Big Lit 2016 : 14th-17th April

2016 is the 10th Anniversary of Gatehouse literary venue, The Bakehouse, which runs BIG LIT. Big Lit, the Stewartry Book Festival has gone from strength to strength since it began as part of the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival in 2011. This year it has grown even bigger, with the expansion of activities for young people. So whether you have small children underfoot, are an Archer’s fan, enjoy the work of Jane Austen, love the combination of music and poetry, are into contemporary writing or writing from other generations and cultures, are interested in installation or  exhibition  – there will  be something in this year’s BIG LIT programme you can enjoy.  The Mill is the main venue for most of the events, but other events are happening around town as well as ad hoc unprogrammed entertainement from guerilla poets to buskers.  A lively weekend in Gatehouse is guaranteed.  Check out the Big Lit website for full details.

Mill Events

Secrets and Confessions: Life Writing Workshop with Renita Boyle
Thursday April 14th  10.30 - 12.30  The Mill on the Fleet

Be part of Scottish Book Trust’s annual national campaign to get Scotland writing.  Tease out and tell your true stories with author and storyteller Renita Boyle. Submit your writing to the SBT and it could be published in a book that will be distributed for free during Book Week Scotland 2016.

Places for 12    Free tickets from Gatehouse Box Office

Sponsored by The Scottish Book Trust

Journeys: A writer’s workshop with TOM POW

Friday 15th April  10am - 12.30pm    Mill on the Fleet

Award winning poet/writer Tom Pow is a widely experienced workshop leader, former Head of Creative and Cultural Studies at the University of Glasgow’s Crichton Campus. This workshop’s  theme – for poetry and prose – is Journeys.  Your head will buzz with ideas, your notebook be crammed with pointers. An unmissable opportunity to learn from one of Scotland’s top writers.

£15    Places limited to 15 (maximum)

Booking:  The Gatehouse Box Office

Tom Pow At the Well of Love and other Locations

Friday 15th April   2.30- 3.15pm   Mill on the Fleet

Tom is one of Scotland’s foremost contemporary poets; lyrical, celebratory and sensitive to the world around him. He reads from his latest collection At the Well of Love (Mariscat Press, 2016), and of other unexpected locations. Come and share a varied and engaging 45 minutes in his company.

Sponsored by the Scottish Book Trust

Wendy Stewart Harp recital

Friday 15th April  3.45 – 4.30pm  Mill on The Fleet

World renowned Scottish harpist Wendy Stewart entertains with a programme of Gaelic and Scots song  highlighting the poetry of both languages and the links in culture and history.


Wagtongues Pop-up Bookshop

Saturday April 16th  10.30 – 5.30   Mill on the Fleet

WagTongues is Dumfries & Galloway’s itinerant bookshop which pops up all over the region to sell books written by local authors. As well as the opportunity to buy from their wonderful range of  books – fiction, travel, memoir, poetry, young adult – there is the opportunity to meet writers, listen to readings and author interviews.


Holy Wells of Scotland

Saturday 16th April  10.30 – 11.30am   Mill on the Fleet

Writer, photographer, and exhibition and book designer Phil Cope will take readers on a series of surprising journeys: travels through time, through our contested histories, through the responses of our poets and writers, and through the inspiring territories of our changing beliefs, in his illustrated talk on the sacred springs and holy wells of Scotland.


See additional associated event - a free guided walk to Rutherford’s Well at Anwoth (weather permitting!)

Guided Walk to Rutherford’s Well

Saturday 16 April 12.00 noon

Weather permitting, Phil Cope will conduct a pleasant walk to Rutherford’s Well and to the impressive remains of the fine Old Kirk, at Anwoth just outside Gatehouse of Fleet. Samuel Rutherford was one of the great thinkers of the Reformation and the Covenanting movement, a gifted orator and a preacher, as well as a prolific writer with sixteen books to his name).

Meet Phil in the foyer of The Mill on the Fleet if you’d like to join him.


