How do we make sense of the election of Donald Trump, the continuing rise of Vladimir Putin and Britain’s vote for Brexit? How do we understand the changing freedoms available to us, 100 years after women’s suffrage in the UK and the birth of Nelson Mandela? These questions bring into focus which freedoms really matter to us. Do we prefer the ‘freedom of the individual’ championed by western neoliberal politics, or the ‘freedom to be a nation’, in the sense that’s understood by Russia or China? From freedom of speech to freedom of movement, free trade to the free internet, ideas about the meaning of freedom are the focus of many discussions this year, including a series of debates about which freedoms we should prioritise.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
A LIVING LEGEND RETURNS
Saturday 11 August 18:45 - 19:45
Perennial Nobel Prize favourite Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o returns to the Book Festival. Jailed without trial in his native Kenya in 1978, the revered novelist and playwright knows the value of freedom and the power of imagination to overcome injustice. Marking the publication of Wrestling with the Devil, a new edit of his prison memoir, the celebrated author joins us to discuss tyranny, resistance and how creativity can set us free.
Freedom Debate: Life Online
CAN WE PROTECT OUR PERSONAL DATA?
Saturday 11 August 19:30 - 21:00
Knowledge is power and power is money, yet we give away our information freely everyday. Can we ever reclaim ownership of it? The internet offers many freedoms but with it come serious concerns, highlighted by the recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal. Visible Fictions’s interactive drama The Hidden and Fire Exit’s WhatsApp novella The Right Kind of Chaos by David Leddy, both at this year’s Festival, explore the issues. Join their artistic directors Dougie Irvine and David Leddy to discuss where we go from here.
The Right Kind of Chaos is a unique book where, over a 10-day period, readers receive a series of unsettling instructions via WhatsApp. Digital technology mixes with innovative storytelling for a uniquely unnerving emotional punch. Sign-up now – it’s free: text the word 'SUBSCRIBE' to +44 7411 228363 on WhatsApp and follow the cues.
STANDING UP FOR EQUALITY
Saturday 11 August 20:30 - 21:30
Misogynation is a labour of frustration; a labour of anger. So says Laura Bates about her searing new book of essays charting the persistent gender inequality in British society today. Since writing Everyday Sexism, #MeToo, the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the gender pay gap debate have given strength to her argument that sexism remains systemic and deeply ingrained and she talks about the issues to BBC Scotland's Serena Field.
A NEW FAMILY DYNAMIC
Sunday 12 August 18:45 - 19:45
Being part of a family is about much more than biology. Howard Cunnell describes this truth with extraordinary sensitivity in Fathers and Sons, a memoir which charts the period when his daughter Jay realised he was a boy, and a son. Cunnell’s terrifyingly honest, deeply moving book is a tender depiction of parenthood, Jay’s gender transition and the power of familial love. He discusses his memoir with actor, presenter and novelist Janet Ellis.
My Grandad, Mandela
FAMILIES & 5+
Monday 13 August 17:00 - 18:00
To mark the centenary of former South African President Nelson Mandela's birth, his two great-grandchildren (aged 6 and 7) have asked their grandmother, Mandela's daughter Zindzi, 15 questions about the man the world remembers as an inspirational leader and peacemaker. Through her answers, they learn about the life of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, finding out how they can continue his legacy in the world today. Authored jointly by Zazi, Ziwelene and Zindzi Mandela, and told from a child's perspective, discover this amazing story told as never before.
Freedom Debate: Commonwealth
THE LEGACY OF EMPIRE
Monday 13 August 19:30 - 21:00
Celebrations of the Commonwealth Games were soured by the treatment of the Windrush Generation, highlighting the UK’s increasingly fraught relationship with its former colonies. In January Australia’s leading literary journal, Griffith Review, invited writers from around the world to offer a non-western centric perspective. Join editor Julianne Schultz, British publisher Margaret Busby and international writers Karen Lord and Salil Tripathi to examine our nation and its reputation abroad. Chaired by Julianne Schultz.
Martin Halliwell & Nick Witham
THE LEGACY OF PROTEST
Tuesday 14 August 16:00 - 17:00
1968 remains a landmark year for political and cultural activism. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the Black Panther movement and ongoing campaigns against the Vietnam War caused revolt in the US and further afield. Academic Martin Halliwell joins us to discuss the legacy of that tumultuous year, detailed in his book Reframing 1968, examining modern protest movements.
