Hilary Mantel headlines Borders Book Festival at Abbotsford

Borders Book Festival

Literary giants Hilary Mantel and Alexander McCall Smith, crime-writing royalty Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Christopher Brookmyre and Denise Mina and political leaders Ed Balls, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband are just a few of the highlights of the 2021 Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival, this year being held in November at Abbotsford, home of Sir Walter Scott, whose 250th anniversary is being celebrated throughout the year.

Return for Festival

The Book Festival returns for the first time since 2019, after the Covid-19 pandemic effectively cancelled the 2020 annual event in June.  The full line-up of more than 60 events and tickets are now on sale for the six-day book festival, running from 2nd – 7th November in the fitting environment of Abbotsford, just outside Melrose in the Scottish Borders, on the banks of the River Tweed.

The magnificent venue for 2021 allows the extraordinary array of events to go ahead whatever the Scottish autumn weather may bring, whilst ensuring that all Government Covid-19 guidelines are strictly adhered to without detracting from the sense of excitement at the return of the festival after such a turbulent 18 months.  The house and visitor centre will remain open for visitors attending the Book Festival to be able to enjoy too.

Borders Book festival 2021

The Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival will take place at Abbotsford House in November. Credit: Lloyd Smith

Welcoming authors and celebrating Scott

“We are absolutely delighted to be welcoming the book-loving public back to the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival this year, even more so in light of everything that the last 18 months has thrown at us,” said Alistair Moffat, Festival Director

“The festival will feel a little different this year: we are swapping the warm, sunny days of June for the autumnal beauty of November; and the iconic Harmony Garden for the magnificent home of Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford.

It seems totally fitting in this year of the 250th celebrations of Scott to be welcoming a host of great authors to his home, but, on a practical note, holding the Book Festival at Abbotsford also allows us to ensure that the Festival is Covid-safe and that our audiences, whom we have missed so much, can come and enjoy everything we have to offer with peace of mind.

As ever, we are very grateful to our sponsors and funders for their continued support and are delighted to welcome on board this year as our media partner the Financial Times.

We very much look forward to returning to Harmony Garden in June 2022, but, for now, we are thrilled to have so many wonderful authors joining us at Abbotsford this November for six days of unbridled literary pleasure.”

Borders book festival Harmony Garden

Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival  will return to Harmony Garden in June 2022.
Credit: Alex Hewitt

Authors from worlds of sports, travel, history & politics

Taking to the stage will be rugby icon Gavin Hastings discussing the Lions and leadership, and Finlay Calder and Jim Telfer on the epic Lions tour of 1997; the voice of cricket Henry Blofeld with a personal tribute to the game that has shaped his life; and footballing great Pat Nevin talking about his autobiography The Accidental Footballer.

Top political journalist Robert Peston will discuss his explosive new thriller The Whistleblower; delivering a timely COP 26 round-up; Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband will consider their respective manifestos to fix the most pressing problems the world currently faces; and Strictly Come Dancing sensation and keen cook Ed Balls will share his very personal autobiography Appetite: A Memoir of Recipes in Family and Food.   Journalist Joe Shute delivers the McInroy & Wood Lecture on the changes to our weather based on his new book Forecast: A Diary of the Lost Seasons. 

Further delights await with travel and television phenomenon Michael Palin on the story of the ship Erebus; history doyens Jonathan Dimbleby on how Hitler lost the war, and Neil Oliver talking about his The Story of the World in 100 Moments.  Plus, festival favourites Rory Bremner, Richard Holloway and James Naughtie, as well as Allan Massie with his fictionalised account of the life of Sir Walter Scott, The Ragged Lion, and Andrew Greig on his acclaimed new historical novel Rose Nicolson.

Fitting Venue for 2021

Abbotsford is delighted to be welcoming the Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival to the home of Sir Walter Scott, especially as we celebrate the 250th anniversary of his birth.  The authors and visitors to the festival will be able to experience the wonderful home and setting that inspired Scott to become Scotland’s Greatest Storyteller and inspires writers still.  It is fitting that in Scott’s anniversary year our commemorations include the opportunity to celebrate the literary heritage we enjoy today,” said Giles Ingram, Abbotsford CEO.

Borders Book Festiva

Abbotsford, home of Sir Walter Scott plays host to this year’s Borders Book Festival. Credit: Lloyd Smith

“It’s exciting to see the festival return to live events, in such a fitting location, with an impressive cast of writers and thinkers. We are very much looking forward to enjoying all that the festival has to offer, all situated in the spectacular grounds of Abbotsford”, said Michelle McLeod, Sponsorship Manager at Baillie Gifford.

Festival Events

The Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival is delighted to welcome the Financial Times as its new media partner, and this year’s festival programme will include FTWeekend events addressing some of the biggest political and economic issues of the day – Afghanistan, defining Scottishness and Englishness, and the question of a Scottish sovereign currency – with some of the brightest minds from the worlds of journalism, politics, economics, diplomacy and academia including Gavin Esler, Ailsa Henderson, Sebastian Payne, Sir John Kay and Tom Tugendhat MP.

The 12th prestigious Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction will be celebrated with an event with 2021 winner Hilary Mantel. The £25,000 prize was awarded to Mantel in June of this year for The Mirror and the Light.

The ever-popular Family Book Festival, sponsored by Saltire Roofing & Building, will return on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th November with a packed programme of author events and outdoor activities for children aged 3-12, including: bestselling author and illustrator Kristina Stephenson in her Museum of Marvellous Things, where, with a little help from puppets, songs and boundless imaginative energy, the impossible can happen;  the Borders’ very own acclaimed and addictively entertaining Alan Windram with stories, singing and robot dancing as he reads his latest One Button Benny adventure; Blue Peter Award-winning author Pamela Butchart with a feast of fun exploring her book A Monster Ate My Packed Lunch!; outdoor walking, drawing and writing workshops with talented duo, illustrator Jill Calder and author Justin Davies; an outdoor walking tour of discovery for all the family in Where’s Watty?, inspired by Sir Walter Scott himself; and a relaxing colouring session with Eilidh Muldoon, whose The Colouring Book of Scotland features Abbotsford.

The book festival also welcomes the continued support of Title Sponsor Baillie Gifford and Key Sponsor McInroy & Wood, as well as Cullen Kilshaw, Saltire Roofing & Building Ltd, Davidson Chalmers Stewart, DM Hall, and the on-going funding of Scottish Borders Council, Creative Scotland and many other loyal supporters.

Tickets for this year’s Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival are available via Citizen Ticket, at www.bordersbookfestival.org or on 0131 290 2112.

Leave a Reply