Page last updated at 11:03 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008 12:03 UK

Mixed fates of book town rivals

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Wigtown has seen a major upturn in its fortunes

It is the nature of competition that for every winner there has to be at least one loser.

In the mid-1990s both Wigtown in Dumfries and Galloway and Dalmellington in Ayrshire made a bid to become Scotland's official book town.

They were among a pack of five sites across the country who hoped to use the project to help their regeneration.

This year Wigtown is staging its 10th book festival since it emerged victorious in the selection process.

According to locals the difference to the Dumfries and Galloway town has been tremendous.

I think certainly the book town designation made all the difference
Peter Jeal
Wigtown Chamber of Commerce
Peter Jeal, of Wigtown's Chamber of Commerce, is convinced of the positive impact.

"It has certainly made a huge difference to the way Wigtown looks," he said.

"The whole streetscape has improved enormously and I think people who remember it before the book town project got under way would know how run-down the town was."

He said the effects had been felt outside the book trade.

"It has been a huge impact there - I think something like about 10m of public investment has gone in over that time," he said.

"I think certainly the book town designation made all the difference.

"It has been a driver for other businesses as well."

Dalmellington - Undiscovered Scotland
Dalmellington missed out on book town status
Gordon McCracken, who was part of Dalmellington's bid, reckons winning the project might have had a similar impact in his town.

"It would have been the biggest hook we had to get people off the A713," he said.

"If we had got the book town or indeed something similar that would have been the start of something good I believe."

Mr McCracken has visited the Dumfries and Galloway book town and seen the transformation for himself.

"We are not jealous because Wigtown won it fair, but we do envy them," he said.

"I think anybody would because if you go to Wigtown now, as I have done several times, it is a different place."

However, the book town recognises that with the rise of internet buying it must constantly be looking at new ways to market itself.

Bigger programme

Festival director Finn McCreath said this year's event was very much about looking to the future.

"It is really important to mark the past 10 years and celebrate our status as Scotland's national book town," he said.

"But we are using this festival to set Wigtown up for the next 10 years.

"It is a much bigger programme, we have got some really high level debates and some high profile speakers."

Among the people participating this year are Janice Galloway, James Kelman, Bill Paterson, Menzies Campbell, Denise Mina, Louis de Bernieres and Christopher Brookmyre.

Little wonder there are more than a few envious glances being cast southwards from Ayrshire.

The Wigtown book festival runs from 26 September to 5 October at various locations in the town.

Record tickets sold in book event
25 Sep 06 |  South of Scotland
Book town festival gets under way
24 Sep 06 |  South of Scotland
Festivals find financial support
31 May 06 |  South of Scotland
Big names to line up at book town
22 Sep 05 |  Scotland


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