Book Festival Delivers a Literary Feast

In all, this year’s festival saw more than 1,200 nursery, primary and secondary school children from 11 schools across Tweeddale participate in three days of writing sessions and creative workshops held by acclaimed children’s authors and illustrators.

The bulk of the school sessions took place at the Eastgate Theatre, while there were also additional public events at Peebles Library and the Tweeddale Museum & Gallery.

Held in partnership with Peebles Library and Peebles High School during Book Week Scotland, the festival saw a host of big names from children’s writing share the secrets of their craft with eager young audiences.

The festival opened with children’s writer and science and nature enthusiast Emily Dodd as she delivered two sessions for different age groups from St Ronan’s, Walkerburn, Halyrude and Newlands, about her latest book Ollie and the Otter, the latest in her picture books covering Scottish animals,, and ended with Tom Nicol, acclaimed author of the There’s a Dragon in my … series and Boy Band of the Apocalypse, who entertained children from St Mary’s Melrose, as well as St Boswells, Broughton and Priorsford primary schools.

There was a special treat in store for Tom Dolby, a pupil from St Mary’s PS who brought his class to the festival as a prize for winning the Edinburgh Fringe schools poster competition P4-7 category, one of several covers for the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe brochure. As part of his prize, Tom was handed a full set of signed books by Tom Nicol.

The festival also saw the entire S1 year group at Peebles High School attend a session by award-winning author and playwright Cathy Forde who spoke about the inspiration behind her acclaimed novels, capturing their attention with spooky and at times quite violent stories.

Making his second appearance at read-a-licious, author Alan Windram made a winning return to the festival with a very entertaining session. Pupils from Priorsford and St Boswells primary schools, plus a group from the Tweeddale Support Unit at Halyrude, were treated to high energy robot dancing, air guitar playing and plenty of audience participation as Alan spoke about his new book, One Button Benny.

Later, scientist and author Jill Arbuthnott spoke to P3 and P4 pupils from Priorsford about her new book, A Beginner’s Guide to Life on Earth, which is full of fun facts about different life forms – including how the human body is just like a banana!

In what was a slightly different session, comic creator Edward Ross visited Walkerburn Primary School for a lively session on character creation that thrilled the small group of P5-P7 pupils who were involved.

Elsewhere, at Peebles Library and the Anne Younger Studio at the Eastgate, the theatre’s own Anna Nicolson ran a creative workshop on book cover design, Alex Saunders ran Boogie with Books sessions for younger readers based on the wonderful We’re Going on a Bear Hunt; dance tutor Libby Tamang led a creative workshop exploring links between food and emotion; while children’s author Janis Mackay ran creative writing workshops aimed at adults wanting to write fiction for young audiences.

“This year’s festival was an absolute blast from start to finish – we loved having so many happy, engaged children with us here at the theatre, and elsewhere in Peebles,” explained read-a-licious organiser Alex Saunders. “Perhaps best of all is the fact that the festival was attended by so many schools, large and small, from across the Borders.

“We’d like to thank everyone for coming, and of course the professional authors and illustrators who made this year’s festival such a resounding success.”


Further info

For more information, contact Alex Saunders, Eastgate Theatre, Peebles EH45 8AD. t. 01721 725777, e.





Peebles Outdoor Film Festival 2018

Renowned explorer Benedict Allen – who hit the headlines recently following his ‘rescue’ from Papua New Guinea – record-breaking ocean adventurer Olly Hicks, celebrated ultra-runner Jasmin Paris, Scottish winter climbing superstar Greg Boswell and adventure filmmaker Paul Diffley will be all be there in person when the festival is held at the Eastgate Theatre over the weekend of 26-28 January.

A perfect pick-me-up for any post-Christmas blues, the programme also sees a dazzling line-up of adventure films covering everything from surfing and deep water soloing to slack-lining, mountain biking, skiing and mountaineering.

Tickets are already selling fast for many of the sessions. One highlight is the appearance by Benedict Allan, an explorer and filmmaker known for his technique of immersing himself among indigenous peoples in the far corners of the world.

Allen recently added to his back catalogue of high-risk, solo expeditions when he attempted to regain contact with a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea having first visited them while in his twenties. His subsequent extraction from the country in November made headlines around the world.

Meanwhile, ocean adventurer Olly Hicks will share awe-inspiring tales from the high seas. Since becoming the youngest person to row solo across the Atlantic at the age of 23, Hicks has undertaken a range of daunting expeditions on the high seas.  However, his biggest challenge is yet to come as he prepares for the first ever solo row around the world later next year.

