HRH, The Prince of Wales, Duke of Rothesay, welcomed his guest Dame Judi Dench to this year’s Boswell Book Festival, escorting her from a formal reception through the waiting audience and onto the stage in the magnificent ‘Pavilion’ at Ayrshire’s Dumfries House.

In conversation with Glasgow Citizen’s Theatre Director Dominic Hill, Dame Judi, appropriately seated on one of the finest of Dumfries House’s unique Chippendale chair collection, launched the opening night of this, the eighth and by far the most ambitious Boswell Book Festival ever. Attended by nearly 400 admirers, Dame Judi’s conversation was also filmed - the screening to be shown the following morning.

Film Drama

The disappointment of those who arrived early on Saturday to watch the screening was palpable, when roughly 15 minutes in, a ‘technical hitch’ caused the film to completely disappear from the screen – most abruptly.

Festival Director Caroline Knox said: “It was a dreadful moment. I rushed from the Baillie Gifford Marquee where the event was taking place straight into the library wondering how on earth we could salvage the situation for our audience. To my amazement, Dame Judi was sitting there enjoying a quiet moment in the midst of her hectic schedule. She asked me what was wrong. As soon as I told her she smiled, calmly rose from her chair and said – in the very truest theatrical tradition: “Well I’ll simply have to go on then.” And off she went!”

Enter Dame Judi - Stage Left

No bear in the wings, but a hearty round of applause when Dame Judi suddenly appeared and true to form, took to the stage for a second time less than fourteen hours after her previous evening’s event.

The legendary actor’s thoughtfulness in saving the day, in addition to her sense of the comedic were never in doubt for one second nor was the inevitability of the standing ovation she received at the end of this, her second unforgettable appearance.

While Dumfries House basked in glorious sunshine throughout the weekend, this initial ‘drama’ heralded a spectacularly successful two days of sell-out author talks, stimulating discussion and debate, a livelier than ever children’s festival resulting in record tickets sales for this thoroughly inspiring and increasingly popular book festival.

Festival Bookshop’s Ayr’s Waterstones manager Kenny Bryan reported ‘record book sales’ too as book lovers, clutching their cherished purchases formed lengthy ‘signing queues’ intent on meeting their favourite authors in person.

Lots more on Boswell Book Festival next week