A NEW chapter beckoned for people in Helensburgh and Lomond last weekend, as crowds turned out in force for the town’s first Reading Minds book festival.

The free community event last weekend saw around 200 people enjoying a variety of talks, accompanied by tasty treats, across three venues in Helensburgh Community Hub, Jean’s Bothy and Helensburgh and Lomond Carers Centre.

Reflecting on the festival, Hub development manager Gill Simpson said: “The east side of town was buzzing all weekend as people went between the venues to enjoy all the different sessions. The Hub was packed out for the launch on Friday, which was Robin Scott-Elliot’s talk on Robert Louis Stevenson. I had never realised the world famous author had spent some time in Garelochhead in some kind of health facility when he was young. It was a such an interesting talk and it was clear people really enjoyed it.

“We got some really lovely feedback throughout the weekend - one lady who attended the Saturday morning What’s Hot panel discussion said it was the best book event she had ever been to because the conversation between the panellists was so natural and the atmosphere was so welcoming - I think the delicious home baking helped with that.”

Gill added: “This festival was called a weekend of wellbeing through books because it was about showing how reading for pleasure can be helpful to our mental wellbeing and we hope people felt that through the different events throughout the weekend.

"Many of us were incredibly moved listening to Graham Morgan’s talk at Jean’s Bothy about his memoir Blackbird Singing, which describes living with schizophrenia.

“It was also really fantastic for Hermitage Park to be able to launch their new comic book celebration of the park’s history at the Carers Centre as part of the festival.

“And to have an author as renowned as nature writer Jim Crumley take part was the icing on the cake for us.We are already thinking about how to make next year even better.”

The Reading Minds festival was funded by the Argyll and Bute Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund, made possible with funding from the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan.