LISTEN: Highland' accessible literary festival Ness Book Fest will be back after two years of lockdown celebrating Scotland's Year of Stories
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"The year of storytelling will really helps us just to go back to that really basic human need to connect," said Elaine Downs as we sat down to talk about the long-awaited return of the Highland capital's own book festival, Ness Book Fest.
After a hiatus of more than two years, the event will be finally be back in the city with in-person events.
This year, it will also intertwine with the nationwide celebration of storytelling, Scotland's Year of Stories.
Elaine, who is a member of the Ness Book Fest Committee is among those who are looking forward to go back to in-person events.
She said: "One of the great things about this year is exploring the different ways we tell stories. And so, as well as it being about books, authors and book events, storytelling can take different forms, and that can be music, portraits, spoken word, poetry, film....so we really want to be collaborating with a wide range of people this year to celebrate all the different ways that people have to tell stories and to celebrate how important it is to all of us to feel connected.
"I think that here in the Highlands we tend to make quite an effort to connect with a local area, so we always try and have some local authors involved too and really try to give it that sense of place is really special place, but we're living in an artistic and cultural landscape of the Highlands of the is incredibly rich. We want to have national spread but a local focus as well.
"We really want people to get involved in as many ways as possible, I guarantee that there will be something for everybody as we will try to cover a lot of ground!"
The festival, which was launched in 2016 by local author Barbara Henderson and a group of local people passionate about literature, has gone from strength to strength over the years.
"One of the really great things that attracted me to the book festival is that it's free to the participants," said Elaine. "We raise money throughout the year and that would fund the events and the author payments.
"This means that anyone can come along, even if it's an author that you don't know much about and you wouldn't really want to spend a lot of money on a ticket, you can try different things. It really removes that one barrier. We were very aware that in Edinburgh, it can get quite expensive.
"It makes it really accessible to everybody."
About the festival and the collaboration within Scotland's year of stories, she said: "The year of storytelling really helps us just to go back to that really basic human need to connect and tell stories and I think what it will help us connect around the country. There are so many book festivals and literary events, so many authors and people with a strong passion for storytelling in all its forms, so I think that what's going to happen this year, is that it's going to help us create a lot of links a lot of links between these different aspects.
"We can't wait to take part to this great party!"
You can keep up to date with Ness Book Fest on their website.
Listen to the full interview on Northern Bibliosphere podcast on the player above.