Nestled in a specially erected tented village in Charlotte Square Gardens, in the very heart of the city, the Edinburgh International Book Festival returns for another year of literary inspiration, entertainment and discussion. An event noted in the calendar of every avid book lover, this year marks its 31st annual occurrence, once again boasting an impressive schedule of over 700 events.
Yet this year marks an occasion unique to those that have preceded it, thanks both in part to the upcoming independence referendum and the World War One centenary. A quick glimpse through this year’s itinerary will reveal a schedule dominated by themes reflecting current affairs, with several talks also dedicated to the Syrian and Iraqi crises, as well as the Israel-Palestine conflict.
But whilst some of the themes may touch on the heavy side the venue remains light, with the beautiful Charlotte Square abuzz with a family-friendly and summery atmosphere. Sixteen purpose-built tents enclose a sun washed grassy pavilion, dotted with picnic tables and sun loungers for attendees to make use of in between events. Cold drinks and ice creams are sold from the side, and a bar & cafe provides an assortment of classic British eateries including scones, pastries, fruit and coffee.
Also provided, is a duo of well-stocked book shops; one specifically for children. The assortment of books on offer is astonishing given the limited size of the venue, with everything from graphic novels and comics to historical fiction on display.
The Student was there for the opening day, not just to attend the many events on offer but also to enjoy the other-worldly and secluded atmosphere the Festival provided. A leisurely wander between the various stalls made for the sensation of having left Edinburgh entirely, with the hustle and bustle of the city centre blocked from view by the Garden’s towering fauna. The crowds, whilst numerous, remained civil and mellow, under the shared appreciation for the nature of the event and the lazy workings of a rare Scottish sun.
The first event the Student attended was the popularly anticipated discussion on the upcoming referendum, hosted by notable author and political commentator Iain Macwhirter. Intelligent discussion was coupled with lively crowd participation in what made for a highly interesting and informative hour.
Straight afterwards came ‘The Voices in our Heads’, a creative panel of award-winning novelists discussing the processes through which they created their fictional characters, hearing and channelling their inner voices. The panel was certainly useful to anybody hoping to publish their own works one day, and inspired the Student to put the pen to the paper.
The day ended with a final walk around the Gardens and a quick snooze on a sun lounger, ice cream in one hand and a book in the other.
By far the most enjoyable aspect of the Festival was the knowledge that everybody present shared a passion for literature that was evident both in the turn-out and the enthusiasm shown by people of all ages. Leisurely, cultured and family-friendly, the Edinburgh Book Festival provides an environment that is not to be missed