Discovering Rabindranath Tagore

Saturday 16th April  1.30 – 2.30pm  Mill on the Fleet

With old photographs, poems and a summary of his philosophy, Dr Christine Kupfer explores the life and thought of Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore was a polymath who reshaped Bengali poetry, literature, music, art and theatre. He was honoured with the Nobel Prize in literature in 1913 for Gitanjali. India still celebrates him as one of its greatest cultural heroes. Dr Kupfer, author of a book on Tagore’s philosophy and education, talks about Tagore’s life, worldview and his educational experiments at his Indian ashram.


A Song Among the Stones: Kenneth Steven/Wendy Stewart

Saturday 16th April  3.00 – 4.00pm  Mill on the Fleet

Kenneth Steven was inspired to write A Song Among the Stones by a talk about early Celtic hermits thought to have made the difficult and dangerous journeys from Iona to seek solitude in Iceland. It was first broadcast by Radio 3’s The Verb and went on to become a choral work by composer John Hearne. Then world renowned harpist Wendy Stewart composed music to be woven through and around the sequence. Wendy and Kenneth have gone on to perform it many times in different corners of Scotland.

Sponsored by the Scottish Book Trust


Saturday 16th April  4.30 – 5.30pm   Mill on The Fleet
Celebrating the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death

Actor and broadcaster Peter Marinker discusses and reads from the 29 year old Shakespeare’s  sonnets expressing his unconditional, platonic love for his patron, the third Earl of Southampton, the beautiful 19 year-old, cross-dressing womanizer Henry Wrothesley. In a fascinating exploration based on the late Ted Hughes’ Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being we glimpse the personal history of the greatest poet of the English language.


Open Airs with Gerda Stevenson and Kyrre Slind

Saturday 16th April  7.30 – 9.00pm  Mill on The Fleet

After their sell-out performance at BIG LIT last year, the unique combination of actor/writer/singer-songwriter Gerda Stevenson and multi-instrumentalist/composer Kyrre Slind return with more poetry and music. Gerda reads from her new poetry collection in progress, Kyrre plays from his new CD, Open Airs, further delighting us with song settings of James Joyce’s miniature Chamber Music poems, by the renowned composer Ronald Stevenson.

Sponsored by the Scottish Book Trust & Mill Sessions

BIG LIT Sunday morning Launch Pad

Sunday 17th April  10.30am - 12.30pm   Mill on the Fleet

BIG LIT Launch Pad celebrates the launch of Southlight 19 - the regions literature magazine  with readings from Editors, contributors, a tribute to the late Tessa Ransford OBE, and open mike spots for poets to launch new work. BIG LIT Launch Pad also features Llamas who Launch, Vivien Jones and Julian Colton - two fine Scottish Llamas - poets living and working in Scotland but all published by Cultured Llama Publishing in Kent reading from current poetry collections.


Karin Fernald ‘We fainted alternately on the sofa’

Sunday 17th April   2.00 – 3.00   The Mill on The Fleet
Jane Austen in the Making

Actress Karin Fernald explores some of Jane Austen’s earliest works in this intriguing one-woman show. Written while Austen was in her teens, these farcical and anarchic stories, short novels and plays were never meant for publication, but to entertain family and friends.   Disconnect from ipods and ipads, smartphones and twitter, and  enter the I8th century. (One unlikely heroine ends her career up in The Highlands)

Sponsored by the Fleet Gallery

BIG LIT’S Feral Choir Finale

Sunday 17th April  3.30 – 5.00   Mill on The Fleet  

Songwriter/composer Alison Burns  loves to write for community choirs – songs with lush beautiful harmonies and simple text that are easy to learn by ear but satisfying and special to sing. Many of her songs have found their way into the repertoire - and hearts - of singers across the UK, and increasingly the USA and Australia. In this concert, which offers a rousing finale to BIG LIT 2016 her renowned Castle Douglas based Feral Choir perform some newly written songs of hers and by other contemporary writers.