College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Milestone book festival shares a joy of words

University students, staff and alumni are part of a line-up of exceptional events as Edinburgh International Book Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary.

People sit on a bench outdoors next to a giant pile of books at Edinburgh International Book Festival

This summer’s Festival includes nearly 600 live events featuring almost 500 writers and thinkers from 49 countries, together with events and workshops for families.

A vibrant programme celebrating ‘The Joy of Words’ builds on the hybrid format developed over the past three years, with more than 100 of the events being live streamed.

The Book Festival – which runs from 12-28 August – is returning to the University’s Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) for a third year.

The packed line-up of events also includes the Baillie Gifford Children’s Programme.

Tickets for in-person events are on sale from the Book Festival website.

University links

The University is sponsoring ten events in the programme and a number of students, staff and alumni are participating in talks.

The Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) is a major sponsor, supporting author events in the opening and closing weekends, as well as an installation of imaginative work by local schools.

Author and gender equality activist Gina Martin discusses the theme of difficult conversations for meaningful change on social justice issues – including race and gender and climate change.

Acclaimed authors Kübra Gümüşy, R F Kuang and Irene Vallejo, come together in a conversation exploring the past, present, and future of language and how it can shape our thinking.

Return to Planet Citizen showcases a multi-media installation created when University writer-in-residence Ryan Van Winkle charged pupils from two local high schools with the task: “What would the planet look like if you designed it?”.

Author insights

Jackie Kay will reflect on how her experiences have informed her writing career at an event called A Life in Protest, supported by the University’s GENDER.ED Hub.

Celebrated North American poets Dionne Brand and Claudia Rankine will discuss how they have used writing to explore and dissect issues of race, feminism, migration, capitalism, language and memory. The event is presented in association with the University’s RACE.ED network for race and decolonial studies.

The University’s Centre for Open Learning is supporting Stories and Scran, which showcases creative talent from local groups across the Edinburgh, as well as the Book Festival’s own Adult Writing Group and Citizen Collective.

Staff from the Centre for Open Learning will also present a creative writing workshop.

International Booker Prize winner Jokha Alharthi will discuss her novel Bitter Orange Tree – shortlisted for this year’s James Tait Black Prizes – with one of the awards’ judges, Benjamin Bateman. The book’s translator Marilyn Booth will also take part.

The University runs a free online course in partnership with Edinburgh International Book Festival, which offers readers the chance to engage with James Tait Black judges and other readers on the fiction books shortlisted for the Prizes.

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) – called How to Read a Novel – has attracted more than 60,000 participants worldwide since its launch in 2017.

Topical discussions

Elsewhere three cultural commentators will engage in a fascinating discussion on the forces shaping the city's cultural power and status.

Taking part will be arts writer David Pollock, author of The Edinburgh Festival: A Biography; University Rector Debora Kayembe; and David McCrone, Edinburgh Emeritus Professor of Sociology and author of Who Runs Edinburgh?

Researcher Kate Crawford, a leading authority on the social and political implications of AI, will join Professor Chris Speed, Chair in Design Informatics at Edinburgh, to consider the challenges and opportunities that AI presents.

Renowned human rights lawyers and co-authors, Jennifer Robinson and Keina Yoshida, will present a discussion around gender-based violence. The event is supported by the University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.

Shared experiences

Three authors will share their views on how best to give voice to the experiences of people in different countries across the African continent.

Taking part will be Lucía Asué Mbomío Rubio, a novelist and journalist of Equatorial Guinean descent; Mozambican poet, writer and jurist Hirondina Joshua; and French-Morroccan writer and journalist Leïla Slimani. The event is chaired by human rights lawyer and University Rector Debora Kayembe.

University Principal and Vice Chancellor Peter Mathieson will chair an event examining the cost of health with writer and GP Gavin Francis, author of Free For All: Why The NHS Is Worth Saving, and global public health expert Professor Devi Sridhar.  

The newest winner of the Booker Prize, Shehan Karunatilaka, will explain the background to his novel, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, at an event supported by the Centre for South Asian Studies.

Art Festival

Visitors to Edinburgh College of Art will also be welcomed to the August Graduate Show from 19 –25 August, which is one of several events with a University link in this year’s Edinburgh Art Festival.

The show, which takes place in ECA’s Main Building and Evolution House, will celebrate the work of postgraduate students from Art, Design and Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

Compelling artworks by major artists, which detail lives lived on the margins, are being showcased in three exhibitions at the University’s Talbot Rice Gallery.

The shows – running until 30 September – include the first solo presentation in Scotland by Turner Prize-winning artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, which explores the complex nature of national borders.

Also being shown is a new film, performance and sculptural installation by internationally acclaimed artist Jesse Jones, based on writings by medieval female Christian mystics.

A third presentation – by Edinburgh academic Hephzibah Israel – is a text-based reflection on the artist’s own experience of living ‘on the margins of multiple communities’.

Poetry performance

The University is supporting the performance of new work by Edinburgh-based poet Nat Raha, which addresses the history of island prisons across the globe that were products of Britain’s Empire.

The performance, at 50 George Square on 18 August, takes the form of ‘a sonically expansive, trans-historical poem-letter’ addressed to the poet’s forebears who were incarcerated for anti-colonial revolt.

An enthralling exhibition, curated by Design Informatics, works with sound, voice and emerging technologies to ask what it means – personally and politically – to synthesize, clone, and manipulate voices.

Supported by the Institute for Design Informatics and Creative Informatics, The Sounds of Deep Fake – which takes place at the University’s Inspace gallery – is also part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

At the French Institute, Sean Burns’ Dorothy Towers tells the story of two residential blocks in Birmingham – completed in 1971 and next to the city’s Gay Village – which have long been a haven for LGBTQ+ people.

The film and installation – featuring input from the University-based Lothian Health Services Archives – opens a space to reflect on the complex relationship between architecture, community and memory.

Sean Burns and Cole Collins, lecturer at Edinburgh College of Art, will also lead a roundtable conversation on queer spaces that considers historical examples in Edinburgh, including nightclubs, housing and social spaces.

Related links

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Edinburgh Art Festival

Image courtesy of Edinburgh International Book Festival