The 2015 Edinburgh International Book Festival: Opening Weekend

Ben Okri at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015.
Photo: Alan McCredie

For most of us, Edinburgh in August is synonymous with the Fringe. And why wouldn’t it be? With the biggest and the brightest comedians and actors of our generation performing all around the city no wonder it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on off the big stages.

However, there’s much more to Edinburgh in August than the Fringe. In fact, for any devoted lover of literature, this particular month is synonymous with books and writing. I am of course referring to Edinburgh International Book Festival, or Book Fest for short. Going strong since 1983, this year’s festival welcomes more than 800 authors to Charlotte Square Gardens in Edinburgh’s West End. This amounts to more than 700 events taking place between the 15th and 31st of August, which would give any dedicated book enthusiast plenty to choose from.

The doors to the Gardens actually opened this Saturday, and saw names like Guardian columnist Zoe Williams, historian Ian Rutledge, and historic writer Antony Beevor take to the stage. In addition, a particularly intriguing event took place which saw Jackie Kay, Maggie O’Farrell, and Sarah Waters come together to discuss ‘The Female Gaze: Classics by Women Writers’, chaired by Lennie Goodings as part of her Guest Selected series.

The range of events taking place on Sunday and Monday was, if possible, even more impressive than Saturday’s opening line-up. From BBC broadcaster Anita Anand talking about suffragette Sophia Duleep Singh to a poetry workshop on W.B. Yeats, there should be enough to satisfy even the most picky of book worms. Ali Smith read from her award-winning novel How to be Both, and we saw a unique poetry reading by Britain’s Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. If that wasn’t enough, Man Booker Prize winner Ben Okri turned up to talk about his newly published work, The Age of Magic, which is his first novel in over eight years. Other names included comedian and satirist Paul Merton, professor of philosophy Ted Honderich, comedian Nicholas Parsons, and journalist Iain Macwhirter, to name only a few. Unfortunately, one of the weekend’s perhaps biggest names, Scottish author Alasdair Gray, was forced to cancel his highly anticipated appearance. Perhaps not surprising, this left many a spectator (including yours truly) notably disappointed.

Despite this slight setback, all in all it was a big and undoubtedly successful opening weekend for the 2015 Edinburgh International Book Festival, and we are pleased to inform you that this was only the beginning. Over the next two weeks, The Student will be present at more than twenty events throughout the Gardens, as well as providing you with handy previews of upcoming shows. The largest book festival of its kind is here, right at our doorstep, and it would surely be foolish not to make the most of it. All that’s left to do is to head down to Charlotte Square Gardens and explore this wonderful festival for yourself.

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