Onwards and Upwards for the Edinburgh International Book Festival
by Sian Bevan
City of Literature Trust
7 July 2021
Edinburgh International Book Festival has announced its 2021 programme, celebrating the best of thinkers and writers from around the world.
Events have been brought together under the banner of Onwards and Upwards - Ideas and Stories for a Changing World, and features 250 events for adults, children and families. This year, the festival will be operating a hybrid model, with some scope for limited audiences while retaining the option to watch from home.
The Book Festival is moving to a new home within Edinburgh's College of Art, with half the speakers appearing in person and the others joining digitally. The site will include a children's play area, the return of the much-loved Festival Bookshop and the chance for some real-life-actual book signings.
Director Nick Barley commented:
“The Book Festival is at the forefront of the re-emergence of public events, and we have a duty of care to our authors, audiences and staff. It is important that we help rebuild confidence and we have therefore chosen to retain 1metre social distancing for audiences in the studios. This gives us a reduced capacity of 100 in the New York Times Theatre (in Sculpture Court) and 60 in the Baillie Gifford Theatre (in West Court). Outside in the courtyard we are recreating the ‘village green’ element of the Book Festival that our audiences enjoy with a bookshop, café, family play area, seating spaces and a big screen upon which a number of the live events will be shown. The Book Festival has always aimed to be an oasis of calm and, as ever, this will be a space for audiences to chat, relax, read a book and while away the hours in the summer sunshine.”
The programme features Scottish and international voices, including Nobel Prize winners Amartya Sen and Kazuo Ishiguro, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Shuggie Bain author Douglas Stuart (pictured above) in conversation with Nicola Sturgeon. There are as usual, a plethora of events which take books off the page, including walking tours, and a selection of performances through the Playing with Books strand in partnership with the Royal Lyceum Theatre.
All events are operating on a Pay What You Can basis for online events, which can be viewed through the Book Festival's website, while a limited number of in-person tickets will go on sale on 22nd July (set your alarms!)
As we head towards August, we'll be highlighting some of the programme on our social media - the events which celebrate Edinburgh as a City of Literature, along with the featured guests from other UNESCO Creative Cities from around the globe.
The Edinburgh International first began in 1983, and since then has grown to become the largest celebration of the written word of its kind in the world. Located in the heart of Edinburgh's historic New Town, each year the Festival transformed Charlotte Square Gardens and the west end of George Street into a magical tented village, known as being an oasis in the frantic festival season. Although this year will be operating from a new venue, and many will be accessing events online, the Festival still promises to be the same celebration of books, words and ideas which make it the jewel in the city's literary calendar.