Freedom Debate: Universal Basic Income
FREEDOM FROM POVERTY
Tuesday 14 August 19:30 - 21:00
Progress towards reducing poverty in the UK seems to be going backwards, with a growing divide between wealthy and poor. One groundbreaking proposal is the Universal Basic Income (UBI); feared by some as potentially exacerbating the situation while perceived by others as offering opportunities to many. Stewart Lansley, co-editor of It’s Basic Income: The Global Debate, brings together a panel to discuss the pros, cons and impact of UBI.
Zindzi Mandela with Allan Little
MY FATHER, NELSON MANDELA
Tuesday 14 August 20:30 - 21:30
Zindzi Mandela is the youngest daughter of Nelson and Winnie Mandela. She has long been involved in South Africa’s freedom struggle and is currently serving as South Africa's ambassador to Denmark. In this frank interview with journalist and former BBC South Africa correspondent Allan Little, she discusses growing up in the shadow of such a great man and the impact it has had on her own life and that of her children and grandchildren.
WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
Wednesday 15 August 11:45 - 12:45
Studies demonstrate that greater diversity leads to good business, more innovation and better decisions. So why do some governments advocate less diversity? In her impassioned book Diversify, renowned broadcaster June Sarpong draws on research from Oxford University and the London School of Economics to make a compelling case that actively seeking the unfamiliar is the key to a brighter future. She discusses her ideas with Ruth Wishart.
Freedom Debate: Precarious Freedoms
QUEER PERSPECTIVES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Wednesday 15 August 19:30 - 21:00
Rights, freedoms and visibility for queer communities in the UK have improved in recent years, but gender and sexuality rights remain fragile in some countries and non-existent in others. Freedoms are precarious – they can be won only to be quickly lost again. Our panel, co-curated by Dive Queer Party, offers a range of international perspectives. Jo Clifford and Susan Worsfold, writer and director of The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven talk with the show’s Brazilian Director and translator Natalia Mallo and performer Renata Carvalho; they are joined on stage by writer and performer Travis Alabanza, and Chitra Nagarajan, author of She Called Me Woman.
1968: YEAR OF UNREST AND FREEDOM
Thursday 16 August 13:30 - 14:30
Acclaimed BBC journalist James Naughtie has spent much of this year in archives, visiting key sites and interviewing the protagonists of the civil unrest in France in 1968. Focusing on the Paris Riots in May of that year, today he brings together a panel to explore the legacy of a fascinating and volatile period which succeeded 'as a social revolution, not as a political one'.
Freedom Debate: Education
WHAT DO CHILDREN NEED TO THRIVE?
Friday 17 August 19:30 - 21:00
As Miss Jean Brodie declared, 'Education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil's soul'. Join children's author Vivian French, former teacher and novelist Brian Conaghan and John Naples-Campbell, diversity campaigner and Head of Expressive Arts at Aberdeen's Dyce Academy, to debate what kind of education is required for our young people to thrive in our complex world?
THE RIGHTFUL PLACE OF WOMEN
Saturday 18 August 18:45 - 19:45
As the Director of Liberty until 2016, Shami Chakrabarti became known as Britain’s leading campaigner for civil rights. She joins Ruth Wishart for a discussion about one of the most persistent human rights abuses on the planet: gender injustice. In this event and in her book Of Women Chakrabarti makes the case for positive action in the name of peace, prosperity and general human wellbeing.
Freedom Debate: Collective Care
CAN WE DESIGN A NEW SYSTEM?
Sunday 19 August 19:30 - 21:00
In today’s world of individual freedoms and polarising beliefs, can we conceive of a structure of shared social responsibility and be sure it will work for the most vulnerable, those who find themselves at the edges of society? Using our prison and healthcare systems as models, the social activist and author of Radical Help, Hilary Cottam, examines the question with philosopher Edith Hall, designer Alice Rawsthorn, New Zealand artist and Professor Nancy Loucks, Chief Executive of the charity Families Outside.
Celeste-Marie Bernier & Andrew Taylor
FREDERICK DOUGLASS: ABOLITIONIST
Monday 20 August 15:45 - 16:45
Together, the University of Edinburgh's Celeste-Marie Bernier, Professor of Black Studies and Andrew Taylor, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, have researched the history of Frederick Douglass who escaped from slavery aged 20 and became a symbol of social justice, reform and freedom to millions. If I Survive features letters, essays and photographs showing another side to Douglass; that of a family man and proud father of five children. Chaired by Rosemary Burnett.
