New festival of religion and literature to be staged in Edinburgh in run-up to Christmas

Edinburgh University is to stage Scotland's first religous literary festival in the run-up to Christmas.

Monday, 22nd November 2021, 3:28 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd November 2021, 3:34 pm
Val McDermid will be taking part in the new Winter Tales Book Festival in Edinburgh next month.

James Robertson, Val McDermid, Robert Harris, Frances Spufford, Catherine Fox and Rachel Mann are among the authors lined up to take part in the Winter Tales Book Festival.

More than 25 events are planned to take place before in-person audiences from 3-5 December.

Billed as “a festival of literature, religion and the imagination,” it has been instigated to coincide with the 175th anniversary of New College, the home of the school of divinity at the university, on The Mound.

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The festival line-up also includes the broadcaster Sally Magnusson, the actor and comedian Miles Jupp, poet Christine De Luca, former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway and the Kenyan-Scottish storyteller and performer Mara Menzies.

Programme highlights include an exploration of William Shakespeare’s play The Winter’s Tale, a celebration of the late Orcadian writer George Mackay Brown 100 years after his birth, an event bringing stories and music from Scottish-Jewish history to life, a look at links Christmas carols have with coded political messages, church disapproval and pagan intrusions.

Special events will look at the “hostile environment” for refugees and whether the literary world and writers can do anything to make them more welcome, the depiction of the sea, science and religion in literature.

Broadcaster Cathy will interview scholar and commentaor Mona Siddiqui, professor of Islamic and interreligious studies at Edinburgh University about her career, the inspiration behind her writing, and how her beliefs have shaped her work.

Francesca Barbini and Michelle Sloan will be taking part in two children’s events.

The festival will also feature a service of readings, carols and music at which the Rt Hon Lord Wallace of Tankerness QC, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, will preach.

An announcement about the festival states: “In celebration of 175 years of ground-breaking research into religion, spirituality and the arts, New College is delighted to host its first ever literary festival.

"Join us to hear an array of top speakers and writers from the UK and beyond as we explore the relationship between belief and fiction, religion and pluralism, the complex web of religion, politics, and the environment, fantasy and spirituality, and much more.

“Discover the deep-rooted connections between faith and historical fiction, and the darker side of religion and crime fiction.

"Understand why some prominent thinkers have rejected belief completely. And find out why Edinburgh as a place has held such special fascination in literature.

“Built in 1846, our grade A-listed buildings will provide a unique venue for literary events, carol-singing, free pop-up acts, and all-round Christmas cheer.”

Alison Jack, assistant principal of New College, said: “The world of religion, belief and spirituality has not only provided authors with some of their most memorable plots but the literature also confronts some of the ethical, cultural and historical questions shaping our world.

“We are delighted to able to launch this festival to celebrate and explore that influence, alongside some Christmas themed events and celebrations for adults and children to enjoy.”