Why does the gender pay gap still stand at over 18% in the UK? Fortunately, many brilliant women are finally being heard in the long struggle for equality, and we are proud to present a series of events in which they take the stage. From Carrie Gracie’s account of her battle for equal pay within the BBC to Mariella Frostrup’s anthology of female travel writers, and Sara Sheridan’s female rewriting of Scotland’s history to a new generation of novelists, this exuberant strand celebrates bold, defiant, revolutionary women, and gives a perspective of the world from the female point of view.
A DIFFERENT HISTORY OF BRITAIN
Saturday 10 August 20:30 - 21:30
Bloody Brilliant Women is Channel 4 News anchor Cathy Newman’s paean to those who’ve shaped modern Britain, with the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst sharing pages with heroes like Beatrice Shilling, whose engineering prowess helped win the Battle of Britain. The award-winning journalist, who won yet more fans last year when she faced Jordan Peterson on live TV, shares some of the extraordinary stories of women she’s unearthed with Rosemary Goring.
Caroline Criado Perez with Sally Magnusson
TIME’S UP ON IGNORANCE
Sunday 11 August 15:15 - 16:15
In conversation with Sally Magnusson, award-winning feminist campaigner and writer Caroline Criado Perez exposes the hidden systematic discrimination women face every day. Invisible Women is her clarion call for change, bringing together new research and stories revealing the gender data gap; a lack of knowledge which has created unseen bias against women everywhere from public policy to technology, business and the media. This event will be recorded for BBC Radio Scotland.
Siân Reynolds & Sara Sheridan
REWRITING SCOTTISH HERSTORY
Monday 12 August 10:30 - 11:30
Meet two women on a feminist mission. Former Stirling University professor Siân Reynolds is one of the editors of The New Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women. Join her in conversation with local author Sara Sheridan whose guidebook Where Are The Women? is a radical reimagining of Scottish heritage and landscape to include the women who were there all along. Chaired by Susan Stewart.
CRIMINALISATION OF LOVE
Monday 12 August 20:45 - 21:45
A pioneering voice in feminism and author of The Beauty Myth and Vagina, Naomi Wolf joins us to discuss Outrages. Subtitled Sex, Censorship and the Criminalisation of Love, it explores Britain’s obscenity laws which criminalised homosexuality. The American journalist's book also reveals some of the lives lived in the shadow of these laws, connecting regressive Victorian ideas and modern notions of deviancy, free expression and love.
Nayrouz Qarmout with Kamila Shamsie
LIFE FOR WOMEN IN GAZA CITY
Monday 12 August 21:30 - 22:30
Following her headline-making visit to the Festival last year, Gaza-based writer Nayrouz Qarmout returns to launch The Sea Cloak, which has just been translated from Arabic into English. Today the Palestinian author talks to fellow writer Kamila Shamsie about what motivates her writing, and her work for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. This is only Qarmout’s second trip out of Gaza since she moved there, having been born in a refugee camp in Damascus.
BEWITCHED BY FAIRY TALES
Tuesday 13 August 15:30 - 16:30
Award-winning writer, psychologist and mythologist, Sharon Blackie returns to her first love in a collection of modern-day retellings of fairy tales and folklore. With an explicit feminist slant, each story in Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women focuses on the female capacity for metamorphosis. Join Blackie for what promises to be an enchanting event.
INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN CELEBRATED
Tuesday 13 August 18:45 - 19:45
They say you should write about what you know – advice Ruth Davidson followed when she embarked on Yes She Can, a treatise on the power of inspirational women. When appointed in 2011, she was the youngest leader of a major UK political party and one of the first who was openly gay. In 2017, she delivered the Scottish Conservatives’ best election result in a generation. Davidson makes her Book Festival debut, discussing the women who inspired her new book with Dame Katherine Grainger, Britain’s most decorated female Olympic athlete.
New Daughters of Africa with Margaret Busby
GLOBAL FEMALE WRITERS
Wednesday 14 August 17:45 - 18:45
Margaret Busby’s historical anthology Daughters of Africa was published 27 years ago to international acclaim. Now there’s a companion volume. New Daughters of Africa is a glorious portrayal of the richness and range of over 200 contemporary women writers of African descent, showcasing a global sweep and diversity through memoir, letters, stories, poetry, essays and more. Contributing authors Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Bernardine Evaristo, Leila Aboulela and Candice Carty-Williams join Busby today to discuss the remarkable collection.
