For four days this month the Scottish literary world comes to Renfrewshire as one of the country’s youngest book festivals celebrates its fifth birthday with a line-up celebrating Ireland, football and nature among other subjects.

What is it?

It is the Paisley Book Festival, established in 2020 as part of the town’s ultimately unsuccessful City Of Culture 2021 bid – but also intended to commemorate the activities of the Paisley Radicals of 1820, who played a central role in the waves of strikes aimed at industrial reform which swept across Central Scotland in that year. The fledgling festival went online during the Covid-19 pandemic but is now back on its feet as an in-person event under the stewardship of returning Programmer Jess Orr.

The Herald: Olumide PopoolaOlumide Popoola (Image: free)

When and where does it take place?

Spring is the usual time, and this year’s festival is no different. It’s scheduled to open on Thursday April 25 and wraps on Sunday April 28. The festival’s usual home is the Paisley Arts Centre, but as it is currently closed all readings and performances for this year’s event will take place in either Paisley Town Hall or the funky new Paisley Central Library.

Who is appearing?

Headline authors include Judy Murray, whose tennis-themed debut novel Wild Card came out last year; Sally Magnusson, whose latest book is love story Music In The Dark; poet Andrew McMillan, who recently published his first novel, Pity, about three working-class men in South Yorkshire; ex-footballer-turned-author Pat Nevin, who will be talking about the Beautiful Game; and The Young Team author Graeme Armstrong. He will take part in a Scottish Masculinities strand alongside Alan Bissett and Brian Conaghan. Also appearing are authors such as Aasmah Mir, Sara Sheridan and poet (and Herald columnist) Len Pennie, and there is an international flavour thanks to the presence in the programme of London-based Nigerian German author Olumide Popoola, presenting her new novel, Like Water Like Sea. Finally there’s music courtesy of Susan Bear, formerly of Glasgow indie group Tuff Love, who will team up with the festival’s writer-in-residence Imogen Stirling. Meanwhile closing night act Anoraq will blend music with spoken word in the company of Mexican-Scottish poet and translator Juana Adcock, Austrian-Nigerian writer Titilayo Farukuoye, and Scottish poet, musician and artist Nicky Melville.

The Herald: Graeme ArmstrongGraeme Armstrong (Image: free)

What are they saying?

Extending her welcome to “some of Scotland’s finest writers – plus a few from further afield,” Ms Orr promises a line-up in “stunning venues” which will “help us to imagine different worlds and possibilities in a programme of fun and inspiration for all ages.” Adding her voice is Councillor Lisa Marie Hughes, Chair of local arts and culture trust OneRen, who added: “Books have the power to transport people to other worlds and times, both real and fictional. They help us explore the stories of people we’ve never met and places we have not been. This year’s spectacular and diverse programme offers so many of them – there really is something for everyone.”

The Herald: Judy MurrayJudy Murray (Image: freelancer)

What are the individual themes?

Titled The Beautiful Game, Oot And Aboot and Ireland In Focus, the three themed strands look at football, nature and the wilderness, and Ireland: its history, politics and culture. Alongside Pat Nevin in the first strand you’ll find an evening hosted by exemplary Scottish football periodical Nutmeg and a session on the history of women’s football in Scotland. Among the Oot And Abooters are three young poets responding to the climate emergency – Tim Tim Cheng, Patrick Romero McCafferty and Charles Lang – and The Herald’s Vicky Allan, co-author of The Ripple Effect. Covering Ireland is Belfast-based author Jan Carson, who has curated a programme including herself alongside novelists Sheila Armstrong, Noel O’Regan and Dawn Watson, plus journalist Martin Doyle, who will talk about his book about The Troubles, Dirty Linen.

How do I get tickets?

Festival tickets can be purchased online in advance, or on the day at Paisley Town Hall, and there’s a Pay What You Can system in place offering tiered pricing for most events. Saturday’s Family Day events are free but ticketed.