Edinburgh International Book Festival: Highlights of this year's radically revamped event

The Edinburgh International Book Festival will be back in a radically revamped form when audiences are reunited with authors next month after a two-year hiatus.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 2:59 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 4:47 pm
Festival director Nick Barley at the event's new home at Edinburgh College of Art.

Edinburgh College of Art will be transformed to create a new home for the festival, which will stage half of the 250 events it is planning before live audiences.

Two theatre spaces will be created in its sculpture court and west court, while its courtyard will be turned into a “village green” with a bookshop, cafe, outdoor seating, a children’s play area and TV screens to watch events with authors as they unfold.

Here's a few highlights of the festival’s 2021 line-up.

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Ian Rankin will be discussing his completion of William McIlvanney's final novel at the festival. Picture: Anthony Wallace

Ian Rankin: William McIlvanney – The Last Word, 30 August: Edinburgh-based publisher Canongate has brought two of Scotland’s most celebrated crime writers together to revive the latter writer’s gritty Glasgow detective Jack Laidlaw. At the request of Siobhan Lynch, the widow of McIlvanney, who died six years ago, Rankin has turned an unfinished manuscript into a brand new novel.

One City: A Just Capital?, 23 August: Some of Edinburgh’s best-known authors contributed to short stories to a 2005 collection aimed at raising money for a charity created to fight social exclusion in Edinburgh. Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and Irvine Welsh return to the stage with Nadine Aisha Jassat, Sara Sheridan and Anne Hamilton to discuss a brand new edition of One City and whether Edinburgh is more or less of a divided city 16 years later.

Jed Mercurio & Prasanna Puwanarajah: The Bionic Policeman, 16 August: Mercurio, the creator of Line of Duty has joined forces with one of the stars of the most recent series to produce Sleeper, the first in a hotly-anticipated graphic novel series. It follows the story of DS-5, a ‘biologically-enhanced law enforcement marshal’ – described as a Bionic Man for the digital age – who is about to be decommissioned after decades working in deep space.

You’ve Never Slept in Mine by Jessie Kesson, adapted by Jenni Fagan, 27 August: Edinburgh author Fagan, who will be running walking tours of the Old Town locations which have inspired her new novel Luckenbooth during the festival, is also working with the theatre company Stellar Quines and actors Genna Allan and Chloe Wyper on an adaptation of a BBC radio play by Jessie Kesson. The Inverness-born writer spent her early childhood in an Elgin slum before being moved to an orphanage and eventually being sent to work in service, where she suffered a breakdown.

Jenni Fagan will be among the guests at this year's festival. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic

The Force of Law, 24 August: Twenty years after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and then US President’s declaration of “a war on terror”, BBC correspondent Nick Bryant, writer and journalist Tariq Ali and The New York Times’s Pentagon correspondent Helene Cooper discuss whether intervention can ever be humanitarian or whether the the mistakes of the past are likely to be repeated.

Alex Renton & Lisa Williams: Scotland's Black History Matters, 18 August: A year on from the Black Lives Matter rallies in Scotland, Lisa Williams, whose tours of Edinburgh give people a chance to learn about prominent the city’s prominent black figures, and journalist Alex Renton, whose new book recalls his own family’s involvement in transatlantic slavery, talk to Sally Magnusson about inheritance, the case for reparations and rethinking the past.

Irvine Welsh will be discussing whether Edinburgh is still a divided city with Nadine Aisha Jassat, Sara Sheridan, Anne Hamilton, Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith. Picture: Anthony Wallace