Back on dry land, Jasmin Paris, Lucy Colquhoun and Susan Ridley – a trio of elite running stars who have smashed records across the age groups – will reveal all about their running lives; adventure film-maker Paul Diffley will talk about his acclaimed Hot Aches label, and explain why his latest, epic film is perhaps his most difficult undertaking yet; while festival audiences will be among the first to hear about ultra-adventurer Jenny Tough’s latest world first – a solo, unsupported run along the length of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.

The festival also features appearances by a host of inspiring figures from in and around the Borders, all with amazing stories to tell. Between them, Lynne Armstrong (mountain biking), Greg Boswell (winter climbing), David Winton (long-distance cycling), and Geoff Allan (author of The Scottish Bothy Bible) are set to entertain audiences of all ages with tales of adventures near and far.

Festival-goers can also choose from an expanded range of outdoor sessions, from guided mountain bike rides and runs to trekking with alpacas and exploring the John Muir Trust’s property at Glenlude, near Traquair.

The 2018 Peebles Outdoor Film Festival runs from 26–28 January, and is kindly sponsored by John Muir Trust, Peebles Hydro & The Park, Findra, Tontine Hotel and Out & About. Hard copies of the programme are available from the Eastgate Theatre Box Office, or can be viewed online at


Eastgate Theatre Entrance

Building on Success

Members attending the Eastgate Theatre Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 15 November were told of record attendances, up more than 14% across 200 events staged in the main auditorium and studio during the year. Attendance figures for classes in a range of arts disciplines, including visual arts and crafts, music and dance, also increased by 13%.

The latest figures show the venue recorded a surplus of £5,000 before depreciation and that more than 70% of the theatre’s turnover came from earned income – boosted by continuing core grant support from LiveBorders, plus funds raised through donations and fundraising by Friends of the Eastgate.

This growth in demand over recent years has put considerable and increasing pressure on the building and highlighted some areas where the lack of flexibility and range of spaces limits its effectiveness.

This year – 13 years since it first opened as a theatre – the Board of Directors decided to tackle these limitations by applying to the Big Lottery Fund’s Community Assets programme for a major grant to enlarge and improve the Eastgate building to increase its capacity, physically and operationally, and to develop an expanded suite of facilities.

These plans took a significant step forward in spring 2017 with an offer of initial grant support of £45,000 which has funded the first phase of design work, costings, and an extensive programme of community consultation.

Following the Annual General Meeting, Chair Sir David Younger said: “I am delighted to report that for another year the Eastgate Theatre has continued to increase the number and variety of opportunities it offers for all sorts of people, in Tweeddale and beyond, to experience arts of the highest quality.

“The theatre continues to use its LiveBorders grant and revenue grants from other funders to support its operation, but this capital redevelopment proposal is on a different scale. If successful, it will bring approximately £1.5 million into the area to create an arts and community asset fit to meet the needs and demands of the growing population of Peebles and surrounding areas, both now and in the future.

Sir David went on to thank General Manager Caroline Adam and staff “for their enormous enthusiasm and hard work which has contributed so much to the year’s success”.

Individuals and organisations interested in the development project are invited to the Eastgate Theatre on Wednesday 6 December (2pm-8pm) when members of the Project Group and Design Team (including the architect) will be available to discuss proposals and answer any questions.


Father Figures

Performed by Magnetic North’s artistic director Nicholas Bone and Traverse associate artist and playwright Rob Drummond, the play is the first theatrical adaptation of Father and Son, Edmund Gosse’s Victorian memoir about growing up as the only child in an evangelical Christian family. The book explores the growing gulf that emerged between Edmund and his father – a preacher and renowned scientist – as he realised he couldn’t share his father’s beliefs.

When his own clergyman father suggested he should read the book, Nicholas Bone assumed it would reveal something about their relationship. Similarly, Rob Drummond, another son of a clergyman, is also looking for answers to a big question of his own.

Coming to Peebles on 18 November as part of a national tour, the play skilfully weaves together Edmund Gosse’s story with the experiences of the two performers on stage. Although Father and Son is a fairly dense text, its accounts of a son’s growing rebellion against his father’s beliefs are also very funny – a humour celebrated in the play.

At a time when political discussion and social media interaction can be increasingly divisive, one theme that is explored is how people can disagree respectfully with each other, without resorting to abuse.

The play also challenges audiences to share in the investigation into the relationship between parents and children, and how it’s possible both to grow apart yet also remain close. One underlying message is that it can be very hard to have an honest conversation with a loved one.

As Nicholas Bone remarked in a recent interview, “We think that – as everyone has had a parent, or been a child – there is a way into the show for everyone. We want the audience to leave feeling satisfied with the stories that we’ve told them, but we don’t want to try and give anyone any answers; we want them to leave still thinking and asking themselves questions.”

