Apr 20 2012 Ayrshire Post (main ed)
DR Samuel Johnson will make a return to historic Auchinleck House – more than 200 years after his last visit.
But this will be no ghostly apparition.
For top actor Timothy West will play the role of the literary genius at this year’s Boswell Book Festival.
The man best know for his portrayal of Edward VII and Churchill, the actor is a huge fan of the father of modern biography James Boswell, whose family built and owned Auchinleck House in 1760.
He explained: “I’m thrilled to be playing Dr Johnson at this splendid festival.
“Throughout my career I’ve been fascinated by Boswell and Johnson and have played the great doctor on several occasions.
“There’s no more appropriate setting for this than Auchinleck House, as the real Dr Johnson stayed there with Boswell over 200 years ago.
“On that occasion Johnson had a massive row with Boswell’s father, Lord Auchinleck. This time, there will be fireworks too – but of the textual variety.”
The festival follows last year’s inaugural event.
And Mr West will star in the comic thriller by Davis Ashton, Dr Johnson’s Dictionary of Crime, which is set in the London underworld of 1781.
The three-day event is the world’s only festival devoted to biography and memoir and will take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 11 to 13.
The play will be staged on the first night at 7.30pm in the Boswell marquee.
Mr West will also talk about his recent autobiography A Moment Towards the End of the Play, described in the Times Literary Supplement as being “filled with insight, wit and a sense of the ultimate absurdity of life.”
He joins a list of distinguished speakers in the Boswell Marquee, among them Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh; Janice Galloway, award-winning author of novels and ‘anti-memoirs’, and Tam Dalyell, one-time father of the House of Commons.
For the first time, the festival will open its Life-Writing Marquee, featuring an additional programme of talks which not only entertain but also create a brand new opportunity for anyone to turn ancestor research, memoirs and family histories into a written work for a public or private readership.
Here celebrated authors and top experts on biography, memoir, oral history, archive research and portraiture share their experiences of, for example, writing about a close friend, as James McGonigal has in his prize-winning biography of Edwin Morgan, or turning true-life memoirs into fiction, as David Ashton (who also wrote Dr Johnson’s Dictionary of Crime) did for the bestselling Inspector McLevy series.
It promises to be a really exciting weekend, starting with primary school visits all day on Friday and extending to Cumnock main square on Saturday morning – featuring events with bestselling children’s author Vivian French and personal appearances by James Boswell himself and female companion – and to the Boswell Mausoleum on Sunday morning.
For full details of the programme, visit the festival website www.boswellbookfestival.co.uk, and for all bookings contact the box office at the Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock, on 01563 554900.