Book Festival focuses on the power of stories

University staff, students and alumni are taking part in a celebration of books and ideas at Edinburgh International Book Festival.

More than 900 writers and thinkers are participating in the Festival, which runs from 10 to 26 August in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh.

This year’s programme brings together writers from more than 60 countries.

They will exchange thoughts on how stories can help make sense of a rapidly changing world.

Acclaimed thinkers

A key voice in the Black Lives Matter movement DeRay Mckesson makes his debut appearance at the Book Festival in a debate in association with genderEd – the University’s online resource for gender and sexuality studies.   

Mckesson talks to acclaimed authors Fatima Bhutto and Regina Porter about diversity in novels.

Food writer and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe shares her ideas for making good food affordable in an event in association with Edinburgh Futures Institute.  

The Philosopher AC Grayling spotlights the history of philosophy in a discussion chaired by Tommy Curry, the University’s Personal Chair of Africana Philosophy and Black Male Studies. 

The Centre for Open Learning is sponsoring this event and three others.

University of Cambridge geneticist Giles Yeo explores the science of obesity and the truth about diets.

Argentine writer Gabriela Cabezón Cámara discusses the female protagonist in her book The Adventures of China Iron.

The novel was co-translated by Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh in the University’s School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures.  

Elsewhere, one of the country’s best-loved poets Roger McGough discusses his work, which spans more than half a century.

James Tait Black Prizes

The University’s James Tait Black Prizes – the UK’s longest-running literary awards – celebrates their centenary. The winners of the fiction and biography prizes will be announced on stage at the Festival.

A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) developed by the University in partnership with the Book Festival, is now in its third year. Participants are encouraged to attend events that feature this year’s shortlisted fiction authors: Will Eaves; Jesse Greengrass; Olivia Laing and Nafissa Thompson-Spires.

Stimulating debate

BBC Special Correspondent Allan Little discusses the rise of populism in an interview with Turkish-British author Elif Shafak. The event is being promoted in association with the University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.

Culture and Identity

On the theme of culture and identity, Professor Michael Anderson from the University’s School of History, Classics and Archaeology discusses the change in Scotland’s population since the 1850s. 

Christopher Harding, from the same School takes a look at Japan and the cultural and social changes that the country may face in the future.

Elsewhere poet and fiction writer Meena Kandasamy joins Talat Ahmed from the University’s Centre for South Asian Studies. The discussion examines how the results of the 2018 elections in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are playing out on the wider stage of South Asia.

Talat Ahmed takes a look at the life and legacy of Mohandas Gandi, in another event.

Author and historian David Santiuste, who teaches in the University’s Centre for Open Learning, is chairing a discussion on the role played by the Flemish in moulding the history of Scotland.

Anya Clayworth, also from the Centre, chairs an event around medicine and murder in Victorian London.  

Visual stories

Another discussion explores the life and inspirations of celebrated sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi. It will be led by Shetland poet Christine De Luca and Carlo Pirozzi from the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures.

Gareth Williams of Edinburgh College of Art, joins The Hebrides Ensemble, and composers Linda Buckley, James MacMillan and Pàdruig Morrison, for a one-off performance. Each composer will respond musically to favourite last lines of novels suggested by Festival audiences.

Stories are devices that help humans make sense of a complex world. This Festival’s theme is not only focusing on fiction. Whether we’re listening to scientists and politicians or mythmakers and poets, to understand the world around us we need new stories.

Nick Barley Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Related links

Edinburgh International Book Festival - book tickets 

School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures 

James Tait Black Prizes 

How to Read a Novel MOOC 

Centre for Open Learning