'To tell the story of a country or a continent is surely a great and complex undertaking; but the story of a quiet, unnoticed place where there are few people, fewer memories and almost no reliable records - a place such as Glen Conach - may actually be harder to piece together. The hazier everything becomes, the more whatever facts there are become entangled with myth and legend…' - so James Robertson’s latest masterpiece News of the Dead begins – and it is this intersection between truth, myth and legend that we examine in this series of events.
How much do the stories that come from these shores help us make sense of our own – and the world’s - perception of Scottishness? From the rugged romanticism of our cities, lochs and people embellished by Sir Walter Scott, to Irvine Welsh’s gritty and alluring anti-heroes living on the fringes of society: where do we see ourselves amongst the canon of Scottish stories and characters? And how much do writers today have to unpick the work of their forebears in order to carve out their own truths – and myths – from this land? Join us for a captivating look into the past, present and future of Scottish writing.
Tom Devine with Allan Little: Rewriting Scotland’s History
Sunday 15 August 16:00 - 17:00
During the 20th century, Scotland commonly depicted its own history through the lens of a kind of colourful, tragicomic victimhood. This amounted to a tartan-clad story set against a Highland backdrop and a sense of national self-doubt that has sometimes been described as ‘the Scottish cringe’. Since the 1980s, however, that characterisation has changed, and Scotland has developed a more confident, modernised sense of its history and roots. Tom Devine can take considerable credit for this change: the most influential historian of our times, he has been instrumental in helping reframe the nation’s sense of itself. The Edinburgh University Professor of History and Paleogeography speaks to BBC journalist Allan Little about the changing nature of Scottish history.
Robin Robertson & Tim Robertson: Spirits of Scotland
Monday 16 August 14:30 - 15:30
Haunting, elemental and deeply charged, Robin Robertson’s writing evokes the mythology of landscapes and people, whether in Scotland or elsewhere. Most of his work takes the form of shorter poems and a new book, Grimoire, brings together some of Robertson’s finest Scotland-based folk tales in a gorgeous volume featuring powerful ink drawings by his brother Tim Robertson. It includes vivid, evocative poems, all of which conjure the beauty, savagery and exhilaration of the Scottish landscape and the characters who inhabit it. In her introduction, writer Val McDermid eulogises the poems ‘whose images stick in our heads as if glued in place with drying blood.’ In this event introduced by Jenny Brown, Robin performs his characteristically dark readings from the book while Tim Robertson creates accompanying drawings live on stage, his work unfolding on a large screen while Robin performs.
Reading Scotland: James Robertson, Ghosts of the Glen
Monday 16 August 17:30 - 18:30
We are thrilled to present the new novel by one of Scotland’s most gifted authors, James Robertson. Ever since the acclaimed And the Land Lay Still, readers have been waiting for another novel by Robertson that would articulate the changing spirit and soul of Scotland. News of the Dead is that book. As part of the Book Festival’s Reading Scotland series, we have commissioned a new short film made by Robertson and award-winning filmmaker Anthony Baxter which is premiered at the beginning of the event. Set in the Angus glens, the five-minute piece evokes the spirit of the landscape and the mood of the novel, forming the perfect introduction to a discussion about Robertson’s landmark book.
Denise Mina: Treason and Plot
Wednesday 18 August 14:30 - 15:30
BSL Interpreted, Captioned
Mina’s novella is the first in a new series called Darkland Tales, books which retell myths and legends from history for a modern audience. Join Mina for the launch of her book and a conversation about her new series.
Val McDermid: The Winter of Our Discontent
Thursday 19 August 14:30 - 15:30
BSL Interpreted, Captioned
The fan club for Val McDermid’s books just keeps growing – lapping up each new novel featuring either DCI Karen Pirie or Tony Hill and Carol Jordan. But whether you’re an old hand or new to McDermid’s work, there’s something special this August. 1979 kicks off her first new series for twenty years, and she launches it at the Book Festival.
Reading Scotland: Helen McClory, The New Edinburgh Gothic
Thursday 19 August 17:30 - 18:30
As part of our Reading Scotland series, Helen McClory has worked with filmmaker Bryan M Ferguson to create a 5-minute film which is screened for the first time as part of today’s event. The film aims to evoke the mood of McClory’s novel and should act as a fascinating introduction to Bitterhall for those who have not yet read it. Following the screening, McClory discusses her book.
Doug Johnstone, Val McDermid, Ambrose Parry & Mary Paulson-Ellis: Summer Crime Wave
Thursday 19 August 20:30 - 22:00
A few months ago there was a minor storm in the Twitterverse when a group of Scottish authors realised their books would all be published on more or less the same day in August. How could we ignore this explosion of Scottish crime writing? Today we’re bringing them together on stage to raise a toast to the new books by Doug Johnstone, Val McDermid, Mary Paulson-Ellis and Ambrose Parry (otherwise known as Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman).
Stuart Kelly: Walter Scott, Writer of the Future?
Friday 20 August 11:30 - 12:30
Walter Scott did not just reinvent what we think of as Scotland; but to some extent England as well. So, 250 years after his birth, does Scott deserve his slightly tarnished reputation? Join Stuart Kelly to hear more.
Meet the Makar: A Toast to Scotland’s New National Poet
Saturday 21 August 20:30 - 21:30
In today’s event - chaired by Freelance producer and director of Push the Boat Out poetry festival Jenny Niven - we welcome the newly-appointed Makar for a first Book Festival appearance in the prestigious role. We have a feeling it will be a familiar face on the Scottish poetry scene, but today we hear how the new Makar plans to make the role their own.
