Lennoxlove book festival comes to an end

Author Alexander McCall Smith at the Lennoxlove Book Festival. Picture: Julie Bull

Author Alexander McCall Smith at the Lennoxlove Book Festival. Picture: Julie Bull

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A LITERARY festival that attracted top authors such as JK Rowling, Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith is likely to have turned its last page.

The Lennoxlove book festival in Haddington has been cancelled for the second year running after Lennoxlove House stopped operating as a venue – and directors admitted there were no plans for the festival to return in the “foreseeable future”.

The event – which has been running since 2009 and attracted tens of thousands of visitors every year – was cancelled last year after the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton made Lennoxlove House their family home following the arrival of their second child.

A spokeswoman for the festival’s organisers, who include author and broadcaster Alistair Moffat, said: “After considerable deliberation Lennoxlove Book Festival definitely won’t be returning, following the change of status at Lennoxlove House, which has ceased to operate as a venue.

“The other commitments of the festival organisers means that future plans for an alternative to Lennoxlove Book Festival are on hold for the foreseeable future.”

Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, 36, the 16th Duke, and his wife Sophie moved into the main house last year after living in smaller accommodation elsewhere on the Lennoxlove estate – leading to the closure of the building as an events venue.

But last year estate bosses insisted the mansion would continue to be open to the public between Easter and October, and would still host smaller events such as the Lammermuir festival of classical music.

Arts figures and politicians described the loss of the popular literary event as a “sad blow” for Scotland.

David Robinson, books editor for The Scotsman and a regular at the festival, insisted the arts world would “be the poorer without it”.

He said: “I’m sorry to see the Lennoxlove Book Festival go, and Novembers in East Lothian will just be that little bit more gloomy in its absence.

“I went to every one of the festivals from the first one in 2009 to what turned out to be the last, in 2013.

“Festival director Alistair Moffat is a terrific host and always looks after his authors well, so they will miss it too.

“Without Lennoxlove, I wouldn’t have seen JK Rowling give the only talk she’s ever given in Scotland about The Casual Vacancy, former home secretary Alan Johnson give the best talk I’ve ever heard from a British politician, or Michael Morpurgo talk about the making of War Horse.

“But there are so many more memories than that. A good book festival brings people together, shakes up ideas, and generally enhances life. Lennoxlove did all of that and we’ll be the poorer without it.”

East Lothian Council said talks over a replacement book festival were ongoing.

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com