Scottish literary festival secures appearance from 2020 Booker prize winner

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ORGANISERS of a Scottish book festival have scored a literary coup by securing the Booker prize winner for a guest appearance.

Douglas Stuart will be joining acclaimed Scottish writers Andrew O’Hagan and Graeme Armstrong at Paisley Book Festival in February.

As well as winning the 2020 Booker Prize, Stuart’s gritty autobiographical novel has also been named Scottish Waterstones’ Book of the Year.

Along with O’Hagan’s most recent book, Mayflies, and Armstrong’s The Young Team, Stuart’s debut novel, Shuggie Bain, shines a light on the complexities of class and masculine identity.

The headline event featuring Stuart, O’Hagan and Armstrong will be chaired by Kirstin Innes. Her book, Scabby Queen, was also published this year and was hailed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as “gripping and moving – a literary triumph”.

Launched at the beginning of 2020, the book festival is a legacy from Paisley’s bid to become UK City of Culture. The inaugural festival before the lockdown took inspiration from the 200th anniversary of the Paisley Radicals.

Stuart’s appearance at next year’s event has been welcomed by Victoria Hollows, chief executive of Renfrewshire Leisure, who said it was “incredibly exciting”.

She added: “I am delighted that our 2021 event is going ahead. While we may not be able to gather physically, our innovative production team is doing great work to create an interesting and interactive virtual festival experience.

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“We have an excellent line-up of writers taking part – and to have Douglas Stuart’s attendance on the back of his fantastic Booker Prize win is incredibly exciting – highlighting the success of our inaugural festival among both authors and our audiences.”

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Hollow said the 2021 theme of Radical New Futures could not be more appropriate. “Covid-19 has created a new narrative to everyone’s lives yet, despite the challenges, some of the ways in which we have had to broaden our outlook and approach may prove to be for the better,” she said.

“In our Radical New Future, society will undoubtedly be more resilient, and a creative environment where we can tap into the power of our imagination will be more important than ever for us to thrive.”

Paisley Book Festival co-producer Keira Brown said increased borrowing figures in Renfrewshire Libraries over the last eight months showed reading was a source of comfort.

“It has provided so many people with an escape route from reality,” she said.

“Due to Covid guidelines, we have transitioned the 2021 Festival to an online format, which we will use to our full capacity. Working with our steering committee from Renfrewshire Leisure’s Arts and Libraries teams, my co-producer, Jess Orr, and I are planning a rich and exciting book festival programme, as well as introducing our first Writer-in-Residence.”

Orr added: “This has been a tumultuous year for so many people and we hope that the second edition of Paisley Book Festival, different as it will be from its inaugural iteration, will be a much-needed opportunity to heal, to reconnect with others, and to be inspired by our favourite authors to imagine a brand new future which we can all play a part in creating.”

The Paisley Book Festival is funded by Renfrewshire Council and delivered in partnership with Renfrewshire Leisure as part of Future Paisley.

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