Saturday, 27 November 2010

Lennoxlove Book Festival

I Spent a fair bit of time at the Lennoxlove Book Festival last week end. Unlike last year I had an inside job and the car parking was left to someone else. On this occasion my job was to help out at the events in the Chapel. So I reported to my boss Gavin, a young man of at least eighteen years and over the two days I helped to move furniture, usher people, read out the health and safety announcement and listen to about six talks from various interesting authors. For some people this may sound like too many authors, but for me it was enthralling. Having tried my hand at a bit of writing I am intrigued to hear authors talking about their work and giving insights into how they wrote their book and what inspired them.

Judy Steel started the ball rolling for me at 12 noon on Saturday. Her talk and her book are filled with stories from her life, both before and after she met David Steel. She told us of her links to South Africa and of her years of involvement with politics. Judy had lead an interesting life and she recounted how she witnessed the fall of the Callaghan government by one vote and the birth of the Scottish Parliament. She gave insights into David Steel’s brave private members bill and the introduction of the 1967 abortion act. But for her politics is about the local connections more than the Westminster scene. Judy is talented in the arts and drama, but did not have time to tell us many stories from that part of her life. My abiding memory of her talk is her account of how she stepped down from the ballot to be selected as an MSP, so that her husband and daughter could go forward as nominees for the constituency place with her backing.

Tom Pow gave an entertaining talk about the death of many villages in Europe. He has travelled across Russia, Eastern Europe, France and Spain and has brought back photos, stories, poems and a point of view which gets us to look at Europe as a continent which will loose a significant percentage of it’s population while other areas of the world grow. The talk was set up as an interactive event with objects and pieces of art being passed around the audience. I enjoyed Tom’s enthusiastic presentation and it clear why he is a successful poet and story teller.

In the afternoon James Macaulay spoke about Charles Rennie Mackintosh. His newly published book is packed with information about this famous architect and artist. I have visited the Glasgow School of Art which Mackintosh designed and I have seen other examples of his architecture. Macaulay described Mackintosh as an important figure in the development of Scottish culture. This is hard to argue with that when you look at the influence that he and his group of fellow artists have had on fashion, jewellery and design in the past and still in the present. I felt that Macaulay did not give sufficient weight to Mackintosh as an artist. I have been inspired by the watercolours he produced towards the end of his life when he was living in France. These works of art are a testament to his creative genius.

On Sunday the rain was still pouring down, but this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the hundreds of people who attended the book festival. At 12 noon I and a large number of small children were entertained by the writer and illustrator (Corine V Davies and El Ashfield) who showed us that Ralph is not a Vampire/Superhero, but of course most people think that he is.

Roy McGregor owns and runs the Gullane Art Gallery, he is also a poet and he has produced a book about the artist Jack Morrocco. Roy brought along several fine examples of Jack’s work. It ranges from superb landscapes set in the South of France through portraiture and life painting to some thought provoking abstract work. Roy told us about the influence of Jacks family, including his famous uncle Alberto, which influenced Jack as he matured as an artist. Roy showed us examples of his early work from the age of seven and took us through to the present day. I found it interesting to discover that Jack is a skilled photographer and uses this skill to record scenes that he later paints in his studio. He takes a lot of notes at the scene and plans his painting meticulously. He then produces the painting quickly. Jack’s still life paintings capture glass and silver with a remarkable clarity.

James Douglas Hamilton returned to his childhood home of Lennoxlove to present a thoroughly entertaining account of his time as a MP, MSP and now Peer of the Realm, taken from his book After you Prime Minister. James has a wealth of stories about his aristocratic family’s experiences during the Second World War. This included the surrender of the deputy to Hilter, Hess, who flew over to Scotland and gave himself up in a failed attempt to broker a deal with the British government. James was a member of the cabinet in Margaret Thatcher’s government and that is where the title of the book comes from. He tells the tale of how he stood up to the formidable lady over the placement of an order of arms parts and lived to carry on in government.

Alastair Moffat is a founder of the Lennoxlove festival and a well know author and presenter. His book A Faded Map is a delight to people interested in the history of Scotland way back in antiquity. He gave an informative and entertaining talk about the kingdoms which held sway in the land now called Scotland and how these were influenced by the landscape.

The speakers in the Chapel may not have been the headliners of the event but each one was thoroughly entertaining in their own right.

No comments:

Post a Comment