One City: A Just Capital?
Monday 23 August 11:30 - 12:30
In 2005, the OneCity Trust and some of Edinburgh’s most famous authors created One City, a collection of short stories with the aim of fighting poverty and social exclusion across the city. January 2022 will see the publication of a new One City anthology – it’s a stunning collection of multi-generational short stories linked to Edinburgh. Contributing authors Nadine Aisha Jassat, Sara Sheridan and Anne Hamilton take the stage alongside original contributors Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and Irvine Welsh, to read from their essays and discuss how Edinburgh can become ‘One City.’
Reading Scotland: Graeme Armstrong, Welcome tae Airdrie
Monday 23 August 17:30 - 18:30
In the former industrial heartlands of North Lanarkshire, Graeme Armstrong’s urgent debut novel The Young Team pulls back the curtain on the lives of young men as they navigate the friendship, turf wars and stereotypes of Scottish masculinity. As part of our Reading Scotland series, Armstrong has worked with filmmaker James Price to create a short film which is screened for the first time as part of today’s event. The film aims to capture the atmosphere of The Young Team and reveals the environs and people of Airdrie. Following the screening, Armstrong discusses his book.
Reading Scotland: Jen Hadfield, Landscape and Light
Tuesday 24 August 20:30 - 22:00
Poet Jen Hadfield sometimes writes outside near her home on Shetland, taking a notebook with her and disappearing into the landscape, returning when she gets cold and hungry. Her latest book of poetry is The Stone Age, a glorious collection of dialogue between a writer and the world. Joining us from Shetland, Hadfield has worked with Glasgow filmmaker Alison Piper to create a new short film based on the collection, which has its premiere at this evening's event as part of our Reading Scotland series, chaired by Scottish singer and songwriter Karine Polwart.
Kathleen Jamie, Peter Mackay & Don Paterson: Heavenly Scottish Poetry
Wednesday 25 August 17:30 - 18:30
Why has the heavenly nation of Scotland been a haven for poetic excellence for so long? The answers can be found in The Golden Treasury of Scottish Verse, a new anthology edited by three of its leading practitioners, Kathleen Jamie, Peter Mackay and Don Paterson. Containing over 300 poems ranging from the early medieval period to the 21st century, it includes verse by the likes of Robert Burns, Carol Ann Duffy, Sorley MacLean and Liz Lochhead. Joining us to discuss the reasons for their selection, Jamie, Mackay and Paterson also share some of the poems that represent major turning points for Scottish literature – and demonstrate the real reasons why Scotland has been the home of so many venerated poets.
Reading Scotland: Ross Sayers with Niamh McKeown, Adventures on the Clockwork Orange
Thursday 26 August 11:30 - 12:30
‘Life isnae a fulm. It’s barely even a story. Thur’s nae such thing as gid guys and bad guys, thur’s jist... guys’. Welcome to Daisy’s worldview in Ross Sayers’s ingenious Scots-language novel for young adults, Daisy on the Outer Line. Now, as part of the Book Festival’s Reading Scotland project we’ve commissioned a brand new short film made by Sayers and Edinburgh-based screenwriter and director Niamh McKeown which will be premiered at the beginning of the event. Set on Glasgow’s subway, the five-minute piece which features actor Laura Lovemore as Daisy, evokes the spirit of the city’s beloved ‘clockwork orange’ and the mood of the novel, forming the perfect introduction to a discussion about Sayers’ book. Today, the author, director and actor share their creative processes with the Book Festival's own Lewis Camley.
Ian Rankin: William McIlvanney – The Last Word
Monday 30 August 14:30 - 15:30
BSL Interpreted, Captioned
Having brought the work of one of Scotland’s great noir writers back into print a few years ago to huge success, the award-winning Scottish publishing house Canongate has gone one step further and brought William McIlvanney’s unfinished novel posthumously to the world. At the request of McIlvanney’s widow Siobhan Lynch, Scotland’s renowned crimewriter Ian Rankin has completed the unfinished manuscript that lay in note form when the celebrated Glasgow author died in 2015. The resulting novel, The Dark Remains, features an early case for McIlvanney’s brilliantly wayward detective Jack Laidlaw. Many years earlier, a young Rankin met McIlvanney at our Book Festival and told him of his plans to write novels ‘like Laidlaw but set in Edinburgh.’ In signing his book, McIlvanney wrote ‘Good luck with the Edinburgh Laidlaw.’ Now, Ian Rankin has paid homage by giving the last word to his literary mentor in a book that will delight fans of Laidlaw and Rebus alike. Don’t miss what promises to be a riveting event with the always-entertaining Rankin.
Douglas Stuart with Nicola Sturgeon: Welcome Home, Shuggie Bain
Monday 30 August 20:30 - 21:30
Douglas Stuart’s life was turned upside down when his debut novel Shuggie Bain was declared winner of the 2020 Booker Prize. Overnight, the New York-based fashion designer, who grew up in Glasgow, became an international literary bestseller. We are delighted to welcome Scotland’s latest Booker winner back to his home country for the first time since winning his award, for what will be his first live discussion about the book that has won a million readers’ hearts.
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Edinburgh Corn Exchange Car Boot Sale Market is open but with strict rules and guidelines. Come and join us for some bargains and for sellers to have a clearout!
Meander Apparel Sunday Socials are free weekly bike rides leaving from the George Street store, providing the chance for any casual cyclists to meet new people with common interests.