THIS year's highly-anticipated Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival will be opened by not one, but three stars of the line-up.

Snooker legend Stephen Hendry, wildlife expert Kate Humble and leading historian Neil Oliver will all cut the ribbon at Harmony Garden on Thursday.

Melrose is abuzz as final preparations take place for the Festival to start on Thursday (June 13).

Anticipation mounts for the four-day extravaganza of live events featuring top writers, stars of stage and screen, sporting heroes and political pundits.

Festival director Alistair Moffat told us: "The marquees are up in Harmony Garden and the stage is set for four glorious days of lively debate, fun and laughter.

"As well as the big names in sport, entertainment and politics, the programme has some lesser known, but equally fascinating, unexpected storytellers too.

"The epic tale of Lara Prior-Palmer’s victory in a thousand-kilometre Mongolian horse race and David Wilson’s amazing life as a former prison governor and criminologist are just two of the many highlights for me.

"We look forward to welcoming our audience, authors and supporters to another bumper weekend of pure enjoyment.”

Opening night audiences will hear arguably Scotland's most successful sports star Stephen Hendry discussing the highs and lows of an incredible snooker career, and Neil Oliver’s passion for the history of the British Isles, whilst wildlife expert Kate Humble will share her joy on the simple act of walking and encountering life in its many unexpected forms.

On Friday, the world of sport dominates further as David Coulthard opens the door to the secret world of Formula One, Bob Champion talks about dealing with a life-threatening illness as a professional jump jockey, and inspirational rugby star Gregor Townsend discusses his staggering career as coach and player of the national side.

Further highlights include one of Britain’s comedy greats Alexei Sayle; gardening expert and much-loved writer Alan Titchmarsh, wildlife TV-presenter Michaela Strachan; comedian and writer Susan Calman; politician Ruth Davidson on inspirational women; comedian and impressionist Jan Ravens and BBC Newsnight presenter turned novelist Kirsty Wark.

Attempting to make sense of the current political turmoil will be Dominic Grieve MP on the Brexit process and what lies ahead; political commentator Matt Chorley with a light-hearted view of inside Parliament; Fintan O’Toole setting Brexit into historical perspective; James Naughtie’s authoritative take on what is happening to our political system and, to top it off, firm favourite, political satirist and impressionist Rory Bremner.

Michelle McLeod from sponsors Baillie Gifford said: "It’s incredible how much the festival has grown since it started 15 years ago.

"From its humble beginnings of four authors and fewer than 300 people, it’s now a thriving literary festival with more than 100 events and near 30,000 visitors.

"Highlights this year will be Sue Armstrong talking about the science of ageing, Kate Humble discussing the joy of walking and Rosemary Goring bringing to life our nation’s history through the eyes of the women who lived it. We look forward to a weekend of learning, entertainment and reflection."

The 10th anniversary of the prestigious Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction will be marked by the world premiere of the Dandie Dinmont operetta written by Alexander McCall Smith, with music composed by Tom Cunningham and directed by David Lyle (music) and Alan Borthwick (artistic).

And acclaimed actor Jack Lowden, reading extracts from the shortlisted books.

The £25,000 prize will be awarded to the winner at the Book Festival on Saturday from a shortlist including Peter Carey, Cressida Connolly, Samantha Harvey, Andrew Miller, Michael Ondaatje and Robin Robertson.

The McInroy and Wood lecture will this year feature War Doctor David Nott, who for over 25 years has taken unpaid leave from the NHS to volunteer in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones.

Health and well-being features prominently with events by renowned psychotherapist Philippa Perry on redefining the art of parenting; Eve Simmons and Laura Dennison revealing the myths behind healthy eating; Kim Jones with practical advice on achieving a good night’s sleep and Michelle Thomas’s honest account of living with mental ill health.

How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell; Vivian French, artist Catherine Rayner; bestselling Beetle Boy author MG Leonard, Doctor Who writer David Solomons and cooks Mary Contini and Pru Irvine will entertain and energise the younger crowd in the popular Family Book Festival, which takes place throughout the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, and includes kids craft activities, storytelling and creative workshops.

Adults get to go free to any Family Book Festival event so long as they are accompanied by at least one child!

In addition, throughout the four days there will be live music, the Orchard tented food village and plenty of free, fun activities making the book festival a great day out for all the family to enjoy.

