Edinburgh International Book Festival has it covered

Julian Clary with his book The Bolds. Picture: Contributed
Julian Clary with his book The Bolds. Picture: Contributed
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IF you think the Edinburgh International Book Festival is reserved solely for those who boast the complete works of Shakespeare, Wilde or Keats – or all three – then think again.

The festival kicks off today and has a programme jam-packed with talks, workshops and activities to suit all interests. And it’s most definitely not just for the literary geniuses amongst us.

“I would say that there’s something in the Book Festival for pretty much everybody,” says director Nick Barley. “That’s certainly our aim.

“People who are interested in sports, for example, might be interested in coming to a discussion about why people run so fast.

“Nicola Sturgeon is interviewing crime writer Val McDermid.

“A lot of people might like hearing Nicola Sturgeon asking the questions for a change instead of answering them.

“You don’t have to be literary to be able to enjoy the Book Festival.”

The programme encompasses a host of free events and “taster” sessions, too, to encourage people who might not know what to expect from the Book Festival to head along to Charlotte Square Gardens and see what’s on offer. One of the most popular is Ten At Ten – daily readings at 10am with one of the Book Festival authors.

“People can just drop in in the morning and get a ten-minute introduction to a writer,” explains Nick. “We have a range of different writers and it’s free of charge.

“It’s very popular because people really love to drop in and get a coffee and see what’s on offer.”

Jura Unbound also offers a varied taste of the Book Festival – but this time whisky replaces the coffee.

Described as a “night of seductive international short stories”, visitors to the Spiegeltent will be in for a literary and musical treat each night at 9pm.

“You can just come along, have a drink from the bar, listen to people having fun and telling stories. It has a cabaret format,” says Nick. “It has proved an incredibly successful way to introduce people to Charlotte Square.”

The Book Festival also prides itself on its appeal to children and families.

Children’s favourite Julia Donaldson – most famous for The Gruffalo – will be delighting young audiences whilst Cressida Cowell launches the last in her How to Train your Dragon series.

The Baillie Gifford Story Box is also open daily from 11am to 4.30pm. The free craft and activity space for children of all ages offers a great place for families to go to enjoy and create. From dressing up as superheroes, big draws with illustrators or creating your own crown there’s something fun to do every day.

The Baillie Gifford Children’s Bookshop is also a magical place for children of all ages.

Stacked to the rafters with thousands of titles, from classic picture books for budding readers through to contemporary teen fiction, it is an Aladdin’s Cave for young book lovers.

The Book Festival is also home to some unexpected famous faces; those who might be more commonly associated with comedy rather than literature.

Paul Merton – best known for his witty look at topical events on Have I Got News For You – will talk openly about his battle with mental illness.

His memoir, Only When I Laugh, details the death of his second wife and his own manic episode which resulted in him being hospitalised.

Julian Clary will also be seen in a different light when he talks about his children’s book.

Having a Laugh with Julian Clary & David Roberts will see author and illustrator present their new book The Bolds – a story about an average couple with a rather notable difference – they are hyenas.

Losing It is the very funny debut from Helen Lederer, one of the UK’s best-known comedians.

She tells the story of Millie, once known for TV and radio appearances but now broke, overweight and with a daughter in Papua New Guinea.

Other talks with a twist will come from Ian Rankin, who has chosen to chat to some of his favourite writers and musicians.

His guests include Hollywood A-lister Alan Cumming, musicians Viv Albertine, Edwyn Collins and Stuart David, co-founder of Belle and Sebastian.

The Book Festival starts today and runs until August 31. www.edbookfest.co.uk