Edinburgh International Book Festival Online Themes: Stories and Ideas for a Changing World

How do we begin to make sense of the ever-changing world we are living in? In this series we look at stories and ideas that offer positive prescriptions for a better future.

Edinburgh International Book Festival Online Themes: Stories and Ideas for a Changing World

About Edinburgh International Book Festival Online Themes: Stories and Ideas for a Changing World

How do we begin to make sense of the ever-changing world we are living in? From the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change on our health, environment and fragile economies; to global poverty, growing inequalities and our increased reliance on technology: our own autonomy can often feel at the mercy of greater powers. In last year’s pivotal Climate Crisis discussion at the Book Festival, Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat reflected that ‘The most vulnerable people in the world have their fates tied to places, people and circumstances that are way beyond their control.’ But what – if anything – can be done to break those ties, and how do we work towards a safer, greener, more compassionate society in which wealth is distributed more equally? In this series we look at stories and ideas that offer positive prescriptions for a better future.

Graeme Armstrong, Jenni Fagan & Caleb Femi: Take Your Place
Saturday 14 August 13:00 - 14:00
Captioned
Authors Jenni Fagan (Luckenbooth), Caleb Femi (Poor) and Graeme Armstrong (The Young Team), all of whom have placed locality at the centre of their writing in their most recent books, discuss what home, environment and community will mean in a post-pandemic world.  This event is part of Citizen, our long-term creative programme working in partnership with organisations across Edinburgh and Musselburgh, offering local people a platform to explore identity, connection and place.

Grace Blakeley & Ian Goldin: Creating Global Change from Crisis
Saturday 14 August 13:15 - 14:15
The pandemic has demolished global norms more emphatically than anything we have seen since the Second World War. But rather than simply hoping the world can bounce back, is there a chance for a more fundamental rethink? What are the mechanisms that could bring about radical change, and how can we encourage the strong international cooperation that will be vital to success? Join Blakeley and Goldin for a lively discussion with Scottish journalist Ruth Wishart.

Hans Ulrich Obrist: Art for Earth’s Sake
Saturday 14 August 19:00 - 20:00
A new book, 140 Artists’ Ideas for Planet Earth, featuring drawings, recipes, experiments and gardening ideas from practitioners including Marina Abramovic and Olafur Eliasson as well as contributors from other disciplines such as Vivienne Westwood and Brian Eno. Today Obrist is joined by Manthia Diawara, Es Devlin, Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe - all contributors to the book - to discuss the imaginative proposals at the heart of the project.

Opening Night: Culture in a Time of Crisis
Saturday 14 August 20:30 - 22:00
Who needs art when bombs are being dropped? Who needs culture when lives are being lost to poverty, disease, climate crisis and war? There's always a crisis somewhere on the planet, but this year it seems that devastating events have laid siege to a greater proportion of the world’s population than at any time in the past century. Yet even amid such troubled times, art continues to made; songs to be sung; books to be written. Tonight’s event is an exploration of why we need creative output in times of crisis. Featuring writers and performers from a variety of different backgrounds, artforms and locations, join us as we look at the power of creative ideas to uplift, to transport and to help us understand the embattled world around us.

Julian Aguon & Nina Mingya Powles: Making Environmental Politics Personal
Sunday 15 August 14:15 - 15:15
Julian Aguon joins us today by video link from Guam to discuss his life and work. Alongside him is Nina Mingya Powles, a writer and publisher from Aotearoa New Zealand, who recently won the inaugural Nan Shepherd Prize for Nature Writing.

R-Words: Infectious Poetry for Everyone
Wednesday 18 August 10:00 - 11:00
Captioned
Ross Mackay commissioned twelve poets to write the first line of a poem. Each of these poetic launch pads were then sent out into the world, the poems growing and meanings morphing as more lines were added. Several of Edinburgh International Book Festival’s community writing groups worked on the R-Words. In this celebratory event, Ross discusses how the poems and the project have evolved and is joined by some of the R-Words participants to read their poetic creations.

Salman Rushdie with Allan Little: Standing in the Rubble of Truth
Friday 20 August 19:00 - 20:00
BSL Interpreted, Captioned
World famous for his novels, Salman Rushdie is the author of fourteen works of fiction including the Booker Prize-winning Midnight’s Children and his most recent book Quichotte, shortlisted for the Booker in 2019. Today, for Allan Little’s Big Interview, Rushdie talks to the acclaimed BBC journalist about the role of writing in shaping public debate, and his own encounters with artists and writers who are trying to rebuild a shared sense of what is ‘true’. 

Rachel Clarke, Gavin Francis & Kate Mosse: Care in the Time of COVID
Sunday 22 August 16:00 - 17:00
BSL Interpreted, Captioned
There are people who are silently working behind the scenes, caring for loved ones through illness and old age, in a silent system that already existed and has been made worse by the crisis. Writer Kate Mosse has taken three elderly family members into her home to care for them – she is just one of the 8.8 million unpaid adult carers in the UK. These carers are mostly women, and without them the NHS would collapse and so would our social fabric. Join writers and doctors Rachel Clarke, Gavin Francis and Kate Mosse as they speak about the NHS and care in the time of COVID.

