Edinburgh book festival to feature four new venues under expansion

Sir Chris Hoy is among the big names from the sporting world to appear at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this August.
Sir Chris Hoy is among the big names from the sporting world to appear at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this August.
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New music and theatre strands are being introduced to the Edinburgh International Book Festival for its biggest ever programme – which will also tackle the “political earthquakes” that have unfolded over the last 12 months.

Organisers say the rise of Donald Trump, the impact of the Brexit referendum vote and even the fall-out from the general election are expected to provide the backdrop to many of the talks and debates.

Terrorism and fanaticism, the refugee crisis, diversity and identity issues, the “post truth” era and the future of Scotland have all inspired key events in the programme.

The 34-year-old event, which will draw inspiration from the 1947 origins of the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe, will feature more than 1,000 authors for the first time and around 200 more events than usual.

Olympic hero Sir Chris Hoy and tennis coach Judy Murray will join cult comic Brian “Limmy” Limond and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in its line-up. Comics Adrian Edmondson, Julian Clary and Reginald D Hunter, film stars Charlotte Rampling and Simon Callow, and broadcasters John Simpson, Clare Balding and Jeremy Paxman are also expected to draw the crowds.

But the festival – which will be sharing Fringe venues this year – will be experimenting with several new events which will see authors, musicians, playwrights and poets working together for the first time.

A new collaboration between the festival and the Royal Lyceum Theatre will see three acclaimed Scottish books, Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun, Graeme Macrae Burnet’s Booker Prize contender His Bloody Project and James Kelman’s latest work Dirt Road, brought to the stage by actors and musicians.

Scott Hutchison and Roddy Woomble, respective frontmen of indie bands Frightened Rabbit and Idlewild, percussion star Dame Evelyn Glennie, Israeli pianist David Greilsammer, composer Sally Beamish and fiddler Aidan O’Rourke will be among those appearing.

Guest curator David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks, will be collaborating with musicians at a number of special events, including a classical concert which will feature a number of his unpublished works.

The festival’s expanding spoken word strand will feature Scots Makar Jackie Kay, her predecessor Liz Lochhead and Carol Ann Duffy, the current UK poet laureate, as well as the veteran English poet Roger McGough.

Festival director Nick Barley said: “We’re not only expanding the festival in terms of the number of theatres, events and authors.

“We’re taking the opportunity to continue changing the kind of events that we deliver. The stereotypical idea of what a book festival event is has been changing over the years. It continues to change and evolve.

“The audience profile is shifting, it’s becoming younger, it’s becoming broader in terms of demographics and we need to try to accommodate that.

“We’re taking three of the most talked-about books of the last year and will be working with actors and musicians to improvise theatrical presentations of the work.

“They won’t be pure performance – they will be 45 minutes of performance and 45 minutes of discussion and response between the author and members of the audience.

“You could call it a sort of half-way house between the novel and some kind of theatrical performance. It takes into account that book festival audiences are very much participants – they like to get involved, ask questions and say what they think.”

Teenage writer Farida Khalaf, who was kidnapped in Iraq and sold into slavery by Isis, will take part in a series of events dedicated to influential and successful women.

Judy Murray will discuss her new autobiography, which tackles sexism in tennis, while Ms Sturgeon and Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will debate the role of women in the world.

Other big-name political figures taking part include Henry McLeish, Harriet Harman, Paddy Ashdown, Vince Cable, Martin Bell and Chris Patten.

American authors Paul Auster and Richard Ford, Argentinian novelist Gabriela Cabezon Camara and Icelandic writer Thordis Elva will be among flying in to Edinburgh from overseas to take part.

Mr Barley said: “When we started thinking about this year’s programme a year ago we could say there some unusual political decisions in the offing.

“Brexit had just happened and the possible election of Donald Trump in the United States seemed to signal that we might be in for some unusual times. I don’t think we could have predicted quite how unusual things would have felt.

“Our approach is to use writers as a lens through which to look at that world.”