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The Best is History

An edifying night was had, in the erudite company of Alistair Moffat (founder of the thriving Borders Book Festival, author of numerous best-selling books on Scottish history, and an all-round man of letters).

Alistair told us of his meteoric career in the arts, from leading the Edinburgh Festival Fringe when only twenty-five, through the glory days of STV and television milestones like Rebus, Taggart, and Dr Finlay, before finally taking the bold decision to relocate to Kelso and become a writer prior to turning fifty. From there, Alistair secured major book deals and Top 20 status, with unlikely hits including novels about King Arthur, Britain’s ancient sea kingdoms, and – most spectacularly, perhaps – a self-published hardback on the history of the Scottish Borders (which unexpectedly sold over ten thousand copies).

Alistair is evidently not a man bereft of get-up-and-go, and when he started the Borders Book Festival in 2003 there were less than a dozen such events in Scotland (whereas today, there are over forty – drawing an estimated audience of 400,000 people a year, and described by Alistair as “a vital part of the publishing ecology”). Alistair’s enumeration of the speakers whom he draws to the Borders, and the party atmosphere he conjures there, made all in attendance eager to pack their bags!

His next title will concern Bannockburn – nicely timed, perhaps, for publication in 2014; the year of that infernal referendum…

A great entertainer, with an encyclopaedic overview of Scottish/British media culture and history. We were left with a lot more questions on our lips, than there was time to ask.

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