It’s fair to say that growing up in Kilwinning and spending much of his teenage years hanging around Irvine left a big impression on award-winning author Andrew O’Hagan

In fact, North Ayrshire looms large over much of his work – particularly his most recent novel Mayflies.

Adapted this year into a highly acclaimed BBC drama starring Martin Compston and Tony Curran, it depicts two young friends growing up in the 80s then reuniting 30 years later.

It draws on his own experience when his closest friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Now Booker prize nominated Andrew is heading back to Irvine – to help young pupils at Greenwood Academy perform scenes from the work as part of the Tidelines Book Festival.

And he will be joined by a ex-Greenwood pupil – former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon - at the big event.

As patron of the festival, Andrew is more than excited about the project.

He said: “Going to St Michael’s Academy in Kilwinning and growing up in Irvine as a teenager... it was a playground for us.

“To see people embodying some of these characters is just a fantastic thing for me.

“When I started writing it, I could see this boy in Mayflies walking down Rivergate and the first sentence came. I could hear the voices.

“To see it on the BBC and to see younger actors taking it to the screen was great.

“But it is even better that these young people coming from the same area - having the same accents and same experience of living here - are taking the roles at Greenwood.”

Ayr Advertiser: The BBC adaptation of MayfliesThe BBC adaptation of Mayflies (Image: BBC)

Entitled Mayflies: To Irvine With Love, the event in Fullarton Connexions on Saturday, September 23 will see Andrew discuss the town's role in the novel and TV adaptation, with the Greenwood performers bringing the young Ayrshire voices to life.

Andrew’s first book, the award winning non-fiction work The Missing, was also inspired by his time in Irvine and Kilwinning.

A heartbreaking study of missing persons cases – including the victims of Fred and Rose West – the book also looked at the case of Sandy Davidson.

The three-year-old disappeared while playing in the garden of his gran’s house in Bourtreehill in April 1976. Andrew was around eight at the time.

Sandy’s fate remains unresolved – and is still an open case for Police Scotland.

Andrew revealed: “Since the very beginning, when I was first offered a contract to write a book, my mind was drawn to Irvine. The Sandy Davidson case stayed with me in my memory.

“Irvine, Kilwinning, Dreghorn, Saltcoats and Stevenston all loomed large for me when I lived there.

"As a writer, everything can be found there in terms of triumph, tears and laughter.

“It is a particular area with patter, prejudice, love and laughter packed together.

“I never felt the west coast of Scotland was an inferior part of the world. It is a place in which everything will be potentially present.

“I am now working on my 13th book and each time I found that sense of location and the importance of the lives lived there.”

Ayr Advertiser: Mayflies

Andrew's other major work includes ghostwriting Wikileaks founder Julian Assenge's autobiograpy, and the novels Our Fathers, Personality and The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe.

Now he's giving something back to North Ayrshire through his role as patron of Tidelines. 

He revealed: “I am a very proud patron of Tidelines. I have been a professional writer for 30 years and I have been at festivals all over the world, from Toronto to Edinburgh.

"But it is Tidelines that is closest to my heart. It’s where I grew up and the area is part of my own imagination.

“Two of our greatest writers grew up or worked in Irvine. John Galt, who was born here, set the standard for political novels and, of course Robert Burns who came here in 1871…

“Edgar Allan Poe is another crucial figure with that Irvine connection. Not everywhere can boast that.

“Here is a small Scottish town that can boast at least three literary heroes who drew their inspiration from being here.”

He added: “If I was asked out of all the places to have a festival, where should it be? I would always answer Irvine because of the literary connections.

“It is a first rate festival now celebrating 10 years. Some of the best writers in the land now come to Irvine to perform and it truly is a high calibre festival.

“It takes a lot of organisation, with a small crew and some volunteers but Irvine is offering a first rate festival, the envy of festivals everywhere. It is a fantastic place to celebrate literature and imagination.”

 Later this month, from September 21-24, Tidelines will be celebrating a decade of bringing excellent authors to the Ayrshire seaside with a fantastic programme including Pat Nevin, Sally Magnusson, Catherine Czerkawska, James Crawford, Liam McIlvanney, Eleanor Thom.

There are also children’s events, the funny, feminist Friday of Sarah Grant’s Fat Girl Best Friend, a comedy talk with live music from Nyla Ahmad, creative writing with Michael J Malone, Alan Riach on Hugh MacDiarmid and a historic costumed walk round Robert Burns’ Irvine.

The festival finishes off with one of the stars of Mayflies, Elaine C Smith, in a candid, funny and frank evening during which the national treasure charts her life through the books she has loved, in conversation with Alan Bissett. 

Check the Tidelines website for more details.