The Platform for Small Nation Dialogue and Cultural Exchange
Now in its eighth year, this small, exciting and thought-provoking festival is again looking a ‘must go to’ annual happening. Quality beats size and politics and letters combine to produce a beautifully felicitous series of events. As participant Sir Harold Evans reminded us, academia, the judiciary and the press are the three defining areas of Western civilisation as well as its defenders; the cream of all three are present here
Libya (David Pratt and Stephen Gethins MP), Russia (Alan Little, Angus Roxburgh and Salman Ahmed) and Black Race Relations (Oscar Guardiola-Riviera, Aminatta Forna, Tim Phillips and Bonnie Greer) were subjects of the morning discussions, explored in ways that engaged both the intellect and at times the deepest emotions of the active audience in the main tent.
Lunch was illuminated by a performance from much loved Scottish singer Barbara Dickson whose enchanting voice, rarely heard these days in Scotland, reminded many of us how much we have missed her, since her pre-millennium glory days.
Further gems in the afternoon included an anecdote-rich discussion on reporting from conflict zones (Allan Little and Christina Murray talking to Razia Iqbal), ‘Pakistan on the Brink’ (William Dalrymple talking to Ahmed Rashid and Rashed Rahman) and perhaps for many, the day’s highlight – James Naughtie in conversation with press legend Sir Harold Evans (introduced by conference co-organiser Mark Muller Stuart as ‘The Godfather’), who in his ninetieth year appears not to have loosed his grip on world events nor how to describe them in plain English (his book ‘Do I Make Myself Clear?’ Is a best seller ).
The setting of historic Traquair is a bonus. The benign atmosphere of a house that has been visited by twenty-seven monarchs (so far), with its beautiful grounds and pre-reformation chapel must affect many a visitor, whether they realise it or not.
Throughout the day, Besides the main programme events, live performances and exhibitions take place in the walled garden.
The first day ended with a tribute to one of Scotland’s leading and best-loved publishers, Stephanie Wolfe Murray, founder of Canongate Books, who sadly died earlier this year. Dame Harriet Walter read a soliloquy from Shakespeare’s The Book of Sir Thomas More on the humane treatment of those seeking asylum. This was followed by a reception and a performance of Palmyra in her honour.
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