IN a country house in an East Lothian town, dozens of book lovers will gather round a television to watch one of the biggest names in fiction address an audience and answer questions.
JK Rowling is top of the bill at Lennoxlove Book Festival, which takes place in Haddington next weekend.
Such has been the demand for tickets to see the Capital-based Harry Potter author in action that the sell-out appearance will be streamed live on a screen in the room next door.
Other big names from Edinburgh heading to Haddington include Alexander McCall Smith and ex-chancellor Alistair Darling, while one-time Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo is sure to attract the crowds.
Comedy actor Richard Wilson – best remembered as loveable curmudgeon Victor Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave – will also be a fan favourite at the festival, held in the expansive grounds of Lennoxlove House, the 14th century home of the Duke of Haddington.
Festival director Nicky Stonehill said: “We feel we have the strongest programme to date, offering a wide variety of subjects and authors to choose from. As well as some of today’s bestselling novelists including Michael Morpurgo, JK Rowling and Alexander McCall Smith, the programme includes political veterans Alistair Darling and Jack Straw, top food experts and businesswomen Prue Leith and Clare Macdonald, one of today’s finest poets, Roger McGough, historian Neil Oliver and master entertainers John Sessions and Richard Wilson.
“We’re obviously delighted to be welcoming so many big names to Lennoxlove this year.
“We’re aware these days there are so many book festivals for authors to choose from, but we like to think Lennoxlove has something a bit different to offer, having the setting of one of Scotland’s great country houses.
“It is Michael Morpurgo’s third year of coming so we must be doing something right.
“With a packed programme of children’s events running through the day on Saturday and Sunday too, we believe there is something for everyone, from 0 to 90, to enjoy at the book festival this year.”
As well as catering extensively for grown-up bookworms, there will be activities on offer for all the family, including a Where’s Wally treasure hunt and a talk from Harry the Haggis Hunter author and BBC Scotland presenter Sally Magnusson.
Meanwhile, a Second World War segment will showcase historical non-fiction.
“Whether people read the printed or electronic edition of a book, there is nothing better than meeting a favourite author and hear them speak live about their work,” said Ms Stonehill.
“This is evident by the sheer number of thriving book festivals in Scotland alone and the fact our own visitor numbers have been on the increase year-on-year.”
The fourth-annual book festival is expected to contribute more than £1 million to the East Lothian economy, as readers flock for the three-day extravaganza, which starts on Friday.
Ms Stonehill said: “We deliberately chose November in order to offer a very good reason for people to come and visit the area at what is traditionally a quiet time of year for tourism. We know from our own audience research that the number of people who do come and stay and use and enjoy local hotels and restaurants is on the increase.
“As for encouraging reading in the local area, we work closely with the local library service, which runs a number of storytelling sessions, workshops and craft activities related to books for children at the book festival, as well as bringing along their mobile library. We hope this encourages a love of reading and enjoyment of books beyond the book festival.”
East Lothian Council said the festival would boost tourism in Haddington and the wider area.
A spokesman said: “The Lennoxlove Book Festival has gone from strength to strength and the programme this year is very exciting indeed. I’m sure it will thrill East Lothian residents and the many visitors it is sure to attract to our beautiful county. We are delighted to, once again, be supporting this wonderful event.”
Victor Wood, chairman of investment firm McInroy & Wood, which is sponsoring the event, added: “Good books serve not merely to divert, but to create a mental haven where tired spirits can come for refreshment at times like this. Long may the festival continue.”
• For the full programme, log on to www.lennoxlovebookfestival.com, and for tickets call 0844 357 7611