Wigtown celebrates 25 years as Scotland's National Book Town

  • Watch the full episode of Border Life.

Scotland's National Book Town has been celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Wigtown faced near economic collapse when it set about reinventing itself as a literary centre. It transformed the town’s fortunes.

Autumn is always a special time for Wigtown with the book town always extremely busy. A total of 13,000 ticket holders turned out for this year’s festival.

The annual ten-day celebration has brought the town to the hearts of visitors all across the globe.

Wigtown welcomed 13,00 visitors for this year's festival. Credit: PA

For native Anne Barclay it is particularly special. She is operations director for the festival and has been involved since the very start.

She said: “I was a girl guide when Wigtown became Scotland’s national book town. My first ever job for the festival was to walk around the street and hand out programmes to people so they knew what was going on.

"I grew up in Wigtown in the 1980s and 1990s and with the closure of the creamery and distillery the town really was on its knees.

"Walking to school was a completely different experience for me and it is for the children nowadays. It really has transformed the town into a vibrant place to live work and visit and we are really proud of it.

Wigtown’s history goes back to at least the 1200s. Throughout the most recent quarter of a century as Scotland’s national book town which came about during a competition.

Ms Barclay added: “The question was asked as to why there couldn’t be a book town in Scotland like there was in Wales and a piece was put out in the media to ask town’s and villages to apply.

"The people of Wigtown then got the bit between their teeth and said why not. It would be a great economic boost for the town, it would be a great reason for people to come here and it really has thrived over the last 25 years when people have bought into and have come to be part of it."

The festival attracts visitors from across the globe. Credit: Colin Tennant.

The book town in Scotland wanted to emulate what was already being done in Wales.

Sandra McDowall said: “I can’t begin to tell you what it means to me. Just to sit and remember Wigtown as it was and to sit in venues and listen to world class events in a town with a population of less than 1,000 people it brings me out in goosebumps.

"You just think wow what have we been able to achieve and there is still so much more. When we started it was on a weekend and our programme was a small folded over piece of a4 paper. And look at it now.

"Young folk who leave the town and go away are absolutely startled when people know where Wigtown is. When my kids grew up and went to university nobody had heard where they came from.

"It just has transformed Wigtown."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...