Our Fathers is performed at the Eastgate Theatre, Peebles at 7.30pm, Saturday 18 November. Tickets £14, available from Box Office on 01721 725777 or online.


Story of a Man and a Monastery

During the height of Sino-Tibetan tensions, Akong Tulku Rinpoche was one of 300 exiled Tibetans forced to make a harrowing journey on foot through the Himalayas to the safety of northern India. The journey took 10 months and by the end of it only 13 of the group remained alive.

During the journey, Akong made a promise that, if he survived, he would devote his life to help others. He began to make good on that promise, when, in 1967, he co-founded Samye Ling with his friend Trungpa Rinpoche and increasingly turned his mind to the suffering of people around the world.

From his new home in the Borders, Akong’s underlying message of compassion and kindness shone through in his subsequent humanitarian activities in Europe, Tibet, Nepal, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Sitting in a peaceful location on the banks of the River Esk, today the monastery remains an international centre of Buddhist training, renowned for the authenticity of its teachings and tradition. Also a centre for the preservation of Tibetan religion and culture, Samye Ling is home to a residential community of more than 60 people, comprising both monastic and lay volunteers.

Sadly, Akong Rinpoche’s life came to a shocking end – he was murdered in China in October 2013 – but the film ends with what is very much a message of hope. There’s also a chance to learn more about the man and the making of the film with executive producer Vin Harris available for an audience Q&A after the screening.

Akong – A Remarkable Life screens 7.30pm, Thursday 26 October. Tickets £10 (£6 schoolchildren) available from Box Office on 01721 725777 or online.


From the Desert Born

As music critic Paul Kerr noted afterwards of the band’s first ever European show, “There’s a serene, Zen-like wisdom imparted to those in the audience prepared to empty their preconceptions”.

And audiences in the Borders will be able to experience their own taste of the band’s ethereal music when 3hattrio play the Eastgate Theatre on Saturday 16 September. For those who have spent time in the high desert of the American southwest – an otherworldly place of sheer sandstone cliffs, distant mesas and pristine air – it’s a sound that seems to perfectly fit the landscape of its birth.

More curious still, the band spans not just genres but also ages. A practising musician for much of his life, not to mention a folklorist, radio producer and scholar of cowboy lore, Hal Cannon sings, plays banjo and guitar, and writes the majority of 3hattrio’s songs. A second old head, Greg Istock plays acoustic bass and foot percussion, bringing a Caribbean flavour to the band’s sound. But it’s Eli Wrankle, a classically trained violinist who joined the band aged 15 and is still only 20, who is described as “the old soul of the group”.

Together they produce music that is atmospheric, mirage-like, and spiced with old-time cowboy, classical jazz and Caribbean overtones. It’s a heady mix.

3hattrio play the Eastgate Theatre 7.30pm, Saturday 16 September. Tickets £14 available from Box Office on 01721 725777, or online.


And the Winner is…KIYT


Though the group only formed recently, it is the junior section of Innerleithen & District Amateur Operatic Society (I&DAOS), which has been entertaining the public since 1908.

KIYT meets weekly and parent Alexina Hamilton said: “My daughter has recently turned eight and has become a member and absolutely loves it. She is amazed by the talents of some of the older kids and as a newer member aspires to be like them – a testament to the skills and confidence that the group has helped these kids to gain”

“The leaders are inspirational and very supportive,” added another parent, Leena Crichton. “Together with the children they have created a magical atmosphere.”

 The Robert Noble trophy was first given to the then Peebles Arts Festival in 1985 by the Robert Noble company of March Street Mills in Peebles. It was to be awarded annually to an individual or organisation who has notably and successfully encouraged young people in Tweeddale to engage with and participate in the arts.

KIYT joins a long and illustrious list of winners that includes Dan Ward and Alison Cameron, Peebles Accordion and Fiddle Club and I&DAOS (winners in 2002).

The trophy was awarded to Nicola Watt, President of I&DAOS by Caroline Adam from Creative Peebles Festival. “I’m delighted to present this trophy to a new organisation which shows that the wealth of artistic performance and activities in Tweeddale continues to grow,” commented Caroline. “The reasons different people gave for nominating KIYT were a perfect fit with the aims for the award stated so clearly by the Robert Noble Company more than 30 years ago”.

Note to editors:


For more information, please contact Maggie Mackay, Marketing Manager, Eastgate Theatre, Peebles EH45 8AD. t. 01721 725777, e.



