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Fans suffer the baby blues as book festival is called off

IT HAS become a hugely popular fixture on the book festival circuit in recent years, attracting JK Rowling, Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith to speak about their work.

author:  Alexander McCall Smith.
author: Alexander McCall Smith.

The Lennoxlove Book Festival has also seen speakers ranging from journalists turned authors, Kate Adie, Jeremy Paxman and mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington over the past four years.

However, the tens of thousands of book lovers drawn to the Duke of Hamilton's seat will not be returning in 2014 after this year's event in Haddington, East Lothian, was called off.

This is due to the impending arrival of a baby for the 16th Duke, Alexander Douglas-Hamilton and his wife Sophie.

Their second child is due to be born in April, forcing the couple to move from smaller accommodation on the Lennoxlove estate into the stately house and curtailing its use as an events venue.

Organisers were last night at pains to deny the event is being scrapped and said they hoped to bounce back with a new venue in 2015.

In a statement, the festival directors, who include author and broadcaster Alistair Moffat, said: "We can confirm there will not be a Lennoxlove Book Festival in 2014 due to a change of status at Lennoxlove House, which will cease to operate as an events venue.

"However, the book festival team, in partnership with East Lothian Council, are now looking at other opportunities for the future, reviewing options for 2015 which would build on the legacy of Lennoxlove Book Festival and take the event into an exciting new phase.

"The festival thanks the Duke of Hamilton and Lennoxlove House for five fantastic years at the venue, and would also like to thank its loyal audiences, East Lothian Council, McInroy & Wood, and its other sponsors and funders for their support so far.

"We look forward to continuing a productive relationship with our supporters and sponsors."

Labour MSP for East Lothian, Iain Gray tweeted: "Lennoxlove Book Festival will be a big loss to eastlothian. fingers crossed for a new venue in 2015."

Another fan, Jason Rose, wrote on the social media forum: "Sorry to see there won't be a Lennoxlove book fest[ival] this year due to loss of venue."

The A-Listed mansion has been the seat of the Hamilton family since 1946 and has been available for hire for weddings and corporate events and as a single-use venue.

Existing bookings are being honoured but after the summer, its events business will close and it will become a permanent family home.

General manager Ken Buchanan left his role earlier this month, and Fraser Niven, chief executive of Hamilton and Kinneil Estates, which includes Lennoxlove House, will leave at the end of March.

Mr Niven said the house would continue to be open to the public between Easter and October and still host smaller functions, such as events for the Lammermuir festival of classical music.

East Lothian Council has held talks about possible alternative arrangements for a book festival, understood to include holding the event in marquees in the centre of Haddington, and using venues such as the Corn Exchange, Town House and John Gray Centre.

Councillor John McMillan, the council's economic development spokesman, said: "The Lennoxlove Book Festival has become well established and has helped to put East Lothian on the international map thanks to the high-profile authors it attracts.

"We will be working closely with the organisers to help with a relaunch for 2015.

"We hope the festival will return even bigger and better than before."

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