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Faclan: the Hebridean Book Festival is to welcome live audiences back to An Lanntair arts centre from Wednesday 27 October to Saturday 30 October, with the theme of ‘Islands: Worlds in Isolation’. Tickets are on sale from today

Inspired by lockdown, this year’s Faclan is a four-day journey through remote, uninhabited, isolated or abandoned places across the world, and the stories of the people who live there.  

As audiences tentatively return to live venues, this year’s festival includes several special, low-priced Faclan Fringe events, including Spàrr | Rivet, an evening of film and storytelling on the festival’s opening night for just £4 (£3 concessions) and Hinterland and Heartland, a whole Saturday morning of events exploring Gaelic language and culture for £10 (£8 concessions) including a breakfast role and a coffee.

Festival passes are also available for the special reduced price of £45 (£43 concessions) 

Faclan 2021 highlights include: 

  • Sound and Night: Fog and Light – a double header Friday evening event in which poet and novelist Donald S Murray explores our fascination with lighthouses, and musicologist, writer and radio presenter Jennifer Lucy Allan reflects on the powerful, lonely music of foghorns. 
  • Islands of Abandonment, an insight into ghost towns, exclusion zones, no man’s lands and fortress islands with Cal Flyn, acclaimed author of Thicker Than Water.  
  • Island Dreams: Mapping an Obsession, an examination of our collective fascination with islands, referencing the pandemic, with Gavin Francis, who spent ten years travelling across all the world’s seven continents and has written six books of non-fiction. 
  • Frayed Atlantic Edge, the story of a year kayaking the Atlantic coastlines from Shetland to Cornwall, with David Gange. The book was joint winner of the Highland Book Prize and a New Statesman Book of the Year. 
  • Gone: The Flannan Isles Disappearance, a full illustrated account of one of the Hebrides’ greatest mysteries, by John Love. 

Steve Dilworth by David Eustace

  • A tribute to the Harris-based artist Steve Dilworth, including a new film, Stuff the World Is Made Of, followed by a Q&A. 
  • A Long and Tangled Saga: The Story of the Pairc Estate Buyout, a landmark case in the history of land reform in Scotland. Historian Bob Chambers will discuss the achievement, struggles and lessons learned with Agnes Rennie of Acair Books. 
  • Tweed Rins tae the Ocean, a document of an east to west coast walk through the Scottish Borders, with MSP Alasdair Allan. 
  • A Poem of Remote Lives, Werner Kissling’s unique, evocative 1934 silent short film about the inhabitants of Eriskay, introduced and analysed by Michael Russell, Professor in Scottish Culture & Governance at the University of Glasgow, founder of the Celtic Media Festival, and former MSP for Argyll & Bute.  
  • A film programme inspired by the festival’s theme including The Lighthouse (2019), The Vanishing (2018) and The Last Picture Show (1971). 

Festival director Roddy Murray said: “The words isolation and insular have the same Latin root: insula[ris] meaning ‘of or pertaining to an island.’ Both though, can have negative or pejorative associations. Insular being usually a synonym for withdrawn or introverted, while isolation tends to denote loneliness, incarceration or, topically, quarantine. The term 'self-isolating' is now in common use. In this year’s Faclan programme though, we go well beyond that. We will ‘dwell’ on islands as destinations, anchor points, oases of nature, sanctuaries. On islands inland, portable islands, the romance and mystery of islands, and the beacons that guide and warn us as we navigate our way through fog and the night in these murky times.” 

This year’s festival will include, for the third year, a Faclan Fringe, supported by Outer Hebrides LEADER. Faclan Fringe opens on Wednesday 27 October with Spàrr | Rivet, a special storytelling and film event drawing on traditions from the Isle of Lewis and Govan, with Ian Stephen, and Laura Cameron-Lewis, plus music by Mike Vass and illustrations by Christine Morrison. The fringe programme will continue with a Sgoil Àiridh: Moor Tour with Mairi Gillies and Tom Maciver. a guided, creative walk to a cluster of abandoned shielings on the Ness moor with stories about who used them and why. The Fringe programme will also include a Faclan Scratch Night, with works in progress inspired by the festival’s theme from Lewis-based artists. 

On Saturday, Faclan Fringe presents Hinterland and Heartland / Fearann is Fonn, a journey  into Gaelic culture across three events: Air an Àiridh: Shielings: Islands on the Moor, exploring moorland history, and the archaeology, tradition and folklore of the shieling;  Ruairidh MacThòmais: Derick Thomson Centenary, readings from Derick Thomson’s work in his Centenary year, with Anne Frater; and Dùileach: Elemental with acclaimed poet and musicianMarcas Mac an Tuairneir. 

Faclan Oga, the festival’s programme for children and families, also returns this year with three recorded author talks for primary schools, by Barbara Henderson (The Chessmen Thief), Catherine Rayner (Arlo The Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep) and Mòrag Anna NicNèill (Artair sa Chaisteal), plus bird-themed story videos and workshops for pre-school children and families. 

Finally, this year’s Faclan programme also includes two exhibitions: Confluence: Spirit of North is an artist-led exchange project connecting four artists in Scotland (Gillian Macfarlane, Su Grierson, Inge Panneels, Kyra Clegg ) with four in Japan, and addressing the idea that ‘North’ is always conditional, a direction rather than a location, and that our ideas about it can be fundamental to how we see and relate to our own life and culture. Tides, by William Arnold, showing in An Lanntair’s café bar, is an ongoing project that relates to the housing crisis, particularly as it pertains to rural coastal areas. Arnold’s images comprise one-and-a-half hour exposures of beaches in Cornwall in high summer produced using a large format plate. 

Faclan is a flagship cultural event at An Lanntair on the Isle of Lewis, and its dramatic location has drawn audiences and top-level authors from all over the UK, including Richard Dawkins, Jon Ronson, Jackie Kay and Madeleine Bunting. 

Tickets can be booked online or by phone on 01851 708480.