Sweet American roots music comes to the Eastgate

The first of two foot-stompin’ American roots bands heading to the Eastgate this summer, The Honeycutters are set to discover just what a strong following they have on this side of the Atlantic following the release of two critically-acclaimed albums.

Hailing from the renowned music capital of Asheville, North Carolina, the band’s sound has been described as somewhere between the country pop of today and the gritty sound of yesterday – a honky-tonk flavoured mix of rhythmic ambition, enchanting melodies and emotive lyrics.

The band’s driving force is the remarkable Amanda Anne Platt, a witty, warm and deeply poetic singer-songwriter described by one reviewer as having “one of those gorgeous, heartache-drenched voices that brings to mind Loretta Lynn or Sheryl Crow”.

There’s a been a real hunger in the UK to see The Honeycutters perform live following the release of two seriously strong albums – Me Oh My (2015) and On the Ropes (2016) – with each winning glowing reviews and finding their way onto many ‘Best Of’ end-of-year lists.

The band come to Peebles on 11 Aug as part of a first ever European tour that coincides with the recent release of their new record, Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters. Very much lyrically driven, the songs blend the band’s old-school country roots approach with shared influences of rock and folk. “I think it’s just about life and all that that entails,” explains Amanda. “Including, but not limited to, death, strangers, birthdays, money, leaving, arriving, seasons, corruption and love.”

The Honeycutters will be followed in September by a very different US band currently tearing up the music scene both at home and abroad. One of the outstanding successes at this year’s Celtic Connections Festival, 3hattrio was born in the Utah desert, the band’s music a delicious coming together of old time Americana, chamber music and jazz.

The Honeycutters perform at the Eastgate Theatre 7.30pm, Fri 11 August, while 3hattrio play 7.30pm, Sat 16 September. Tickets for both bands are £14, £12, £6 schoolchildren, available from Box Office on 01721 725777 or online.


Eastgate Plans Progress

The Big Lottery Fund’s development grant of £45,000 will cover the appointment of a design team to appraise options for the building, agree a preferred solution, develop architect plans to RIBA stage 2, and create a cost plan.  It will also fund extensive community consultation, as well as preliminary discussions with planning. This work is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

All members of the design team have been selected as the result of a set of public procurement processes which began in May, and attracted considerable interest from all the relevant disciplines.   Andy Davey of Simpson & Brown Architects has been selected to head the design team, and will act as lead consultant to the Eastgate’s project group.

Andy Davey joined the Edinburgh-based practice of Simpson & Brown in 1981, and became a partner in 1998.  He has been the architect for a wide variety of projects ranging from the restoration of important public buildings and country houses to the conversion of historic buildings.  As a long-term resident of Peebles, he has a particular interest in the Eastgate, and responded enthusiastically to the appointment: “We very much look forward to working with the Eastgate team on this exciting and challenging project”.

Sir David Younger, Chair of the Eastgate’s Board of Directors said:

We are delighted that the Big Lottery Fund has endorsed the importance of the theatre’s significant contribution both to the people of Peebles and Tweeddale as well as reaching out to communities further afield.  The considerable, and increasing, demands on Big Lottery Fund funding make the process of applying very competitive and so this is a significant achievement.  There is a clear and growing demand for the services and activities already being delivered by the theatre and we look forward to the development of exciting and imaginative plans to see how we can become a bigger and more flexible resource for the people of Tweeddale and the surrounding area.”

This first phase of work will provide the information, plans and costs required for an application for capital funding to the Big Lottery Fund and other funders before the end of 2017.  If these are successful, the aim is to complete the project in 2019.

Lady Boys Sashay to Peebles

Flamboyant mainstays of the Edinburgh Fringe each year, the Lady Boys are currently touring with their brand new show, Who Runs the World! It’s a cabaret show like no other cabaret performed by glamorous showgirls like no other showgirls – all are male Thai nationals (apart from Trever who is from Lancashire).

The entertainment never lets up as the seductiveness of Hollywood and the stylish glitz of Las Vegas meet the great traditions of classic British music hall. With more songs and big-scale musical production numbers than you can point a painted lip at, the Lady Boys pay tribute to a host of stars ranging from Beyoncé, Rhianna and Nikki Minage to Gloria Gaynor, Boy George, Pitbull, Tom Jones, Queen Latifah and many more.

Throw in 450 designer-inspired, hand-sewn costumes plus the Lady Boys’ trade-mark feathers, and it’s a show that has to be seen to be believed.

The Lady Boys of Bangkok bring their euphoric bubble of laughter, beauty, glitz and music to the Eastgate Theatre on Wednesday 12 July, with shows at 5.30pm & 8pm. Tickets £20, £18, available from Box Office on 01721 725777, or online.