotion of heritage, literary arts and education, specifically the restoration of James Boswell’s mausoleum in Auchinleck churchyard and the creation of a visitor attraction in the adjoining Boswell aisle.

The Boswell Book Festival has experienced phenomenal growth and the organisers are keen for this growth to continue.

It has now developed well beyond the capacity of its original site of Auchinleck House – owned and managed by the conservation charity, The Landmark Trust – but which will however continue to form part of the festival programme in 2016.

Trustees: James Knox (chair), Peter Kennerley, Margaret Boswell Elliot, Caroline Knox, Gillian Watson and Dr. William Zachs

About Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here. We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life. We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information about Creative Scotland please visit Follow us @creativescots and


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