In 1983, the Edinburgh Book Festival first pitched its tents in Charlotte Square Gardens, featuring 120 authors. Now, the 30th Edinburgh International Book Festival will feature over 700 events, with authors from all across the globe in what is now the biggest literary festival in the world.
One of the festival’s many fascinating themes is 30 Years Back, 30 Years Forward, a strand which reflects on the changes in literature over that time, and asks the question as to what shape things may take in the decades to come. Very much in this forward-looking vein, the Festival will include the First Book Award, an audience-voted prize for a work of fiction debuting at the Festival.
Internationally-acclaimed guests have also curated sections of the programme, including Margaret Atwood’s series of events on Fictional Boundaries, Kate Mosse emerging from the labyrinth to look at Women In The 20th Century and Neil Gaiman’s fairytale examination of Reshaping Modern Fantasy.Gaiman also features in the Bailie Gifford Children’s Programme, which is much expanded this year and is full of free and ticketed events for young readers (and their families).
The Festival doesn’t just focus on the written word: this year sees the launch of Stripped, a festival-within-a-festival featuring writers, artists and speakers from the world of comics and graphic novels. Combine that with the ever-popular spoken word, poetry, music and comedy Unbound events in the Festival’s own Speigeltent, and the 30th Edinburgh International Book Festival is one which certainly leaps off the page.
The Festival programme reads like a who’s who of internationally-acclaimed literary talent, including Salman Rushdie, China Miéville, Kate Atkinson, Melvyn Bragg, Roddy Doyle and more. Names perhaps not always associated with literature also feature, including Joy Division bassist Peter Hook, Ann Widdecombe and actor Rupert Everett, who will read from his second memoir.
Edinburgh authors also feature prominently. Ian Rankin pops up in several places, not least discussing the return of a certain Inspector Rebus. Historical, crime and now children’s author Sara Sheridan features in both the adult and children’s section, and Roy Gill, the author we interviewed here recently, also appears.The literary world was rocked recently by the sad passing of beloved Scottish author Iain Banks. Nick Barley, the Book Festival director, revealed that Banks had hoped to appear at this year’s festival one last time, to read from his final work The Quarry. Sadly, this was not to be, but A Celebration of Iain Banks — an event featuring Banks’ friends Ken MacLeod, Val McDermid and Ian Rankin — will, as Barley puts it, be a “riot”.
We love the Book Festival here at Edinburgh Spotlight, and have enjoyed watching it grow over the years into what it is now: a landmark of the August festival scene which features something for everyone, whether they are avid readers or not.
To its illustrious past, present and — of course — future, we say slàinte and see you in August!
The Edinburgh International Book Festival runs from 10-26 August in Charlotte Square Gardens. The full programme is available on the festival website, and tickets will be on sale from 8:30am on 28 June.