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April 23, 2014

Bookish Dunbar

The steady decline of the bookshop on our high streets appears to have little to do with demand for books (which is as high as ever) but more to do with how we choose to buy them. Perhaps because of this, literary festivals are popping up all over the country as authors and publishers recognise the value of connecting with readers.  But these festivals are very much a two way process with the potential to generate a host of benefits for the local community. The enterprising folk at Dunbar have high hopes for their latest venture.


East Lothian Courier

CoastWord will see famous writers such as Liz Lochhead and Bernard MacLaverty promote books and the written word during a three-day event in June. See Coastword’s programme here

One of those behind the festival is Hannah Lavery, herself a published writer. The group’s creative director said: “Dunbar has a growing reputation as a creative place and we believe the festival celebrates and offers an opportunity to shine a light upon the amazing creativity of our town and also inspire our community with some incredible talent and exciting events.”

The announcement – months in the planning – comes just a week after it was revealed that the Haddington-based Lennoxlove Book Festival would not be held this year. Lennoxlove has welcomed tens of thousands of visitors since its book festival was launched five years ago.

However, it will not go ahead this year and instead may relaunch next April at another location, possibly central Haddington.

Councillor John McMillan, East Lothian Council’s economic development spokesman, was pleased to hear about the Dunbar event.

He said: “We’re delighted to hear about CoastWord’s plans for the Dunbar Festival of Words.

“We welcome any initiative that brings visitors to East Lothian, especially something like this that fits so well into the county’s year-round programme of arts events.”

CoastWord is a development of The Wee Festival of Words, which was first held last year as part of the programme for Dunbar Civic Week, and which was also headed up by Mrs Lavery. Among those who performed at the event was singer-songwriter Alex Cornish.

The festival aims to “capture the stories of mothers and grandmothers, of local poets, writers and singer-songwriters, from the young to the old, from the new residents to the residents who have seen our town through a lifetime and the lifetimes before them”.

The Dunbar festival, which will see The Rocks act as the festival hub, will also see events held in the Bleachingfield Centre and Dunbar Library. There are plans for a special event in Lochend Woods, supported by the town’s community woodland group. Mrs Lavery said: “We are saddened by Lennoxlove’s absence this year and look forward to their return in 2015  but we hope CoastWord will appeal to those who are going to be missing the book festival this year.

“CoastWord has community at its heart and we believe that the festival offers a ‘not to be missed experience’ in which alongside established and emerging writers, poets and singer-songwriters we have the stories, the memories, of a place, of a people, of a town.

“In Homecoming year, in the year of the John Muir Festival, what better way to celebrate Home than coming to Dunbar to share in our celebration of words, stories, poetry, song and community – of home?”

A full programme for the festival, which will build on The Wee Festival of Words, launched last year, should be announced in April.

The team of volunteers has already managed to confirm a number of well-known writers, including Bernard MacLaverty.

He is the man behind Lamb, Cal and Grace Notes, as well as the BAFTA-nominated Bye-Child.

Joining him will be Liz Lochhead, a published author for more than 20 years.

Award-winning author and poet Dilys Rose, as well as Linda Strachan, the creator of the Hamish McHaggis series, will also be in the town, while Sheree Mack will be the festival’s writer in residence and Dunbar poet and singer-songrwriter Roy Moller will also play his part.

Mrs Lavery said: “We hope to create a festival which will celebrate our fantastic community and inspire us with exciting and unique events, offering a stage to some of the best and most exciting writers, poets and singer-songwriters in the country.”

Meanwhile, CoastWord is asking everyone to join in its ‘I Love Dunbar’ project.

Postcards are being distributed around the town and people are being asked to share memories, stories and reasons as to why they love the town.

For more information on the festival, which will run June 20-22, go to