Published: 17/01/2018 19:00 - Updated: 11/01/2018 11:59

Series of firsts booked for Ullapool festival

Written byMargaret Chrystall

THERE are several firsts for this year’s Ullapool Book Festival including awarding the new Highland Book Prize.

Female fiction writers, male non-fiction authors and words from global hotspots like Catalonia and Russia are all on the programme for this year’s festival in May.

Organisers have announced the guest list for the 14th event which runs this year from May 11-13. Among the highlights will be a live show bringing together Neu Reekie poet Michael Pedersen’s new book, Oyster, with music from Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison.

Glasgow-based novelist and short-story writer Bernard MacLaverty – whose novel Midwinter Break made many book of the year lists at the end of 2017 – is the one male fiction writer.

A bumper group of female writers is led by crime writer Denise Mina with Assynt poet and novelist Mandy Haggith, Jane Harris, Muriel Mharie Macleod and first-time novelist Olga Wojtas also appearing.

Among the non-fiction writers attending will be freelance journalist and Sandstone Press writer Peter Ross, former BBC foreign correspondent Angus Roxburgh, Scottish actor, director and broadcaster David Hayman, Glasgow-based Irish investigative journalist Peter Geoghegan and former Inverness Courier columnist and writer Jim Miller.

Also appearing will be one of Scotland’s best-respected poets Douglas Dunn – awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2013 – who returned in 2017 with The Noise of a Fly, his first new poetry collection for 15 years.

Stirlingshire poet and former roofer William (Billy) Letford, is also debuting. His most recent book – his second – is Dirt.

The winner of the first Highland Book Prize – which aims to bring recognition to books created in or about the Highlands – will be announced at the festival.

First, the four shortlisted writers will read from their books at a session on Saturday morning before the winner is announced and interviewed on Saturday night.

A primary school and care homes are among the locations to be visited by author and poet Ian Stephen in the festival’s outreach programme. And for the first time this year, it will include a session for those with learning difficulties.

There is also a first for Scottish festivals at the event with a trilingual session – with simultaneous translation of Gaelic and Catalan into English. The session will look at writing in minority languages with Catalan crime fiction writer Teresa Solana and Iain D Urchardan who writes Gaelic short stories.

In the year celebrating the centenary of the birth of the late Scottish novelist Muriel Spark, Olga Wojtas will talk about her first novel Miss Blaine’s Prefect And The Golden Samovar, an affectionate homage to Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Brodie. The Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Spark’s novel was inspired by Edinburgh girls’ school James Gillespie’s – attended by journalist Olga.

Asked what organisers are most proud of about the festival, chairwoman Joan Michael said: "I think we have gained a good reputation with writers.

"Ullapool is a beautiful place and we give the writers a pass to all the events and they mix with their fellow writers and festival-goers in the tea tent in between each event.

"We leave 30 minutes between each session and I think the homebaking made to help raise money for the festival and other organisations is popular too!"

For more information, visit and the group’s Facebook page

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