WORK LIKE A WOMAN
Wednesday 14 August 20:30 - 21:30
Having transformed the high street, Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas is back with a campaign calling time on macho culture in the workplace. Work Like a Woman is her call to arms for radically reshaping business culture for the benefit of both sexes, and with major successes in business and campaigning, Portas’s manifesto might be worth getting behind. Hear about it in this empowering hour with a titan of British business, in conversation with Lennie Goodings.
Friday 16 August 20:30 - 21:30
The vile practice of upskirting wasn’t an offence in Britain until activist Gina Martin came along. With no legal or political background, Martin changed the law within 18 months. Now, she wants to help others do the same. Be the Change is a campaigning handbook written to advise and empower. Meet an inspiring force of nature and learn how to follow in her footsteps.
TACKLING FIGURES OF FUN
Saturday 17 August 15:15 - 16:15
Danish comedian Sofie Hagen burst onto the UK stand-up scene in 2015 by taking the Best Newcomer Prize at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and she's gone on to establish herself as a sensitive and urgent voice for outsiders. Join her in Charlotte Square Gardens as she discusses body image and the notion that being fat is wrong in a society obsessed by shrinking – the topic of new book Happy Fat.
Nadine Aisha Jassat, Mariam Khan & Amna Saleem
IN THE WORDS OF MUSLIM WOMEN
Saturday 17 August 19:15 - 20:15
In a time of heightened Islamophobia, racism and the misrepresentation of Muslim people, writer and activist Mariam Khan lets Muslim women speak for themselves. It’s Not About The Burqa is the stunning result: a landmark anthology of essays by and about seventeen Muslim women. Join Khan and contributors Nadine Aisha Jassat and Amna Saleem for an illuminating and powerful event.
Mairi Kidd & Siobhán Parkinson
FEMINIST TREASURE TROVES
SAn event celebrating two feminist treasuries packed with inspirational Scottish and Irish women. With Warriors and Witches and Damn Rebel Bitches, Mairi Kidd has curated a stunning collection of Scottish women throughout history, from Mary Queen of Scots to Maw Broon. Rocking The System, by former Irish Children’s Laureate Siobhán Parkinson gathers twenty illustrated essays on Irish women. Join them for an empowering hour.unday 18 August 11:00 - 12:00
Gabriela Cabezón Cámara & Olja Savičević
DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES
Sunday 18 August 17:00 - 18:00
Olja Savičević’s Singer in the Night is an insightful, sensuous and funny exploration of a woman’s recollections of a former lover. Gabriela Cabezón Cámara presents a lively feminist take on epic Martín Fierro in The Adventures of China Iron, which sees the hero’s wife take a road trip through Argentina’s landscape, history and potential future. Two new stars of world literature discuss their female protagonists.
WOMEN IN WAR
Monday 19 August 15:15 - 16:15
Victoria Hislop’s Those Who Are Loved is another sure-fire bestseller set amid tumultuous Mediterranean history. Themis survives the Nazi occupation of Greece only to become embroiled in the ensuing civil war. Her communist connections land her in a prison where she’s forced to give birth. Sensitive and insightful about women’s experience of the trauma of war, Hislop shows she's at the top of her game. She talks to James Runcie.
Arundhati Roy with Nicola Sturgeon
NEVER LOOK AWAY
Monday 19 August 18:45 - 19:45
What did Arundhati Roy do between the publication of her Booker-winning debut The God of Small Things in 1997 and her extraordinary follow-up, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness two decades later? In a stunning new book of essays, we have the definitive answer. My Seditious Heart is much more than a series of illuminating observations on justice, rights and freedoms: it’s a memoir of the Indian author’s life – as a writer and as a citizen. Roy discusses her novels, her essays and her astonishing experiences with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
THE GIRL FROM ANYTOWN
Monday 19 August 20:30 - 21:30
Returning to our roots can be tough, revealing and, as Tracey Thorn discovers in Another Planet, inspiring. The singer-songwriter behind Everything But The Girl follows up her bestselling Bedsit Disco Queen with a wonderfully witty walk through the maligned suburbia of her youth. Today, Thorn shares hilarious recollections of the physical and emotional cul-de-sacs of her Green Belt upbringing and its lasting impact.
