BigLit2020 Online - Looking Back ...

BIG LIT's first ever digital festival, running from 16 - 30 October 2020 has come to a close – it’s been challenging but an absolute joy putting it together. Feedback has been terrific with a new audience being reached from as far afield as India, Finland, the US and Australia. If there are things you have missed we are delighted to say that all our participants have generously agreed we can keep our events LIVE here on The Bakehouse site - see below!

Annette Badland: Gertie And Me

Award winning actress Annette Badland was nominated for an Olivier for her performance in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and is well known for her TV appearances in Midsomer Murders, EastEnders, Dr Who, Outlander and Cutting it – not to mention ‘horrid Hazel’ in the Archers on Radio 4!  Annette played Gertrude Stein, novelist, poet, art collector, friend of Picasso and Hemingway, mentor to Cezanne, Matisse and F. Scott Fitzgerald to great acclaim at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre last year.  ‘Gertie’ had shared a life partnership with Alis B Toklas to whom she was devoted, yet experimented well beyond the parameters of a conventional relationship. Annette explores the work, world and loves of Gertrude Stein on her artistic journey towards bringing this extraordinary woman to life.

Jean Atkin & Ross Donlon: TWO CONTINENTS, ONE PLANET

One of the advantages of digital events is the ability to bring together performers who live thousands of miles apart without paying for the airfare!  Two Continents, One Planet pairs award winning Australian poet Ross Donlon (The Blue Dressing Gown, Mark Time Books 2011), our International Poet 2020, with popular and once local poet Jean Atkin (How Time is in Fields, IDP, 2019) now living in Shropshire. It’s an exploration of time, memory, people and places from both sides of the planet. 

Karen Lloyd: The Blackbird Diaries.

We are delighted to welcome award winning writer, journalist and environmental activist Karen Lloyd to BIG LIT online. The Gathering Tide; A Journey Around the Edge of Morecambe Bay was an Author’s Book of the Year in the Observer 2015. She has written for various Guardian columns, BBC Wildlife and Countryfile magazines and is currently building conversations on land management in the Lake District. Her next book, focussing on restoration in the natural world across Europe will be published by Bloomsbury in 2021. She is in conversation with poet Annie Wright about The Blackbird Diaries - winner of the Bookends Prize for Art and Literature - her life, her books, her love of birds and the pressing need to protect of our environment.

Liz Lochhead: Morgan Hour With Liz Lochhead: A Centenary Celebration.

Former Scots Makar the celebrated poet Liz Lochhead scarcely needs any introduction and we are delighted to celebrate the centenary of her friend, and the Makar before her, poet Edwin Morgan. Liz is in conversation with Robyn Marsack, reading some of her personal favourite Morgan poems, and sharing incidents and insights into that extraordinary long life which spanned so much vital change. BIG LIT online is honoured to host Liz Lochhead in collaboration with The Edwin Morgan Trust in a celebration of the life and work of undoubtedly one of the great poets of the 20th Century.


Moniaive Writers: The Artist’s Tale

We are delighted to introduce The Artist’s Tale which focuses on a book of images by much loved artist and print maker Silvana McLean alongside poems by Moniaive poets. Silvana lived and worked in Moniaive, near Thornhill in south-west Scotland until she died in 2018 leaving a remarkable body of work, latterly inspired by visits to the Western Isles and residencies in Shetland and Iceland. She said she ‘aspired to paint the way a poet writes’ so it was a small step for Moniaive poets to respond to her multilayered, fluid and meditative work, tapping into Norse and Icelandic tales alongside elements of Silvana’s artistic process.  Annie Wright and Peter Roberts, two poets whose work appears in the book, read a selection of poems from The Artist’s Tale with Silvana’s accompanying images. The book was published by The Lit Room Press in 2019 which extends grateful thanks to Silvana’s husband Alastair for permission to use her pictures.

Karen Campbell: The Sound Of The Hours

 Chrys Salt, Artistic Director of Big Lit, interviews award winning Scottish novelist Karen Campbell about her most recent novel The Sound of The Hours.  Karen won Best New Scottish Writer at the Scottish Variety Awards in 2010 and has continued to consolidate her success.  Enough to tell you that The Sound of The Hours is an historical novel set in Barga - Italy's most Scottish town. It tells the story of a Scots-Italian family caught up in World War Two, and the segregated US Buffalo soldiers who helped liberate them.

Alan Bissett: Inside The Mind Of Robert Burns

For nearly twenty years, Alan Bissett – award-winning playwright and novelist from bonny Falkirk – has been gracing Scottish stages with his unique blend of wit, patter and performance. Following the controversial documentary about Robert Burns he presented on BBC Scotland in 2020, Alan talks to our ‘virtual’ BIG LIT audience about the complex and contradictory psychological elements which made up Scotland’s bard. The mythologising of Robert Burns, he argues, has overtaken the reality of him, as a flawed, sometimes selfish and other times vulnerable human being, whose genius and political radicalism often stood in stark contrast to his ability to cause chaos in his personal relationships.  A BIG LIT ‘health warning’. Rabbie’s language was often more than a little fruity!

