Author encourages literature lovers to come to Stewartry Book Festival

Stewartry author Karen Campbell will be speaking on home ground for the first time about her new novel Rise at this month’s Big Lit book festival.

The book has been attracting extensive interest since its publication less than a month ago – in part because it taps into Scotland’s fascination about what the referendum revealed about the country and its people.

 

Karen moved from Glasgow to the Stewartry, in Dumfries and Galloway, around three years ago and says the experience of rural life had a clear influence on the novel, much of which is set in rural Scotland.

She said: “Being here gave a different slant to my work. It reflected what it is really like to be in the countryside, rather than my idea of what it would be like to live there.”

In some ways she found that communities are a lot closer in rural areas, making her aware of just how anonymous people often are in cities. However, being that much closer to the rhythms of the natural world took some getting used to.

She said: “When I first moved to the Stewartry I found the darkness at night really oppressive because there are no street lights. In suburbia it was never really dark, there was always a sodium glow. One of my characters feels very exposed being among the hills and finds it very oppressive.”

Karen, a former Glasgow police officer, had always lived in Scotland’s biggest city before making the move to one of its most sparsely populated regions.

She said: “My husband was also a police officer and when he retired and the children had gone to university we realised we could live anywhere we wanted. It was an exciting thought, I’d always lived in Glasgow – our children had even been to the same school I had.

“As a girl I had been to Borgue on holiday and remembered the beauty of the skies and the openness. And when we came down here to look around we fell in love with the area.”

The move has been a success and Karen has enjoyed adjusting to the pace of life and becoming involved with the region’s creative community and helping with creative writing courses.

She is now looking forward to Big Lit where she will be at Mill on the Fleet, on Sunday 19 April from 2pm to 3pm, with tickets costing just £5. An Audience With Karen Campbell will include a reading from Rise, a discussion about the book and what goes into writing successful novels, plus a question and answer session.

She said: “Big Lit really punches above its weight because there is such a lot to do, with a mix of literature, music and even sculpture to enjoy. It showcases the area and is a chance for people to connect with the creative life of the region.

“It gives a wider sense of belonging when people come together from across the region for events of this kind and it is a great showcase for the area and all it has to offer.”

Karen has also revealed that she is currently working on another novel, as yet untitled, which takes readers back to World War II and the events surrounding the liberation of a Tuscan town from fascist control by a unit of black American troops.

Chrys Salt MBE, festival organiser and Artistic Director of the Bakehouse, said: “The Stewartry, along with the rest of Dumfries and Galloway, has a huge amount of literary talent and Big Lit provides an opportunity to share that with the world.

“Karen is a superb example of this and her new book underlines the calibre of work being produced in the region these days.

“The festival is a great chance to meet her, along with other authors and poets from much further afield, to find out about their work and lives.”

There will also be the chance to meet Terry Darlington, whose Narrow Dog books enchanted the world – selling more than 250,000 copies.

Audiences will be able to enjoy the lyrical delights of Rally and Broad’s marvellous spoken word cabaret with its melange of music, spraffing, spikiness and other assorted nonsense.

Other attractions include:

  • Ladies who Launch – Elspeth Brown and Vivien Jones launch new poetry collections
  • Candlelit readings in The Temple, a Georgian folly deep in the forest with Liz Niven
  • A typically crazy Bill Barlow interactive art installation in The Bakehouse Studio
  • And you can rub shoulders with everyone from Leonard Cohen to Ivor Cutler in the Murray Arms with one of Galloway’s longest-standing pub sessions.

And as if that wasn’t enough there will also be a Big Lit Mill Session with Gerda Stevenson (nominated Scots Singer of the Year, MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards, 2014) with her new album Night Touches Day. She will be accompanied by Norwegian musician Kyrre Slind, on lute, sitar, guitar and mandolin.  

Plus the poems of Hugh MacDiarmid will be set to music and sung by popular composer/singer/songwriter Nicola Black.

Lots of the events are free while many others are as cheap as chips.


Full information on the Big Lit Programme is on the website: biglit.org