Edinburgh International Book Festival Themes: Stories that Make Scotland

This year we focus more on our nation’s rich, complex, troublesome past and the things that make it such a fascinating place to live right now.

Edinburgh International Book Festival Themes: Stories that Make Scotland

About Edinburgh International Book Festival Themes: Stories that Make Scotland

Over the past decade we’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about Scotland’s constitutional future. This year we focus more on our nation’s rich, complex, troublesome past and the things that make it such a fascinating place to live right now. Some of this country’s most prominent thinkers join the conversation, including Sir Tom Devine with a new perspective on the Scottish Clearances, and Kerry Hudson, who looks at poverty in some of the country’s most deprived towns. We also mark 20 years since the opening of the new Scottish Parliament, re-examine Scotland’s role in the Caribbean, and present performances of the Iolaire Tragedy and a celebration of Hamish Henderson.

Robert Crawford
Saturday 10 August 18:30 - 19:30
Iona has been a site of inspiration for writers for centuries. Today Robert Crawford, a professor of modern Scottish literature at the University of St Andrews and himself a prolific poet, discusses The Book of Iona, a collection of writings he has edited. From the religious verse of St Columba to modern writers, Crawford has gathered poems, prose and essays which reveal the magic and mystery of the spiritual Hebridean isle.

Andy Jackson & Brian Johnstone
Monday 12 August 20:30 - 21:30
Between Burns Night in 2016 and 2017, poets Andy Jackson and Brian Johnstone ran an online national soul-searching project. Each week, they shared two Scottish poems on either side of a theme, charting the complexities of Scotland’s psyche. They join us to talk about Scotia Extremis, the printed result – a compendium of poems which reverberates with the joys and tensions underpinning the national character, with readings from poets including Robert Crawford, Christine de Luca, Vicki Feaver, James Robertson and Ian Stephen.

Michael Anderson
Tuesday 13 August 11:00 - 12:00
Distinguished academic Michael Anderson – a stalwart at the University of Edinburgh for 40 years who has been honoured with an OBE – discusses the change in Scotland’s population since the 1850s. Exploring issues such as rural settlement, migration, deprivation and industrial investment, Anderson offers a comparison between Scotland’s population shifts and those in the rest of Europe.

The Story of the Iolaire Tragedy
Tuesday 13 August 18:00 - 19:30
On 1 January 1919, crowded with men being brought home from the Great War, the yacht Iolaire hit rocks just off the Isle of Lewis. By the time the first New Year’s Day of peacetime dawned, 201 men had lost their lives, 181 of them on the shores of the island they called home. Malcolm Macdonald and Donald John Macleod spent 20 years painstakingly researching The Darkest Dawn, their book about the disaster. Join us for a special event of conversation and music with Malcolm Macdonald and Catriona Murray, readings from Donald Martin and Donald W Morrison and songs from Joan Morrison

Rosemary Goring
Wednesday 14 August 15:45 - 16:45
Scotland’s history has been told many times, but never exclusively by its women. Rosemary Goring’s powerful anthology Scotland: Her Story, draws on court records, treasurer’s accounts, diaries, chapbooks, newspapers and eye-witness statements, offering a unique perspective on dramatic national events as well as ordinary life through the centuries. Goring joins us to discuss the women, from the severe Queen Margaret to today’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, giving a tantalising glimpse of how they felt, and bringing to life the half of history that has for too long been hidden or ignored. Chaired by Jane Fowler.

Brigid Benson
Thursday 15 August 11:00 - 12:00
In North Coast Journey, Brigid Benson gifts us her essential, quirky and deeply personal guide to the wild and remote northern Highlands of Scotland. The bestselling author takes you through exceptionally beautiful routes, both established and off the beaten track, from Inverness and Applecross to the far northern reaches of Caithness and John O’Groats.

Bill Hare & Gerda Stevenson
Friday 16 August 12:00 - 13:00
How do artists help us understand Scotland’s development since the Second World War? Art historian Bill Hare explores the startling achievements of modern artists in Scottish Art. Meanwhile in Inside & Out, poet and actor Gerda Stevenson writes tenderly about little-known watercolour artist Christian Small, reflecting on the expectations of post-war women. They come together to examine Scottish history through the lens of art.

Jackie Kay
Friday 16 August 13:30 - 14:30
Three years into her stint as Scots Makar, Jackie Kay’s exuberance and insight have helped her bring poetry to the people. Today, she reads a selection of new poems inspired by her travels around Scotland. Kay also discusses the play of her much-loved memoir Red Dust Road with James Tait Black Prize-winner Tanika Gupta, who has adapted it for the National Theatre of Scotland – and all that’s happened since she wrote that revelatory book. Part of Edinburgh International Festival 2019

Murray Pittock
Sunday 18 August 10:30 - 11:30
Professor of English Literature at Glasgow University, Murray Pittock’s work focuses on Edinburgh and its civic development across the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the main drivers of national cultural change, including newspapers, gentry politics and coffee house culture, were based in the city but what was the real reason for Edinburgh’s Enlightenment? Find out as Pittock discusses his fascinating study with John Gordon.

