Edinburgh in August
Edinburgh is THE festival city in August, as the whole city centre and beyond is taken over by shows, performances, installations, readings, acts, comedy, and of course, books. The tented village of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, 11-27 August, spreads out into the commercial centre of George Street once again this year as the main theme – Freedom to think, freedom to write – threads itself around and about the 1000+ sessions.
We present here a tiny selection of the feast of arts, culture, entertainment, thought and fun on offer, inspired by books, and here’s a reminder of the other August festivals -
• The Edinburgh Art Festival 26 July-26 Aug
• The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 3-25 Aug
• Edinburgh International Festival 3-27 Aug
• Edinburgh Festival Fringe 3-27 Aug
• Beyond Borders International Festival 25/26 Aug
• Edinburgh Comic Art Festival 12 Aug
21 August, 2004. I’m in a yurt at the Edinburgh book festival, towards the end of a short line of people shuffling forward to be introduced to Muriel Spark. Ian Rankin is in front of me. When it’s his turn to meet the writer whose work he once studied for a PhD (though he abandoned it to do a bit of writing himself), he reaches down into a plastic carrier bag. “I’ve got a first edition of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” he tells Edinburgh’s grandest literary dame, half-kneeling in front of her, and opening it at the title page. “Would you care to sign it?”
Damn, I think to myself. Another trick missed.
Last month, I was at another book festival event – this time at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose – when Rankin described that moment. “Meeting Muriel Spark was,” he said, “like meeting Mick Jagger. I was a complete fanboy.”
I know what he meant, because that was precisely what I felt too. Most writers you meet – and as books editor of The Scotsman for 15 years I’ve met hundreds – are quite firmly of their own time. Psychologically astute, silkily stylish and wondrously witty they may be, but with most you feel that their reputation and influence might not outlast them. Yet, back in Charlotte Square that August day in 2004 as I followed Rankin and introduced myself to Scotland’s most famous woman writer, the thought crossed my mind: This is what it must have felt like to meet Jane Austen.
It is, of course, notoriously easy to be wrong about writers’ posthumous reputations – though with 15 events devoted to her on this year’s Edinburgh book festival programme, one of its venues named in her honour and Polygon’s new editions of all 22 of her novels available in it...
It’s festival season, and I am going to give it all I’ve got.
I am an author with a new book to promote, but lined up against my study wall, alongside the inevitable boxes of books, are many, many more items. It’s an eclectic collection:
A huge shadow puppetry screen, a roll of thick black paper, multipacks of scissors. A shopping bag stuffed with hand puppets, both modern and old-fashioned/wooden. A packet of six giant inflatable seagulls. A violin case, containing (wait for it) … a violin! Books about myths and legends, and a nature spotter’s guide to Scotland. A rail of tartan hats, kilts and waistcoats. Other props include a plastic scythe, a false nose, a baby’s napkin and a giant blue sheet, shimmering in the summer sun.
Children’s authors are a ...
‘A room can have disorder or stains in it. But this room does not, will not. All is in order, now. Let’s take one last look, one long breath in and out. A room in a story cannot be a haunted room, unl …
‘The more I wrote, the more fascinated I became. Reading James’ words made me see the war, for the first time, from the inside.’
“There is still a wealth of paintings, drawings and prints by Rembrandt to be found in British collections, but the number of his works that have been here at some point in their history is simply sta …
‘What I love about Harris’s novels is the way that they take the uncertainties we all have about the present and plonk them down again in that other, usually more certain country (because we know what …
‘Our games aren’t designed to be commercially produced; instead, they are thinking tools created as part of our research. Thinking about book festivals as games is a way to enjoy their many, overlappi …
‘As the whole city centre and beyond is taken over by shows, performances, installations, readings, acts, comedy, and of course, books, we are excited to share a few rich pickings with you from this y …
‘In August, when the streets are full of festival crowds, take a walk through its literary heritage.’