Freedom to Weep
THE WELLBEING OF MEN
Tuesday 21 August 19:30 - 21:00
Young men are under intense pressure – often self-imposed – to appear strong and unemotional, regardless of their physical or psychological wellbeing. Today, three young adult fiction writers discuss the importance of accurately representing boys. Steven Camden, Brian Conaghan and Jason Reynolds tackle the complexities of grief, heartbreak, sexuality and friendship in their writing, creating characters who express sometimes difficult inner lives, allowing young readers to explore their own.
POLITICS OF VIOLENCE
Thursday 23 August 12:00 - 13:00
Having discussed his debut novel The End of Eddy at last year’s Festival, Édouard Louis returns with History of Violence, based on his experience of being raped in 2012. The other man involved had fled to France from Algeria. Louis’s novel and his discussion today explore the forces behind racism, class prejudice, homophobia, dispossession and desire, interrogating the complex causes of a violent episode. Chaired by Steven Gale.
Freedom Debate: Gender in India and Pakistan
HOW DO WE BRING REAL CHANGE?
Friday 24 August 19:30 - 21:00
Economic growth, political turbulence and religious hostilities are synonymous with the South Asia region. But now the place and treatment of women is making news headlines as people speak out against high-profile attacks. Voices are being heard but will this lead to real change? To examine the issues, award-winning novelist Kamila Shamsie is joined by experts Dr Radhika Govinda from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for South Asia Studies and Professor Fiona MacKay, Director of GenderEd and former Head of the School of Social and Political Science. Supported by the Centre for South Asian Studies.
THE RUINS OF EMPIRE
Friday 24 August 20:30 - 21:30
Race and class have shaped the world of MOBO award-winning hip hop artist, poet and political commentator Akala. In Natives, his searing polemic on race in the UK, he considers his own experiences in both childhood and as an adult, and connects them to the social, political and historical context that have led us to where we are now.
Saturday 25 August 16:00 - 17:00
In recent years, powerful campaigns surrounding the rights of transgender people have finally given many the confidence to openly step into the public view. Trans Britain is a comprehensive account of the landmark events of the past five decades, told in 25 essays by those who were there. Editor Christine Burns, a prominent campaigner for the rights of transgender people, discusses the inspiring work.
Freedom Debate: Walls and Borders
IS IT THE END OF THE GLOBAL COMMUNITY?
Saturday 25 August 19:30 - 21:00
Late 20th century thinking was defined by freedom of movement and the removal of borders. Now, fences, tariffs and fear are beginning to dominate our cultural, economic and political conversations. Leading journalist and author of Divided: Why We Are Living In An Age Of Walls, Tim Marshall leads a panel exploring why barriers are appearing around the world and asks if this is the end of the global community?
Victoria Adukwei Bulley & Eloise Greenfield
CIVIL RIGHTS 50 YEARS ON
Sunday 26 August 17:00 - 18:00
50 years on from the assassination of Martin Luther King, what has changed? American writer Eloise Greenfield, known for her poetry depicting the African-American experience, and British-Ghanaian poet Victoria Adukwei Bulley, reflect upon their work in relation to culture, language, history and identity. Remembering King, they discuss their heroes past and present, and the importance of honouring those who came before us.
STANDING UP FOR JUSTICE
Sunday 26 August 18:45 - 19:45
Gina Miller came to prominence when she successfully took the British government to the Supreme Court, challenging its authority to trigger Article 50, the formal notification to leave the EU, without parliamentary approval. Guyana-born Miller became the target of racist and sexist abuse, and physical threats. Rise is an unflinching account of what it means to stand up for justice, and for yourself, no matter what the cost. She discusses her book and why she felt compelled to write it with Ruth Wishart.
Freedom Debate: Accessing Technology
Sunday 26 August 19:30 - 21:00
Technological leaps have expanded opportunities for people with disabilities. At the same time, cuts to resources are making many feel isolated, misunderstood and attacked. How do we ensure everyone has access the tools they need to live well and feel part of mainstream culture? Award-winning novelist Ever Dundas leads the debate with Robin Spinks, Innovation and Technology Relationships Manager at the RNIB.
The Freedom Finale
Monday 27 August 20:15 - 21:30
Over the course of the Festival, writers from across the globe have discussed freedom and its complications. This grand Festival finale brings together musicians, writers and artists for an international musical collaboration created by Daniel Krass and featuring Nigerian artist Muthoni Drummer Queen, inspired by The Freedom Papers. A musical creation incorporates a selection of Freedom Paper texts including the ‘freedom story’ of Gavin Francis and Esa Aldegheri, who gave up their jobs to tour the world on a motorbike and, as they recount their voyage, Iranian illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi will create live freedom drawings. Celebrate with us and a chorus of characters, stories and sounds in our grand finale.
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