Faclan: the Hebridean Book Festival today (Thursday June 27th) reveals this year’s programme, with events running at An Lanntair arts centre from Wednesday 30 October to Saturday 2 November.

The festival’s theme this year is Human Nature and the programme includes:

  • Julie Brook’s breath-taking environmental art
  • Dan Richards’ journeys to the world’s remote places
  • Margaret Fay Shaw’s pioneering island photography
  • Niall Iain Macdonald’s epic solo attempt to row the Atlantic
  • Cult musician Momus brings his ‘Unreliable Tour Guide’ to Stornoway
  • Faclan Fringe returns for 2nd year, supported by Outer Hebrides LEADER
  • The festival’s acclaimed children’s programme, Faclan Òg.

This year’s theme brings together extraordinary stories of humanity and landscape across an eclectic four-day programme.

In one of the headline events, Niall Iain Macdonald will share the compelling testimony of his two dramatic solo attempts to row across the Atlantic from NY to SY - New York to Stornoway – and the reasons he did it. It will feature hitherto unseen footage.

Dan Richards will discuss his new book Outpost: A Journey to the Wild Ends of the Earth (‘by turns beautiful, funny, evocative and learned’ – The Observer), in which he travels to mountains, tundra, forests, oceans and deserts to embrace the appeal of isolation. His event is twinned with Tìde in which land-artist Julie Brook will expound on the philosophy behind her dramatic, elemental sea fire-stacks; conceived on Jura and reignited phoenix-like on the west coast of Lewis.

Elsewhere, Faclan will explore aspects of Hebridean Gaelic culture. Fiona Mackenzie of the National Trust for Scotland will celebrate the life, photography and film of the American anthropologist Margaret Fay Shaw and her time in Uist in the early 1930s. While Neil Rackham will launch A Telling of Stones, by Lewis-based publishers Acair, a re-interpretation of the prophecies of the semi-mythical Brahan Seer - ‘the Gaelic Nostradamus’.

Insurrection: Scotland’s Famine Winter, by James Hunter, tells the story of the Islands and West Highlands famine of the 1840s and the subsequent riots over the price of food: a dramatic yet largely forgotten slice of Hebridean history.

And self-described ‘knit-aholic’ Esther Rutter unravels the social history and allure of knitting, from Fair Isle to Cornwall via the Hebrides as described in her fascinating book This Golden Fleece, published by Granta. Finally, Donna Heddle from the University of the Highlands and Islands takes us on a tour of the history, heritage and meaning of the Hebrides’ many Norse place names.

A very different kind of Hebridean adventure will be on offer courtesy of cult Scottish writer and musician Momus – aka Nick Currie – who will bring his Unreliable Tour Guide to Stornoway for the first time as part of Faclan Fringe.

A surreal, comic walking tour, Unreliable Tour Guide has been performed at festivals across the world. Momus also appears in the main programme, marking the thirtieth anniversary of his best known song, Hairstyle of the Devil, with a talk on transgressive lyrics in pop music, from his own influences such as Jacques Brel and David Bowie, to bands he has influenced such as Pulp and the Pet Shop Boys.

As well as food for thought, the Faclan Fringe will also include a lunch event – Spirit & Spice - by Scottish food and travel writer Ghillie Başan, whose books have been nominated for the Glenfiddich Guild of Food Writers and Cordon Blue Awards. More Fringe events will be announced in the coming months.

And as ever, Faclan will include classic, thematic films. Among them the original 1963 version of Lord of the Flies, a dark parable for our times about schoolboys marooned on an island who descend into savagery. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre from 1948, a morality tale of greed and gold fever, directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart. And Wim Wenders’ 2014 documentary Salt of the Earth, which is a testament to the Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado’s work with the world’s poor, exploited and deprived.

An Lanntair’s Head of Visual Arts and Literature, Roddy Murray, said: “The theme this year broaches philosophical questions about our inherent, innate nature, who we are, the environment we inhabit, how we shape it and how it shapes us. In these ‘interesting times’ it takes us inside and outside ourselves.” 

Faclan will run from Wednesday 31 October to Saturday 3 November and is supported by Creative Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, and Outer Hebrides LEADER.

Early Bird Festival Passes are available from today, priced £55. Tickets for individual events will go on sale on 3 September, when the full programme for Faclan Fringe and Faclan Òg will also be announced.

For more information and to book a festival pass, visit www.lanntair.com/faclan.

Early Bird Festival Passes can be booked via An Lanntair’s box office on 01851 708480.

Now in its ninth year, Faclan has previously welcomed authors such as Richard Dawkins, Jackie Kay, Sir Christopher Frayling, Madeleine Bunting, Jon Ronson, Peter May, Helen Macdonald, Robert Macfarlane, Henry Marsh, and Jonathan Meades. The festival is curated by An Lanntair’s Head of Visual Arts and Literature, Roddy Murray.