The festival welcomes the continued support of Title Sponsor Baillie Gifford and Key Sponsor McInroy & Wood, as well as Douglas Home & Co, The National Trust for Scotland and the on-going funding of Scottish Borders Council, Creative Scotland and many other loyal supporters.


4.30pm - Ursula Buchan: Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps, £11, £9

4.30pm - Border Voices on Coast and Countryside, £6

4.45pm - Tim Bouverie: Appeasing Hitler, £13, £11

5.45pm - A Little Bit of Iolanthe (Scottish Opera Trailer), £10, £8

6pm - Animal Families and Me with Gordon Buchanan, £15, £13

6pm - Philippa Perry: The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read, £11, £9

6.15pm - This. Is. Not. Normal. with Matt Chorley, £13, £11

6.15pm - Andrew Brown: Of Peats and Putts, £8, £6

6.30pm - The Thirty Nine Steps (1978) in Vintage Mobile Cinema, £10

6.45pm - A Little Bit of Iolanthe (Scottish Opera Trailer), £10, £8

7.30pm - Kate Humble, £15, £13

7.30pm - James Crawford: Scotland From the Sky, £11, £9

7.45pm - Will McCallum: How to Give Up Plastic, £13, £11

7.45pm - Suzie Wilde: Obsidian, £8, £6

8pm - A Little Bit of Magic Flute (Scottish Opera Trailer) £10, £8

9pm - Rory Bremner, £15, £13

9.15pm - Stephen Hendry, £13, £11

9.15pm - Kaela Rowan Duo, £11, £9

9.15pm - The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective, £8, £6


(Health & Wellbeing at the Festival)

