Book festival is scrapped

Festival director Alistair Moffat and author Neil Francis had worked on launching the event. Picture: Neil Hanna

Festival director Alistair Moffat and author Neil Francis had worked on launching the event. Picture: Neil Hanna

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THE Lennoxlove Book Festival which drew tens of thousands of visitors every year is being scrapped for 2014 after the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton decided to move back into their stately home.

Lennoxlove House – the seat of the Dukes of Hamilton since 1946 – has been at the centre of the annual winter festival which has featured famous names such as JK Rowling, Ian Rankin, Kate Adie, Alexander McCall Smith and Sir Chris Bonnington.

But with Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, 35, the 16th Duke, and his wife, Sophie, expecting their second child in April, the couple plan to move from smaller accommodation elsewhere on the Lennoxlove estate into the house itself.

In a statement, the directors of the book festival – which include author and broadcaster Alistair Moffat – said: “We can confirm there will not be a Lennoxlove Book Festival in 2014 due to a change of status at Lennoxlove House, which will cease to operate as an events venue.

“However, the book festival team, in partnership with East Lothian Council, are now looking at other opportunities for the future, reviewing options for 2015 which would build on the legacy of Lennoxlove Book Festival and take the event into an exciting new phase.”

The house has been available for hire for weddings and corporate events and as a single-use venue. Existing bookings are being honoured, but after the summer, its events business will close and it will become a permanent family home.

General manager Ken Buchanan left his role earlier this month, and Fraser Niven, chief executive of Hamilton and Kinneil Estates, which includes Lennoxlove House, will leave at the end of March.

Mr Niven said the house would continue to be open to the public between Easter and October and still host smaller functions, such as events for the Lammermuir festival of classical music. East Lothian Council has held talks about possible alternative arrangements for a book festival, understood to include holding the event in marquees in the centre of Haddington and using venues such as the Corn Exchange, Town House and John Gray Centre.

The council’s economic development spokesman, Councillor John McMillan, said: “The Lennoxlove Book Festival has become well established and has helped to put East Lothian on the international map thanks to the high-profile authors it attracts.

“We will be working closely with the organisers to help with a relaunch for 2015, when we hope the festival will return even bigger and better than before,”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com