A few years ago, on Sunday 8th June 2014 at 11.34am, we arrived in Wigtown for the first time. We'd had a gig cancelled near Penrith on our tour of the North and so a couple of weeks previously had a looked on the map for any concentration of bookshops that might yield a replacement venue. A night without a gig is also a night without accommodation and food, which is basically all the money you've earned up until then. A cluster appeared around Wigtown and on further delving I discovered that Wigtown is in fact Scotland's Book Town - an accolade bestowed upon the town about 20 years ago and virtually resurrecting the town after the collapse of the two main local industries; dairy and whisky production.
Adrian, the Director of the Wigtown Book Festival replied to my email and offered us a mid-summer concert (the festival itself is in late autumn) as way of a thank you to the volunteers who work during the actual festival. So we rocked up outside The Bookshop (the largest second hand bookshop in Scotland), with Poppy Pitt who was then the band's third member and John Ruddock, who we had employed on a pittance to be our driver for the tour. The concert wasn't until later that afternoon, so we went upstairs first and met Adrian, Shaun (the bookshop's owner) and Jessica Fox, his then partner and Wigtown's defacto tour guide. Shaun's kitchen, above the shop, felt like the centre of a new bustling universe - Adrian expounding upon his latest harebrained scheme for the festival, Jessica spilling over with enthusiasm about the place while her baked beans burnt dry and Shaun adding an air of welcoming mystery and smoked salmon to the proceedings. We ate lunch together, set up downstairs in the shop, played a concert to the Wigtown Book Festival's volunteers and then got absolutely plastered into the early hours, drinking, chatting and generally feeling quite welcomed and at home in this new corner of the world we'd just discovered.
I won't say too much more about that night here, because the reason for me writing this is that late last year in 2017 Shaun published his diary, The Diary of a Bookseller. It is just that, a daily jotting of the ins and outs of being a bookseller, who enters, what they leave with, what they say, the funny, the sad and the inane, all wrapped up in a beautiful, at times hilarious yet also gentle and following the seasons of the land and life in Wigtown. The Diary Of A Bookseller is actually is diary from 2014 (these things take a while to publish) and so, on the 8th June we make our first appearance in print too. Handpicked events of the day and night are all contained in a couple of lovely paragraphs and save to say Shaun starts Monday the 9th June with the hangover from Hell.
To celebrate the launch of "local lad" Shaun's book The Wigtown Book Festival asked us to write a couple of songs inspired by it, to play at a quasi-theatrical late night walking tour of The Bookshop that happened a few times during the 10 days of the festival. For one, Beth took Shaun's very public and proud dislike of The Kindle and turned it into a hauntingly beautiful ballad called "Death To The Kindle" while I took it upon myself to flesh out the events of the evening of the 8th June. Shaun had failed to include a number of important details, mainly due to the fact that he passed out on a number of occasions after midnight and thereby missed a few key moments. The songs is succinctly called "The Night We Came To Wigtown (Scotland's Famous Book Town)". Hope you like them.
PS. We moved to Wigtown in the end, three years later, after two stays at the now world famous Open Book - an AirBnB where people run a bookshop for a week, and a couple of residencies at The Wigtown Book Festival. Our very new daughter Molly is a "Wigtown gal".
PPS. The Wigtown Book Festival also runs other festival and programming throughout the year in Wigtown and Dumfriesshire, and this weekend it is Jessica Fox's brainchild The Big Bang Weekend - a weekend festival celebrating the crosstalk between science, literature and art. This year the BIG question is "Is it alive?" There are talks on talks on astronomy, artificial intelligence, synthetic life and the mechanics of being alive, as well as two shows by yours truly, The Bookshop Band. This Friday 2nd Feb well be featuring in a FREE evenings entertainment (but please book your place) where we'll attempt to dig up a collection of our less-frequently played songs that explore the festival's theme, and then on Sunday morning we'll be hosting a science-y chat show. Come party with us in Wigtown, you won't leave with a hangover this time.