1.30pm - Mixed Form Yoga, £10

1.30pm - Kim Jones: 222 Ways to Trick Yourself to Sleep, £10

1.30pm - Massage Therapy Drop-In Sessions, 1.30pm – 4.00pm

3pm - Guided Meditation, £10

3pm - Ricky Monahan Brown: Stroke, £8, £6

3pm - Eve Simmons and Laura Dennison: Fight the Food Fads, £10

3pm - Ricky Monahan Brown: Stroke, £8, £6

4.30pm - Bob Champion, £15, £13

4.30pm - Andrew Kerr: How the Great War at Sea Ended, £11, £9

4.45pm - Clare Hunter: Threads of Life, £13, £11

4.45pm - Elizabeth Macneal: The Doll Factory, £8, £6

5.45pm - A Little Bit of The Magic Flute (Scottish Opera Trailer) £10, £8

6pm - David Coulthard, £15, £13

6pm - Walter Scott Prize Shortlist, £11, £9

6.15pm - Angela Gallop: A Forensic Scientist’s Search for the Truth, £13, £11

6.15pm - My Sh*t Therapist & other mental health stories, £8, £6

6.30pm - Hidalgo (2004) in Vintage Mobile Cinema, £10

6.45pm - A Little Bit of The Magic Flute (Scottish Opera Trailer), £10, £8

7.30pm - Alan Titchmarsh, £15, £13

7.30pm - Jon Plowman: How to Produce Comedy Bronze, £11, £9

7.45pm - Kirsty Wark, £13, £11

7.45pm - Richard Pitman, £8, £6

8pm - A Little Bit of Iolanthe (Scottish Opera Trailer) £10, £8

9pm - James Naughtie, £15, £13

9.15pm - Gregor Townsend, £13, £11

9.15pm - Soundcycle Presents: Magpie Blue, £9

9.15pm - Anne Griffin: When All Is Said, £8, £6


12noon - Dandie Dinmont £5

12.15pm - Ian Robertson, £13, £11

1.45pm - The Walter Scott Prize

1.45pm - Lara Prior-Palmer £13, £11

3pm - Neil Oliver, £15, £13

3.15pm - Chris Mullin: The Friends of Harry Perkins, £13, £11

4.30pm - Michaela Strachan, £15, £13

4.30pm - Natalie Haynes: Troy Story, £11, £9

4.45pm - Christopher Lee: Viceroys, £13, £11

4.45pm - Leah Hazard: Hard Pushed, £8, £6

4.45pm - Zine-Making Workshop with Chris Timmins, £6

6pm - Dominic Grieve, £15, £13

6pm - Activising for Change: 147Hz Can’t Pass, £9, £7

6.15pm - Kate Williams: Rival Queens, £13, £11

6.15pm - J.O. Morgan, £8, £6

6.30pm - Burke and Hare (2010) in Vintage Mobile Cinema, £10

7.30pm - Jan Ravens: Who Do I Think I Am?, £15, £13

7.45pm - John Lanchester, £13, £11

7.45pm - Caroline Eden: Black Sea, £11, £9

7.45pm - Rosemary Goring, £8, £6

9pm - Alexei Sayle, £15, £13

9.15pm - David Wilson: My Life with Murderers, £13, £11

9.15pm - Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman, £11, £9

9.15pm - Jules Horne: Rebel Cello, £8, £6


11.15am - Disco Yoga, £10, £6

12.30pm - Fintan O’Toole: Heroic Failure, £15, £13

12.45pm - Sue Armstrong: Borrowed Time, £13, £11

12.45pm - Borders Youth Theatre: Tales of Beatrix Potter, £6

2pm - Alexander McCall Smith, £15, £13

2.15pm - Absolutely Everything!, £10, £6

3.30pm - Allan Little, £15, £13

3.45pm - Amanda Owen: Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess, £13, £11

5pm - Susan Calman, £15, £13

5pm - Launch of 2019 First Minister’s Summer Reading List, £11, £9

5.15pm - Giles Milton: D-Day: The Soldiers’ Story, £13, £11

5pm - Gulliver’s Travels in Historical Fiction, £6

5.15pm - Charlotte Runcie, £8, £6

6.30pm - Ruth Davidson, £15, £13

6.30pm - Sonia Purnell: A Woman of No Importance, £11, £9

6.30pm - She (1965) in Vintage Mobile Cinema, £10

6.45pm - Melanie Reid: The World I Fell Out Of, £13, £11

6.45pm - Bill Jones: Black Camp 21, £8, £6

8pm - David Nott: War Doctor, £15, £13

8pm - Damian Barr, £11, £9

8.15pm - Jan Ravens: A Funny Look at Impressions, £13, £11

8.15pm - Davy Zyw: 101 Champagnes, £10

Saturday Family Festival

10.15am - Draw Your Own Mystery with Anders Frang, £6, Age 5 -7

10.15am - Bookbug Rhyme Session, FREE, Babies & under 3s

10.15am - Go Wild with Abbotsford, FREE, All Ages

10.30am - One Button Benny, £6, Age 3-6

10.45am - Dragons and Wizards with Cressida Cowell, £6, Age 7-12

11am - Storytime, FREE, All Ages

11.45am - Storytelling and Bookmaking the Superpower Agency Way, £6, Age 8-12

11.45am - Bookbug Rhyme Session, FREE, Babies & under 3s

12noon - Chae Strathie: So You Think You’ve Got it Bad? A Kid’s Life in Ancient Greece, £6, Age 7-10

12.45pm - Lego Club FREE, Age 4-11

1.30pm - Vivian French & Catherine Rayner: Hello, Horse, £6, Age 5+

1.45pm - Deep Sea Voyagers!, £6, Age 7-11

2.15pm - Get Crafty with Robert Smail’s Printing Workshop, £10, Age 8+

3pm - David Solomons: Doctor Who - The Secret in Vault 13, £6, Age 8+

3.15pm - Emily Dodd: Crime Squirrel Investigators, £6, Age 3 – 6

Sunday Family Festival

12.30pm - David Solomons: My Cousin is a Time-Traveller, £6, Age 7 - 12

12.30pm - My Uncle has a Unicorn, My Auntie has an Ant, £6, Age 3 – 6

12.30pm - Go Wild with Abbotsford, FREE, All Ages

2pm - Karine Polwart & Kate Leiper: A Wee Bird was Watching, £6, Age 4-8

2pm - Tom & Tallulah and the Witches, £6, Age 7+

2.15pm - Easy Peasy: Real Cooking for Kids, £6, Age 8 – 13

3.30pm - MG Leonard: Beetle Mania, £6, Age 8 – 12

3.30pm - You’re Hired! Jobs for Monsters with Justin Davies, £6, Age 6 - 9

3.45pm - Daddy Frog and the Moon, £6, Age 2 – 5

Tickets for this year’s Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival are available from Hub Tickets, at or at 0131 473 2000.