Book your place at Book Week Scotland

Characters, in boxing gloves fight it out for the title of top Scottish book hero. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Characters, in boxing gloves fight it out for the title of top Scottish book hero. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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ARE you a Rebus fan, or more of a Sherlock Holmes lover? Do you prefer loveable rogue Alan Breck Stewart or violent hardman Begbie?

Now is your chance to have your say as Book Week Scotland is looking to find the top ten most loveable characters in Scottish fiction – with everyone from Jean Brodie to The Gruffalo making an appearance.

Now in its third year, the national week-long celebration of books and reading has a plethora of events and activities ­designed to engage everyone from ­toddlers to pensioners and reignite a love of books.

“Even those of us who love reading quite often utter the phrase ‘I don’t have time to read anymore’. We want to ­encourage people to make a bit of time and space for reading in their lives,” said Philippa Cochrane, Head of Reader Development for the Scottish Book Trust.

“We have launched a reading pledge section on our website where people can make simple pledges such as reading a book during Book Week or going to the ­library or reading more with their ­children. These things are really manageable and not intimidating. We are going to follow up how people got on after Book Week is finished.”

She adds: “We’ve had quite a few ­people who have pledged to read with their pets, which is interesting!”

In Edinburgh, the Scottish Book Trust has teamed up with a number of venues and organisations to put on a diverse range of events for book lovers.

From those with a thirst for crime ­stories right through to comic book lovers, there’s something for everyone.

One of the highlights will be a rare chance to climb up onto the rooftop at St Giles’ Cathedral to hear stories and poems.

Limited to four people at the time, Tales in the Tower combines the opportunity to view spectacular panoramic views of ­Edinburgh and get close to the clockwork and the bells in the tower, whilst listening to tales and poems with a special connection to St Giles’.

“I think that’s really ­exciting”, says Philippa. “I love the fact that only four people can go up at a time. It’s a very intimate and special tour.”

Other special events taking place in Edinburgh ­include the Inky Fingers Literary Scavenger Hunt across the city where intrepid ­adventurers will leave no page unturned to collect a selection of book-themed items. Author and forager John Wright will lead guests round the Royal Botanic Garden while discussing his new book, The Naming of the Shrew.

And Murder at The Fruitmarket Gallery will see an evening of crime in the gallery. There will be readings from crime writer Doug Johnstone, alongside live music and a private viewing of Canadian artist Stan Douglas.

“This event is successful across the whole of Scotland because we work with partners who programme things that work for their audiences,” explains ­Philippa. “That’s what gives us the ­richness of events.

“It’s not about us dictating to people what events should be about, it’s about people coming up with what suits them and their audience.

“The result is that you can take part in an event somewhere you might expect like a library or book shop, but also unusual places like the tower at St Giles’.”

Not surprisingly, libraries play a big part of the Book Week Scotland programme.

In Edinburgh, library events include a talk by children’s writer and illustrator John Fardell about his adventure trilogy at Sighthill Library.

And crime writer Russell McLean will be at Gilmerton ­Library for his Crime Noir event.

Book Week organisers are encouraging people to write “love letters” to their local libraries to show how important they still are to communities.

“We really want to celebrate libraries this year”, says Philippa. “There have been so many stories about libraries closing and people having to justify why they want to keep them open, so we want people to write a love letter to explain why libraries are so important to them. The libraries can display them then we are going to find a way of sharing the messages across the country.”

School pupils will also be getting involved in activities, with an authors event being streamed live into classrooms via the internet, storytelling Bookbug sessions and a three-book giveaway to every primary one pupil.

Cineworld at Fountain Park will also be offering a special screening of the new Paddington film, with a short storytelling session beforehand.

And online there are a host of ways people can get involved – like voting for their favourite all-time fictional Scottish character.

“We have a shortlist of 50 characters from Scottish books put together by a panel – with quite fierce debate might I add,” explains Philippa.

“One of the things we wanted to do was to make the list include children’s books as well as books for adults, and we wanted to have a mix of classics as well as 
contemporary fiction in order to make it as broad as possible.

“And if we have managed to miss out a favourite character there’s also a wild card option online for people to make their own suggestions. We are hoping that people will be a part of this and get very excited about it.”

As part of Book Week Scotland, 150,000 free copies of a short story and poem ­collection written by Scottish people, called Scotland’s Stories of Home, will be given out. Leonie Bell, director of creative development at Creative Scotland, adds: “Book Week Scotland 2014 offers a ­programme for book lovers, whether it’s the magic of words, the wonder of 
libraries or the worlds within books.

“Whether it’s writing a love letter to your local library, voting for the Scottish ­character you love or meeting the author you love to read at one of the 600 events across Scotland, there’s something for everyone.”

For more information about Book Week Scotland 2014 and how you can get involved, visit www.bookweekscotland.com.