Tom Devine
Sunday 18 August 18:45 - 19:45
The Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries helped shape the nation we know today, but historians have struggled to define what happened. Scotland’s leading historian, Sir Tom Devine, brings us The Scottish Clearances, his authoritative, readable and even-handed account. Today, he sets the record straight, conjuring the voices of the dispossessed and exploding myths about this defining period for Scotland and its people.

Philip Long & Joanna Norman
Monday 19 August 10:00 - 11:00
Philip Long is director of the V&A Dundee and co-editor of The Story of Scottish Design. Together with Joanna Norman, curator of the museum’s Scottish Design Galleries, Long presents a broad survey of 500 years of great Scottish design and pioneering designers, from textiles to technology, furniture to video games. Long and Norman discuss the importance of design (and a certain new building).

Henry Bell & Kenny MacAskill
Monday 19 August 15:45 - 16:45
January 1919, a world in turmoil: Ireland declared its independence, while Trotsky led the Red Army in Poland. Maybe that’s why workers’ demonstrations in Glasgow led the British establishment to roll army tanks into George Square. Henry Bell’s John Maclean: Hero of Red Clydeside and Kenny MacAskill’s Glasgow 1919 offer coruscating new perspectives on the major players and events in a key period in Scotland’s political history. Chaired by Ruth Wishart.

Thomas Stewart
Tuesday 20 August 15:45 - 16:45
2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament; this is the ideal moment to reflect on its development to date. Last year, academic Thomas Stewart established the Scottish Parliament Oral History Project, conducting over 80 interviews with current and former MSPs, Holyrood staff and journalists to shine a light on our democracy. He shares The Scottish Parliament In Its Own Words in his own words, today.

Kenneth Calman
Wednesday 21 August 10:30 - 11:30
As the UK’s former Chief Medical Officer and chair of the Commission on Scottish Devolution, Kenneth Calman is used to sticking his head above the parapet. His autobiography It Started in a Cupboard: Adventures in Life, Learning and Happiness, which he shares today, explores his life and the development of his heartfelt views. It's the story of a working class lad who’s tried to make Scotland a healthier place, finding contentment himself along the way. Chaired by Brian Taylor.

Finlay McKichan
Wednesday 21 August 11:00 - 12:00
Francis Humberston Mackenzie was a complex man: a profoundly deaf Scot who became Governor of Barbados; a benevolent Highland landowner during the Clearances who went on to own a slave plantation – and fight for slaves rights. Historian Finlay McKichan’s study Lord Seaforth, discussed today, reassesses his story, the connections between Highland and Caribbean communities, and the end of the imperial slave trade.

Gerry Hassan
Thursday 22 August 15:45 - 16:45
To coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament, we welcome author and researcher Dr Gerry Hassan to the Book Festival. He has written and edited a series of books assessing its impact on the nation, in the context of Britain, Europe and beyond. A leading commentator on Scottish politics, and senior research fellow in contemporary Scottish history at Dundee University, Hassan joins us today to discuss his ideas and his books, including Scotland the Brave? and 20 Years of the Scottish Parliament.

Who Owns Scotland's Land?
Friday 23 August 10:00 - 11:00
Land ownership has been a contentious source of conflict throughout Scotland's history. Public access and a belief in sharing the landscape has clashed with the economic power and influence held within the land. We explore these issues and the feasibility of land tax with our panel, which includes Andrew Thin, Chair of the Scottish Land Commission, author of Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power Alastair McIntosh and publisher and former member of the Scottish Land Review Agnes Rennie. In partnership with Quakers in Scotland.

Christine De Luca & Carlo Pirozzi
Sunday 25 August 11:00 - 12:00
The work of Eduardo Paolozzi left an indelible print on his hometown of Edinburgh. Fascinated by the artist’s approach of constant reinvention, Scottish poet Christine De Luca and University of Edinburgh academic Carlo Pirozzi, collaborators on Paolozzi at Large in Edinburgh, pay tribute to the Leith-born sculptor who was seen as a pioneer of pop art and worked with everyone from Paul McCartney to Lord Snowdon.

Nothing But the Poem on Tom Leonard
Monday 26 August 11:00 - 12:30
Tom Leonard was a Scottish poet, writer and critic who explored the relationship between language, class and culture. Ideas around identity ran through his poetry, written in Glaswegian Scots: the words we speak, streets we live in and the way we treat each other. Join Glasgow poet and arts coordinator, Jim Monaghan for a look at Leonard’s work. No experience necessary: everyone welcome and poems are provided.

Roger Mason
Monday 26 August 15:45 - 16:45
The important role played by the Flemish in moulding the history of Scotland is explored in an eye-opening event hosted by Professor of Scottish History at St Andrews, Roger Mason. Originating in Flanders – essentially modern-day Belgium and the Netherlands and at that time an economic powerhouse – the Flemish people arrived in Scotland as soldiers, settlers, traders and diplomats. He talks to historian David Santiuste.

While we take every opportunity to ensure the details for Edinburgh International Book Festival Themes: Stories that Make Scotland are accurate, we always advise that you contact the event organiser before setting out for the event to avoid disapointment. All information (whether in text or photographs) is given in good faith but should not be relied upon as being a statement of representation or fact.

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