In 2003 Katharine Stewart, the Trust’s first Patron, suggested to the Trustees that it would be a good idea to have a Neil Gunn Trust Event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The Convenor at that time, Ann Yule, contacted the Director of the EIBF, Catherine Lockerbie, who proved to be very encouraging and gave the Trust a slot in the programme for the NGT Event.
Edinburgh International Book Festival Neil Gunn Trust Event – “Recollections of Neil Gunn”: Alastair Reid in conversation with Dairmid Gunn.
This sell-out event consisted of a conversation between Alastair Reid, a Scottish poet, journalist and a scholar of South American literature, and Dairmid Gunn, a nephew of Neil Gunn and his Literary Executor. Reid was encouraged in his own writing by Neil and visited him at Brae Farm. The Trust’s then Patron, Katharine Stewart, attended the event on the day before her 90th birthday!
On October 8th as part of the first Inverness Book Festival, John Pick, one of Neil Gunn’s biographers, introduced his new book about Neil Gunn. (This event did not involve the Neil Gunn Trust.)
In Dingwall Community Centre, John Pick talked about his new critical work on Neil Gunn’s books
“Pick is probably the world’s leading expert on the author, Neil Gunn, and his talk should prove to be fascinating”: comment by Ann Yule.
At the second Inverness Book Festival Katharine Stewart, the Neil Gunn Trust’s Patron at that time, introduced John Pick, one of Neil Gunn’s biographers, and Neil Gunn’s nephew, Dairmid Gunn, for a fascinating conversation about the great man’s legacy.
Following the success of this event, the trustees agreed to work to establish a regular Neil Gunn Lecture in the Highlands.
At a full-to-capacity event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Neil Gunn Trust presented Murray Grigor in conversation with Dairmid Gunn on his memories of Neil Gunn. Murray Grigor, son of the former Inverness Provost James Grigor, is not only a well-travelled writer but also an award-winning film and TV director, who has made documentaries about Charles Rennie Mackintosh as well as Sean Connery’s Edinburgh. At the time of the Conversation, Murray was also collaborating with Sean Connery as co-author of Connery’s Scotland.
The inaugural Neil Gunn Lecture took place in 2007, Scotland’s year of celebrating Highland Culture. It was given by Professor Kenneth White at a very well-attended event on 2nd October as part of the Inverness Book Festival. 2007 was the 70th anniversary of the publication of one of Neil Gunn’s most popular books: Highland River. Taking this book as his principal reference, Professor White explored cultural resources in the Highlands and Islands past, present and future.
The second Neil Gunn Lecture was given by Lesley Riddoch on 3rd October as part of the Inverness Book Festival. Lesley asked if the legacy of powerful writers like Neil Gunn is being used to open or close debate about the future of development in the Highlands and Islands and focussed in particular on the role of wilderness and wind energy in modern Highland lives.
The third Neil Gunn Lecture was given by Owen Dudley Edwards on 7th October as part of the Inverness Book Festival. In the year of Homecoming Scotland and the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Owen Dudley Edwards’ lecture was titled ‘Burns, Gunn and the Scottish Wider World’.
This exceptionally exciting event for the Trust took place on 1st June – an evening of conversation with Israeli Daniela Norris and Palestinian Shireen Anabtawi entitled ‘The Power of Friendship’ and chaired by writer and broadcaster Richard Holloway. It came about because Daniela had won a prize in the previous year’s Neil Gunn Writing Competition and went on to publish a book of letters written between herself and Shireen entitled Crossing Qalandiya – Exchanges across the Israeli/Palestinian Divide. The Trust was thrilled when Daniela and Shireen accepted an invitation to come to Inverness to talk about how, despite their very different lives and cultures, their friendship had developed and become ‘A Beacon of Hope across the Israeli/Palestinian Divide’. We realised the importance of finding the right chairperson for such an event and were delighted when Richard Holloway accepted our invitation. The OneTouch Theatre was filled to capacity. Shireen and Daniela also visited secondary schools in the area to give pupils a unique opportunity to hear and question them.
The well-known Radio Scotland presenter Mark Stephen gave this year’s lecture on 27th July. His talk was titled ‘Belonging to This Place’ and was part of the Inverness Book Festival.
On the 11th September, one week before Scotland voted on the question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, novelist, poet and current patron of the Neil Gunn Trust James Robertson considered what Neil Gunn might have to say about it. His lecture was titled ‘The Wholeness of Life: Neil Gunn, Culture and Independence’.
Scottish journalist and writer Neil Ascherson delivered this year’s Lecture on 15th September. The talk was titled ‘Loyalty or Liberty: Scottish Writers and the Problem of Power’.
This event took place on 14th September and was given by Jackie Kay, Scotland’s Makar. Jackie chose as her title ‘Taking Poetry to the People’ and the One Touch Theatre was full of people responding enthusiastically to Jackie’s unique blend of poetry, wisdom, humour and conversation. We could have listened for hours!