GOING OFF SCRIPT
Tuesday 20 August 20:30 - 21:30
This Script is the second collection from prominent Edinburgh performance poet Jenny Lindsay, the founder of Flint and Pitch, a vital platform for new voices in the spoken word scene. Described as 'a densely packed firework of poetic feminism', the typically explosive volume deals with everything from our ageing bodies to the gendered world in which we live. See the charismatic wordsmith perform live tonight.
SHE’S GOT A TICKET TO RIDE
Wednesday 21 August 17:00 - 18:00
BBC Open Book presenter Mariella Frostrup joins us at the Book Festival with her new book of incredible travel writing by women. Wild Women collects the tales of well-known and undiscovered women from around the world and across the centuries, taking in journeys everywhere from Antarctica to the Andes. Frostrup talks to Jackie McGlone about her celebration of these wild, wonderful, intrepid voyagers.
Jenny Robertson & George Szirtes
MOTHERHOOD AND ALMÁS PITE
Friday 23 August 11:00 - 12:00
The impacts of Nazi and Soviet rule on women are explored in this event. Jenny Robertson’s From Corsets to Communism charts the life and ideas of Zofia Nałkowska, a pioneering Polish writer who witnessed brutal atrocities. Renowned Hungarian poet and translator George Szirtes presents The Photographer at Sixteen, a tender memoir of his mother who survived two concentration camps then fled Hungary with her boys in 1956.
LIBERTÉ, EGALITÉ, FAIR WOMEN’S PAY
Friday 23 August 19:15 - 20:15
Before Carrie Gracie became BBC China editor in 2014, much of her 30 year career had been devoted to the nation. It wasn’t until a high-profile row with the BBC eighteen months ago that Gracie became known for another passion: equal pay for women. Her campaign led to change, with British companies now required to declare their gender pay gap. Gracie joins us to discuss her book, Equal, and her inspiring campaign.
WONDER WOMAN ON WHEELS
Friday 23 August 20:45 - 21:45
Who’s the greatest rider in British cycling history? Beryl Burton. A dynamo who dominated road racing and time-trialling for three decades, she won 7 world titles and over 90 domestic championships in her career. It’s high time she is recognised as her male counterparts are. Journalist William Fotheringham sets things straight in The Greatest: The Times and Life of Beryl Burton. Celebrate a true sporting legend tonight.
Tessa McWatt & Zeba Talkhani
ANATOMIES OF BELONGING
Saturday 24 August 16:00 - 17:00
In a pair of moving memoirs, Guyana-born Canadian writer Tessa McWatt and Zeba Talkhani, who was raised in Saudi Arabia, explore themes of race, feminism, heritage and belonging. McWatt’s Shame On Me is a journey through the multiple threads of her identity. In My Past Is a Foreign Country, Talkhani charts her experiences as a British Muslim feminist with nuance and generosity. They come together today to share their stories. Supported by the Eccles Centre at the British Library.
Sarah Henstra & Elle Nash
SEX, VIOLENCE AND OBSESSION
Saturday 24 August 20:30 - 21:30
Two novelists discuss timely, provocative books about youth, gender politics and violence with author Helen McClory. Sarah Henstra’s searing examination of rape culture on college campuses, The Red Word, won Canada's prestigious Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction when it was first published in 2018. Elle Nash’s Animals Eat Each Other takes an unflinching look at obsessive love and has been described as a ‘heart bomb.’
Saturday 24 August 20:30 - 21:30
Join cult actress, playwright and director Zawe Ashton for a witty dissection of her unconventional, darkly funny and touching memoir. Character Breakdown tells the story of Ashton’s life as an actor, from her debut at the age of six to playing Fresh Meat’s Vod. A celebrity autobiography with a difference: it both skewers and celebrates the world of entertainment.
FEELING SOUTHERN CHARMS
Sunday 25 August 18:45 - 19:45
The first woman to win a Sports Journalism Award, Emma John has recently been taking more of an interest in the American South, and in particular bluegrass music. In Wayfaring Stranger, she writes of her initial struggle to adapt to the deep country ways, before a trip to the Appalachian Mountains changed everything for her – learn why in this evening's event.
WOMEN IN POWER
Monday 26 August 11:45 - 12:45
In Women of Westminster, Labour MP Rachel Reeves tells the overlooked stories of leading and lesser known British politicians who have shaped a nation, from the earliest suffrage campaigns to Harriet Harman’s legislation on the gender pay gap. Join Reeves for a remarkable and inspiring event celebrating female political pioneers then and now.
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