2023 Programme OLd

Funded by The National Lottery through Creative Scotland

The Ullapool Book Festival Committee might have had a 19th nervous breakdown pulling this – last ever – programme together. But it’s worth it – a spectacular line-up to go out with an almighty bang.

The committee ladies bring not only nearly two decades of experience but entire lifetimes of literary involvement, contacts, networks and excellent judgement.

On Friday 5th and Saturday 6th of May 2023, we bring together old friends and new. Poets, novelists, historians, journalists, musicians, even a dramatist. There will be voices from all over Scotland, notably the Highlands, and from India, Palestine and Algeria via London and Edinburgh..

Here is UBF’s A-List of writers…


Kirstin Innes’s acclaimed novel Scabby Queen travels through London, Bristol, Glasgow, Santorini – and Achiltibuie and, of course, Ullapool.

Christine De Luca, Shetland’s celebrated poet comes with her second novel – The Trials of Mary Johnsdaughter. Set in 1773 it explores Shetland through the experiences of a young local woman.

Donald S Murray, now based in Shetland but originally from, and a chronicler of, the Hebrides is a long-standing friend of UBF. His new novel The Call of the Cormorant, based on a true story, is a fantastical tale of island life, of those who leave and those who stay behind.

Doug Johnstone, with us last year as one of the superb Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, brings his forthcoming science fiction novel The Space Between – the climax of which is set in Ullapool.

We are delighted to bring from India Puja Changoiwala, award-winning journalist and author of three books. Her latest Homebound is about the consequences to a family of the world’s largest coronavirus lockdown in India.


Writer, dramatist and performer Alan Bissett brings us the latest instalment of his Moira Monologues – Moira In Lockdown. Moira Bell, cleaner, single mother, and the hardest woman in Falkirk gives us her hilarious and keen-eyed take on two years’ of the virus.


Màrtainn Mac A Bhàillidh, Gaelic campaigner (and one of the course developers of Gaelic Duolingo) will explore the issues of language, housing and second homes affecting the Highlands. Session in Gaelic with simultaneous English translation.

Cal Flynn. Islands of Abandonment, shortlisted for the 2021 Highland Book Prize, is a haunting journey through the world’s abandoned places, Flynn’s meditation on how nature continues in humanity’s absence is an eerie yet ultimately optimistic account of ecological diversity.

UBF is delighted to welcome  Sir Tom Devine, Scotland’s most distinguished historian. On this occasion Tom will talk about his work on Tartanry and Highlandism icons of Scottish identity. Origins and Explanation.

Hazel Buchan Cameron, writer and poet who has worked on a variety of creative projects. She was the first Writer in Residence at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.  This year she will be introducing us to her book, Peak Beyond Peak, The Unpublished Scottish Journeys of Isobel Wylie Hutchison – lost essays by forgotten Scottish solo Arctic explorer, poet and botanist.

Professor Linda Bauld, government advisor during the pandemic, and Jeane Freeman, Scottish Government health minister at the start of the outbreak, will discuss the politics, consequences and meaning of the coronavirus epidemic, together with doctor and writer Gavin Francis whose book Intensive Care: A GP, a Community & a Pandemic is a deeply personal account of caring for a society in crisis. From rural village streets to local clinics and communal city stairways, from Edinburgh to Orkney, he explores issues of loneliness and hope, illness and recovery, and of what we can achieve when we care for each other.

Rajah Shehadah is another old friend of the Festival, a writer and commentator of international importance. Palestinian lawyer, human rights activist, Raja co-founded the award-winning Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq. He has won the Orwell Prize, Britain’s pre-eminent award for political writing, for his book Palestinian Walks. At UBF he will be reading from his latest book We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I – A Palestinian Memoir

Michael Pedersen‘s book Boy Friends is atribute to the Frightened Rabbit frontman, Scott Hutchison who took his own life in 2018. A poignant meditation on all male friendships.  – Michael will also be reading from his wonderful poetry…


Janette Ayachi is a London-born Edinburgh-based Scottish-Algerian poet.  Her works has been published in nearly a hundred literary journals and anthologies, while her film poems have featured in festival screenings.

 Don Paterson has made memorable visits to UBF before. Internationally acclaimed and much garlanded he is one of our most eminent poets. Originally from Dundee, and a great musician himself, Don will be performing his work with live music…


Don’s collaborator is Aberdeen’s multi-talented guitarist Graeme Stephen. Graeme is involved with a multitude of musical projects in Scotland and overseas, playing a wide array of styles from free improvised jazz to Scottish folk.

Hamish Napier, multi-instrumentalist and composer will perform with his trio music from their award-winning album The Woods inspired by the flora and fauna of Scotland’s native forests.

An extraordinary array of talents, voices and opinion to ensure that the final UBF will be dynamic, thought-provoking and fun. What a way to go out!

Chris Dolan, Hon President