Festival Diary: Janey Godley is big box office at the book festival

The new home of the book festival at Edinburgh College of Art was decidedly lacking in buzz on a dreich Monday morning.

Janey Godley was among the early guests at this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Janey Godley was among the early guests at this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival.

But it soon became clear that the festival’s crowds were elsewhere for the first big event of the day.

There is a lot to get used to about the festival this year, not least the fact that attending an event at the biggest venue involves queing up on Lothian Road.

I thought I was in good time for Godley’s talk, which pretty much filled the Central Hall.

But I can’t have been the only one surprised to discover that it had already started by the time the last audience members in the queue were able to take their seats – something that never happened in good old Charlotte Square.

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    As well as grappling with trying to get up to 750 folk into the Central Hall – many of them seated in balcony areas – the festival now has its own strict broadcasting schedule to stick to, with many of its events also being streamed around the world.

    All of this may be something of a rude awakening for festivalgoers used to events eventually getting underway when audience members are able to take their seats – no matter how long it takes the venue staff.

    Although she frankly discussed her cancer diagnosis and treatment, there were inevitably plenty of laughs from Godley and host Ruth Wishart – especially when they were trying to work out where the questions were coming, amid frantic pointing and waving from in the vast auditorium.

    She recall the sense of freedom she had as a youngster, setting off on adventures on “a bike with one wheel bigger than the other” or “swimming in a burn with rats.”

    She said: ‘My mammy would say ‘You’re either oot or you’re in.’ If she had been in charge of Brexit it would have been sorted in a week.”

    Traditional wisdom on the Fringe is that reviews are only worth a candle if they are accompanied by four or five stars – which always seems a shame after such an effort is made to get journalists and media outlets through the door.

    Exodus, the new political satire at the Traverse Theatre, has already featured in this slot and notched up a four-star review from our theatre critic Joyce McMillan.

    But Uma Nada-Rajah’s play does appear to be a show that has divided the critics more than most in Edinburgh this month.

    Director Debbie Hannah has decided this is most definitely a good thing to help promote her “wild and funny.”

    Posting examples of the star ratings so far, including a paltry one from the Daily Mail, which prompted a “lol” from Hannan, she said: “Like all good punk art we’ve received every poss star rating.”

    It’s not often I get a pitch describing a living legend I’ve never heard of.

    But that was certainly the case with the missive I received from the House of Oz, the hub for Australian culture at the King's Hall.

    Actor and director John Bell, who is performing one-man show reflecting on his career this week, has been so inexttricably linked with Shakespeare’s work he has been described as Australia’s answer to to Sir Laurence Olivier or Sir Ian McKellen.