The Edinburgh International Book Festival is a lively and eclectic mix of books and people. All sorts of people; all sorts of books. I was fortunate to be able to attend for the first time this year and I hope it will be the first of many attendances. I could have easily spent three days in the bookshop, quite apart from the events.
Taking the early train from Inverness was a price worth paying for something that delivers on both quality and content. The breadth of the programme is truly staggering: politicians, sports personalities and current affairs ‘celebs’ rub shoulders with crime writers, poets, historians and up-and –coming writers of all genres. I attended on the Thursday as a talented author friend had been selected by the ‘Story Shop’ to read her story that particular day. Part of Edinburgh City of Literature programme, it gives the opportunity for emerging local writers to showcase their talent. My event participation was limited by the time available around that event and the train timetable, so I chose Elizabeth Reeder’s workshop exploring Jenny Diski’s creative memoir ‘Skating to Antarctica’, and Alys Conran and Ursula Kovalyk’s ‘Teen Dreams are Made of This’ which discussed their respective coming of age novels. Both events were lively and inspiring adding plenty to my reading list and plenty of food for thought.
I live in what is designated a ‘remote and rural hamlet’ and would never want to change that by moving to the city, but I must admit to a touch of ‘Edinburgh Envy’ for my friends who live in the city and can spend days, rather than hours, at the book festival! I would have loved to hear Carol Ann Duffy, Teju Cole, Nikesh Shukla, and so many more poets, novelists and playwrights enthusing about their work, their inspiration, and the important subjects they deal with through it. Instead, I contented myself with the sessions I’d chosen, hearing my friend read her excellent story, browsing the bookshops and people watching. There were the usual suspects – ‘when I used to smoke pot with Ian Rankin….’, ‘when I last spoke to Nicola (Sturgeon)…’- and the extraordinary ordinary people: writers, readers, teachers, poets, lovers, workers, dreamers – enjoying a literary day out, just like me. I was also pleased to see hordes of school children, who I hope will be inspired to a life-long love of books, if they’ve not already got the bug. Like I said, all sorts of people, all sorts of books. A truly international affair based on a love of books rather than on the cult of personality.
The date’s in my diary for next year. Go if you can.