Bold ideas celebrated at online Book Festival

University students, staff and alumni are taking part in a new online events programme to celebrate books, discussion and ideas at Edinburgh International Book Festival.

In a move to present one of Edinburgh’s much loved summer activities in this challenging year, the Book Festival will be entirely online, hosting 140 free events via its website.

The programme brings together writers from more than 30 countries.

They will exchange thoughts on how stories can help make sense of a rapidly changing world and to share bold new ideas.

The University is sponsoring a number of events in the programme.

Acclaimed authors

On the opening day, Edinburgh-based author Maggie O’Farrell will discuss her critically acclaimed novel Hamnet with Literary Critic Stuart Kelly.

The event is in association with the University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH), which brings scholars from around the world to the University to write, reflect and debate their ideas.

Culture and Identity

Brit Bennett discusses her best-selling novel The Vanishing Half - which explores the theme of race, family and identity, at an event in association with RACE.ED – a new cross-university network concerned with race, racialisation and decolonial studies.

On the closing day of the Festival, Arundhati Roy – who won the Booker Prize in 1997 for The God of Small Things – will reflect on the implications of the global pandemic.

Chaired by broadcaster and journalist Bilal Qureshi, the event is presented in association with the Edinburgh Futures Institute – a hub of interdisciplinary learning and research looking at the complex futures facing society.

Literary Prizes

Broadcaster Sally Magnusson will host a celebration of the year’s best works of fiction and biography for the University’s James Tait Black Prizes – the UK’s longest-running literary awards.

Judges will share their insights, and the nominated authors discuss their books, before the much-anticipated announcement of this year’s winners.

Since 2017 the University has been running a MOOC in partnership with Edinburgh International Book Festival. The free online course – called ‘How to Read a Novel’ – draws on the James Tait Black fiction shortlist.

A number of former IASH Fellows and alumni are participating in the Book Festival.

Jo Clifford, an IASH-Traverse Creative Fellow in 2011, is joining best-selling author Val McDermid at a discussion event.

Crossing borders

Dr Kate Simpson, an IASH Postdoctural Fellow in 2018, chairs an event which will share some of the writing produced from Outriders Africa – where five pairs of authors journeyed through 15 different countries including The Gambia, Ghana, Senegal, Uganda and Botswana.

Jess Brough, a writer and PhD student of psycholinguistics at the University, and founder of the multi-award winning initiative Fringe of Colour, is speaking at two events as part of the Africa: A Balance of Stories series.

Broadcaster and IASH Advisory Board member Allan Little presents several events on politics and journalism, in his capacity as Chair of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The Festival is taking place over 17 days from Saturday 15 August to Monday 31 August. 


We’re incredibly happy that the Book Festival has been able to put together such a wonderful online programme this year. With all the events free to attend, it’s a great opportunity to explore ideas from authors around the world. We’re proud to support the amazing events and hope audiences will be inspired to explore the work of our colleagues taking part in the programme.

Dr Patricia ErskineHead of Stakeholder Relations, College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Edinburgh International Book Festival 

Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) 


Edinburgh Futures Institute

[Image credit: Getty images/ nd3000]