Marwa al-Sabouni & Annalee Newitz: Rebuilding Hope
Sunday 22 August 17:15 - 18:15
When we think of the causes of war, architecture is perhaps not top of most people’s list. But for Syrian architect Marwa Al-Sabouni, whose practice in Homs was blown up during the war, the design of our personal and communal spaces provides the foundations for happiness. Meanwhile American science journalist Annalee Newitz has written Four Lost Cities – an adventure into the growth and decline of early civilisations. The cities featured, including Pompei and Angkor, all share a common point of failure. What can new data-driven archaeological techniques tell us about the stories behind their rise and fall? And can the answers help us plan for more sustainable cities of the future? Today Al-Sabouni and Newitz discuss their books with V&A Dundee director Leonie Bell.

Kate Aronoff & Elizabeth Kolbert: Reimagining Our Response to the Climate Crisis
Sunday 22 August 20:15 - 21:15
With the ongoing climate emergency and the coronavirus pandemic coinciding, there are times when we humans might wonder whether it is too late. Too hard to challenge the system, too much of an imaginative stretch to believe things can improve: should we simply accept our fate? Enter Kate Aronoff and Elizabeth Kolbert with their inspiring books. Join two visionary thinkers as they discuss and share their insights on how not to give up, with doctor and writer Gavin Francis.

Minouche Shafik: Recipe for a Better Society
Monday 23 August 16:15 - 17:15
BSL Interpreted, Captioned
Minouche Shafik is the director of the London School of Economics and a hugely influential economist who was formerly Vice President of the World Bank and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England. In a landmark new book, What We Owe Each Other, she argues that it is time we created a new social contract – to pool risks, share resources and balance individual with collective responsibility. In this event Shafik explains that we need fundamentally to reorder and equalise how opportunity and security are distributed across society.

Pumla Dineo Gqola & Jacqueline Rose: The Female Fear Factory
Thursday 26 August 19:00 - 20:00
There has recently been a marked increase in violence against women in many parts of the world, and the lockdowns have created a shadow pandemic of domestic violence, according to the UN. Joining us to discuss the problem is Pumla Dineo Gqola, one of South Africa’s best-respected scholars of gender and feminism.

Devi Sridhar: A Very Political Pandemic
Friday 27 August 11:30 - 12:30
BSL Interpreted
On 12 March 2020, Boris Johnson said that his government had ‘a clear plan that we are now working through’ to curb the spread of Covid-19, but what he laid out left Devi Sridhar baffled. With new waves taking hold and vaccine supply not equally available, Professor Sridhar – a key member of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Advisory Group – presents a special discussion about how political decisions led to differing government responses. What did politicians get right – and wrong – and what can we do to prepare for the next pandemic? This event is being recorded for BBC Radio Scotland.

Ed Miliband & Ece Temelkuran: The World We Want
Saturday 28 August 14:15 - 15:15
BSL Interpreted, Captioned
Around the world, politics has been trending towards infantilisation. Careful discourse is often replaced by lies, media stunts and juvenile sloganeering. What can be done to recalibrate democratic discourse? Well, maybe thoughtful Book Festival discussions can play a part. Ed Miliband and Ece Temelkuran have each written books aiming to ‘fix our world’ and to ‘build something better’, but to what extent do their visions stack up? Join Miliband and Temelkuran for a fascinating and far-reaching conversation.

Gordon Brown: Global Crisis, Global Solutions
Sunday 29 August 10:00 - 11:00
BSL Interpreted, Captioned
Gordon Brown joins us to discuss his latest book, Seven Ways to Change the World, in which he sets out his plan for creating a fairer and more equal society. In the book and in today’s talk, Brown outlines seven major global problems we must address: global health; climate change; nuclear proliferation; financial instability; global poverty; the barriers to education and opportunity; and global inequality. Each one presents an immense challenge that requires an urgent global response and solution – something the past year has taught us is vital, but difficult to achieve. None can be solved by one nation acting on its own, but all can be addressed if we work together as a global community. Today Brown tells us why we must find a way to cooperate – and how it can be done – in a discussion with Jonathan Freedland.

Maggie Nelson: The Many Meanings of Freedom
Sunday 29 August 17:30 - 18:30
Maggie Nelson: The Many Meanings of Freedom
Named by Olivia Laing as ‘among the sharpest and most supple thinkers of her generation,’ Maggie Nelson is a hugely influential critical theorist whose writing defies genre. Her latest book, On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint, was selected by the Guardian as one of their Books of 2021. In it, she turns her attention to how we think, experience, and talk about freedom, examining the notion through art, sex, drugs and climate. Nelson joins us to discuss the concept of freedom and what it can mean in rapidly changing, challenging times. 

Alicia Garza: Building Moments Into Movements
Monday 30 August 19:00 - 20:00
Captioned
Alicia Garza is one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter and has spent the better part of two decades as a grassroots activist, inspiring others to organise for a better future. She has poured her knowledge, learnings and guidance into her new book, The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart. In what is sure to be an inspiring event, Garza discusses her work and how we can all help make change happen in our communities.

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