The 2023 Festival Archive

2023 2

Our 20th anniversary festival programme line-up featured some of Scotland’s leading authors including Scotland’s Makar Kathleen Jamie, fêted crime writer Lin Anderson, multi award-winning author Kapka Kassabova, conservationist John Lister-Kaye, and queen of the romantic novel, Jenny Colgan.

Highlights also included comedy legend Fred MacAulay, and rising star Malin Makes Music, who headlined the festival’s anniversary ceilidh. We also welcomed the festival's first ever writer-in-residence, Anita Sethi.

This year’s programme cover design was created by Highland storyteller and artist Lizzie McDougall - featuring sailing boats and birds in flight, it encapsulated the festival’s 2023 theme, The Journey. To view the full programme click here, or watch our video showcasing Lizzie's artwork.

Gaelic language was celebrated in a number of events including a talk by Ruairidh MacIlleathain about his latest novel, a film, Dúthchas, looking at Western Islanders’ close connection to their homelands, and in A Daunder Through Thistles - Turas tro na Cluarain – a joyous celebration of life in Scots and Gaelic with story, song, poetry and music with storytellers and singers, Susi Briggs and Christina Stewart, Gaelic bard and singer, Alpin Stewart and composer and clàrsair, Grace Stewart-Skinner.

Cinema Nairn brought a vintage cinema experience to the festival with the screening of silent film Speedy (1928) starring Harold Lloyd, accompanied by accomplished musician Andy May on piano.

The festival’s Finale Day featured live music by Highland Brass and The Penguin's Tuxedo, a performance by Nairn Youth Theatre, free creative activities for families with Nature 4 Health and ‘On the Wing’ - a costumed parade for families along Nairn’s beaches with talks and stories about migrating birds. Performers dressed as endangered species will appear around the Links to tell their stories.

Other authors and speakers at the festival included eminent Scottish historian Murray Pittock, author and journalist Chitra Ramaswamy, author of Slaves and Highlanders David Alston, and Tony Davidson, owner of the Kilmorack Gallery, whose memoir was recently shortlisted for the Highland Book Prize.

The popular Wine and Crime afternoon returned, with Douglas Skelton, JD Kirk and Lin Anderson.

Sarah Thomas introduced the Icelandic tradition of kvöldvaka to Nairn – the tradition of knitting, whittling or stitching while listening to stories – and she will read from her book Raven’s Nest: An Icelandic Journey Through Light and Darkness .

A rare tour of Darnaway Castle took place, as well as a creative writing sessions for adults and children with Anita Sethi and Sophie Martin respectively, and an art workshop with feted Highland artist Kirstie Cohen.

Local up-and-coming performers Morna and Kenna Ross presented a new work: The Fastest Town in Scotland at Nairn’s Little Theatre to a sell-out audience.

Exhibitions included a display of surreal and yet moving painting inspired by the North Eastern fishing community, by David Boyle, at WASPS Links Middle Room, and a celebration of the life and work of dedicated and talented local artists, the late Mary and John Wilson, at Nairn Community and Arts Centre.

The festival also ran an outreach programme of events in local schools including author visits from Catriona Child, Corinna Campbell, Ruairidh MacIlleathain and Gwen Bowie, and art workshops with artists Amy Neville and Julia Tucknott. There were also Scots lullaby sessions for babies and toddlers, and readings for very young children at Nairn Library with Christina Stewart and Corinna Cambpell. With support from our headline sponsor Meallmore Ltd, the festival ran an art workshop for local care home residents suffering from dementia and their carers.

In addition to Meallmore, the festival received essential sponsorship from Fred.Olsen Renewables, Tornagrain, Gordon Timber and numerous other local businesses. The Gaelic language programme was generously supported by Comhairle nan Leabhraichean | The Gaelic Books Council.

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