At a glance, the Winter Tales Book Festival – a celebration of literature, religion and the imagination – is a tailor-made event for us at Muddy Pearl to attend. So, on a frosty Friday afternoon, a couple of us arrived at the New College assembly rooms, intrigued by a programme that promised ‘lively dialogue’, ‘midwinter words’ and a reflection on ‘Incarnation with the Iona Community’. In the heart of Edinburgh, with the bright, bustling Christmas markets below us, it would have been easy to feel rather removed from the peace and tranquillity of that remote island; but Jan Sutch Pickard, writer and former warden of Iona Abbey, was able to paint a picture with her poetry.
Joining her on the stage was Sally Foster-Fulton, head of Christian Aid Scotland, an ordained Church of Scotland minister and originally from South Carolina. Together, they dissected the theme of uncompromising hope, ‘the spark behind the season’.
Bread and Birth. Waiting and Waking. Advent and Audacity.
Bethlehem is the house of bread. Indeed, it is the place where Jesus, the Living Bread, was born. Pickard began with a poem that centred on the process of baking of bread, deftly drawing on her own experiences in Israel. The core message was clear; waiting for the dough to rise can take time. Foster-Fulton followed this up with a wonderful piece that encouraged us to ‘remember who we’re waiting for’. They both agreed that hope can be a bland, or ‘beige’ word, but to actually wake up and have hope is remarkably brave. And in this lies the audacity of advent; uncompromising, unequivocal, amazing hope.
This was the first ever literary event to take place at New College. And if the Winter Tales Festival continues on this track, we’re definitely in for a treat.