IT’S hard to imagine just what Jeremy Paxman, Rory Bremner, Patsy Kensit and Maggie O’Farrell would chat about over breakfast. Maybe the weather? Energy prices? Their latest literary releases perhaps?
To be a fly on the wall at Haddington House next weekend may be the only way of finding out as they join forces for what will be the fifth Lennoxlove Book Festival on the outskirts of the East Lothian town.
“We take great care in making sure the authors have a great time,” says Nicky Stonehill, one of the festival directors. “They are all invited to stay in the house, for example.”
Whether such figures – also including the likes of Chris Brookmyre, Iain Macwhirter and Kate Mosse – do in fact take up the offer of a Haddington sleepover will likely remain under wraps, but what is for sure is that they find a respected place in the programme of one of the country’s finest book festivals.
Now in its fifth year, Lennoxlove has grown bigger and better every year, earning itself a notable reputation in literary circles, meaning the likes of JK Rowling – who last year spoke about her first ‘grown-up’ book, The Casual Vacancy – Alexander McCall Smith, Kate Adie and Ian Rankin find themselves on the sprawling roll call of previous attendees.
“Much of our success is down to the high calibre of authors we have attracted over the years,” says Nicky. “We go to great lengths and efforts to get a varied and interesting programme.
“I think our success also has something to do with the time of year and the setting; a winter festival somewhere just a little different, a bit special.”
But although the festival is all about books it is far from highbrow, instead offering a programme for all the family along with laid back entertainment, arts and crafts, food and drink.
“We have something for everyone,” says Nicky.
So here is how the festival works. Events are ticketed and most come with a price tag (around £5-£13), but general entry is free and there are no-charge events, particularly those for youngsters.
This year organisers are offering a £25 family day pass which gives two adults and up to three kids access to entries highlighted in the festival programme with an “F”. Such events include The Famous Five Show, with Julian from the legendary Enid Blyton series who will demonstrate mystery-solving techniques while inviting the public to help crack codes.
Other non-literary events include Make and Take Bushcraft activities (with opportunities to create a tribal headdress), sing-songs, circus workshops and willow weaving, inspired by the Year of Natural Scotland 2013 campaign.
But for many visitors a trip to Lennoxlove next weekend will be about one thing only – books.
The chance to come up close with a favourite author may be a dream come true for some. This year’s programme is impressive, including guest talks from broadcaster Jeremy Paxman on his latest release, Great Britain’s Great War, bestselling writer Maggie O’Farrell reading from Instructions For a Heatwave, and former Home Secretary Alan Johnson with a haunting look back at his 1950s childhood.
n Lennoxlove Book Festival, November 1-3, www.lennoxlove bookfestival.com.