Amongst authors and readers on Islay

Recently, Islay held its sixth book festival. Our Live Literature funding has helped the festival to grow from the ground up, and Clare Rodgers, our Live Literature Co-ordinator, was in attendance to share the experience with the island community.

I had the good fortune to find myself on beautiful Islay this September for the annual Islay Book festival held at Port Ellen Primary school. Scottish Book Trust helped subsidise the festival through our Live Literature funding scheme so I was delighted to be out in the field seeing how funding can be put to use. 

Having been plucked out of noisy concrete Glasgow and deposited (within half an hour no less) into a stunning and misty Islay, I felt welcomed and excited at the prospect of my weekend, not to mention overwhelmed at the immediate warmth and generosity of our hosts, the Book festival committee.


The festival’s history is as impressive as it is humble having grown out of a book group of friends. Through nothing more than a love of reading and desire to share and involve the whole community, Islay Book Festival has now been running for 6 years with this year’s being its most successful festival to date. With an impressive line-up of both adult and children’s authors and storytellers, there was something for everyone and visitors came from near and far.


The very ethos our Live Literature fund is to promote reading and writing as fun and creative activities – as well as being educational so I was excited to attend the author events and witness first hand the impact of bringing literature to life.  

I met Lynn Stewart from Northings who grew up on Islay. She was amazed at the opportunities for children to meet and be inspired by authors and storytellers, who not only took part at the festival itself but went into the primary schools in the days leading up to the festival. Lynn pointed out that ‘This ensures as many children as possible are given the opportunity to get that even those who are not able to attend the festival still benefit from the experience.’


Some of the children I noted enjoyed the events so much they came back to the festival for more!


Between author events, I sat perched on my wee plastic chair in the assembly hall (our make-shift cafe and bookshop for the weekend) watching the audiences chatting to the authors over delicious home baked cake and tea.

Islay’s Book Festival is a perfect example of the great things that can spring from a love of reading. Its founders clearly delight in the community’s appetite for the festival, and in the fact that so much of the community get the chance to meet Live Literature authors. I’m looking forward to next year already!

If you would like to host your own author event or even start your own book festival, applications to Live Literature are accepted twice a year. The next deadline is September 30th.

The Live Literature authors who took part in the festival were Allan Burnett, Cathy MacPhail, Jess Smith, John Fardell, Debi Gliori and Alistair Moffat.

Islay's schools are also doing some great work! Check out these blogs from Bowmore Primary and Islay High Scool to find out more.