Strangeness And Charm: Launch Of Music For The Book Of Deer CD

Inspired by the extraordinary tenth century Aberdeenshire gospel book, The Book of Deer, widely regarded as the earliest manuscript produced in Scotland, musician Richard Ingham tells us about his journey towards composing the score before we link into the digital launch of his new CD.  It’s a sonic rollercoaster with bells, plainsong, reels and electronic soundscapes featuring Strangeness and Charm - Richard Ingham (reeds), Maarten Verbraeken (trumpet), Fraser Burke (keyboard), Kenny Irons (bass) and Andy James (percussion). 

Listen Now

Further Information

The CD is available from:

Largo Music

also on Spotify, iTunes and Amazon

Yvonne Ridley: From Afghanistan To The Scottish Borders

 British journalist Yvonne Ridley first came to prominence in 2001 after she was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan and held for 11 days. She wrote a best seller In The Hands of The Taliban about her terrifying experience and as chief reporter for The Sunday Express, continued to report from some of Asia and the Middle East's conflict zones as well as covering humanitarian disasters. Yvonne talks to novelist Karen Campbell in a fascinating chat about the clash of cultures - including some hilarious and surprising anecdotes - her conversion to Islam, how she came to be living in the Scottish Borders keeping bees and running a peafowl rescue centre and how the idea for her historical trilogy, The Caledonian’s, came about. The first book was published in January by Austin Macauley.

Bashabi Fraser: Rabindranath Tagore:Nation Builder And An International Cultural Ambassador

Bashabi Fraser, poet, Professor Emeritus at Napier University, who bridges East and West in her own work, talks to BIG LIT online about her new biography of Indian Polymath and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore - a new and a long overdue critical biography.  In this timely reappraisal of Tagore's life and work, Bashabi Fraser assesses Tagore's many activities and shows how he embodies the modern consciousness of India.

John: a film by David Clegg. Performed by Peter Marinker. 

David Clegg, whose mother suffered from dementia, worked for ten years in Care Homes. In his spare time he interviewed some of the more articulate residents. The transcripts were eventually re-recorded by actors and broadcast on Resonance Radio.  One of these came from John who was able to describe his own dementia. David Clegg developed this into a short film as seen from the perspective of the bedridden John, with the voice of actor and broadcaster Peter Marinker, a popular regular at BIG LIT.



Fabulous Phoebe is a film set in the covid lockdown touching on the abuse of the feminine - of Gaia and Phoebe herself.

Robbie is a prize winning poet.  After publishing a prize winning poetry collection in 2020 Robbie now creates films of poetic monologues, the first of which is Fabulous Phoebe.

His collection 192 miles with Carla is available here:

Please visit for the poem’s transcript, interviews with the poet and actor, and, importantly, an introduction to Tender, the charity that works with young people to teach them about caring, respectful relationships. If you see the film, please pop over there and give £2. It will help the next generation avoid Phoebe’s plight.


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BIG LIT is a small rural festival with a big heart and huge ambitions.
We’d be so grateful for your donation – however small - to help us realise them.

BIG LIT 2019 - Looking back

BIG LIT 2019 offered five bumper days of poetry, launches, ideas, prose, film, puppetry, history, workshops, politics, music and cabaret not to mention a children’s programme of magical time travel, folk tale and madcappery for four local schools!

We hosted a mixed bag of the best local talent and talent from further afield including Booker Prize nominee Bernard MacLaverty, Sue Lawrence a former Master Chef Winner, Janis Mackay, a winner of a Scottish Children's Book Award and Donald S Murray whose work was shortlisted for a coveted Best First Novel Award – and there was a delicious tasting of award winning cheeses from The Ethical Dairy up at Rainton. Awards all round! 

The Dumfries and Galloway Jazz Orchestra made a welcome first appearance at BIG LIT along with an evening Cabaret at the Mill on The Fleet celebrating songs of the late, great Adrian Mitchell with his daughter the singer Sasha Mitchell accompanied by musician Peter Moser. And Scotland’s story featured large – its history told from the point of view of women who lived it, the benefits of Scottish cooking, the story of the Scottish clarsach, and how The Church of Scotland rose to the challenges of The Great War with BBC Health Editor Hugh Pym – now so brilliantly fronting BBC’s coverage of the Covid-19 outbreak. We had a memoir about Scottish novelist Muriel Spark, and a commemoration of The Battle of George Square, Glasgow in John MacLean’s centenary year - how he became the early hero of radical Scottish Independence.

It’s a difficult programme to beat, but watch this space for next line up once this awful pandemic is behind us. BIG LIT gets bigger and better every year!

Here are some pictures from BIG LIT 2019 to whet your appetite.