The Edinburgh International Book Festival, 2017 programme, was launched today – a truly impressive, handpicked selection of 1,000 international authors, illustrators and performers, from 50 countries to stage an unparalleled celebration of world literature. The largest Book Festival in the world runs from 12 to 28 August, 2017.
This year’s theme is entitled "Brave New Words", to reflect on the current social and political climate, Trump, fake news, Brexit, migration, identity, religion, terrorism, race and gender issues. The role of the writer in times of national and global change is to offer empathy and seek understanding, to encourage debate and discussion. The EIBF is also about the joy of books and the relish of reading, welcoming renowned Booker Prize winners, debut novelists, poets, scientists, journalists, travel writers and no less than 62 authors of crime fiction.
The 34th EIBF launch event was introduced by the Chairman, former BBC Correspondent Allan Little. He began by relating the background to the first Edinburgh International Festival in 1947, around which the other key arts festivals evolved. The founder was the Austrian impresario, Rudolf Byng, general manager of Glyndebourne Opera, who had fled Nazi Germany and had the inspired vision to create an international festival in the UK.
The aim was to 'provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit' after the Second World War, bringing artistes and audiences together from across Europe and around the world. After considering many cities, Edinburgh was proposed by Henry Harvey Wood of the British Council, Scotland, supported Sir John Falconer, Lord Provost. The inaugural Festival opened on 24 August, 1947, enticing a cosmopolitan invasion of visitors to town with its new post-war identity as ‘the cultural resort of Europe'.
A brave but noble decision by Rudolf Byng was to invite the Vienna Philharmonic to perform at the first festival. The conductor, Bruno Walter remarked:
“What you have done in Edinburgh is one of the most magnificent experiences since the war. Here human relations have been renewed.”
Over the past 70 years, Edinburgh has been revolutionary in extending the Festival spirit, its global reach and its significant, cultural reputation. As Alan Little poignantly noted, “It is through the Arts that we understand the world.”
Nick Barley, EIBF Director, together with his co-directors, Jenny Niven and Roland Gulliver, highlighted the extraordinary diversity of writers and literary events this August.
Here is just a taster: Pulitzer Prize winner, Richard Ford explores the reality of the American Dream in 2017 in conversation with Kirsty Wark. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie debates the role of women in the world with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon; Andrew O’Hagan presents a lecture, “Scotland: Your Scotland”; Zadie Smith offers an insightful look at the growing pains of young women; Paula Hawkins, the phenomenally successful, multi-million, global bestselling author of “The Girl on the Train” returns this year to reveal the plot (or perhaps not!), of her new crime novel, “Into the Water”. James Runcie will be chatting about his Grantchester mysteries, now a popular TV series.
Current affairs will be the subject for politicians, Harriet Harman, David Owen and Vince Cable as well as the eloquent John Simpson, BBC Foreign Correspondent for the past 50 years.
Numerous Scottish writers too: It is 30 years since D.I. Rebus investigated his first crime and the latest novel, “Rather be the Devil”, by Ian Rankin, is about an historic unsolved murder. Alexander McCall Smith will amuse audiences with hilarious anecdotes behind his charming tales of 44 Scotland Street, Isabel Dalhousie and Mma Ramotswe. Tennis supermum, Judy Murray has published her autobiography, “Knowing the Score”, about life on and off court. Scotland’s Makar, Jackie Kay will be discussing her new poetry, inspired by Wilfred Owen’s time in Edinburgh. Douglas Dunn will talk about his much awaited collection of poetry, “The Noise of a Fly” reflecting on grumpiness and ageing.
“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move” RLS.
The last years in the life of Robert Louis Stevenson on the Pacific island of Samoa is the topic of a new biography by Joseph Farrell. He will be joined in conversation by Lavinia Greenlaw who has followed the intrepid travels of William Morris to Iceland.
As well as the tented village in Charlotte Square Gardens, there will be two new venues on George Street, the Greenhouse and the Bosco Theatre, for workshops, talks, readings, exhibitions and theatrical performances. A keynote event, "Paul Auster at 70" will feature the American writer (New York Trilogy)reflecting on the Spirit of '47, at the King’s Theatre.
In this richly layered literary feast, other writers include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, James Kelman, Ali Smith, Sebastian Barry, Tracy Chevalier, Jeremy Paxman, Aravind Adiga, Siri Hustvedt, Carol Ann Duffy, M R Carey, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Bettany Hughes, Eimear McBride, Philippe Sands, Jenni Murray, Charley Boorman, Maggie O’Farrell, Peter Høeg, Martin Sixsmith and Michelin Star chef Tom Kitchen …….et al.
The Children’s Book Festival presents its own “Big, Bold and Brilliant” programme, curated by Janet Smyth, an entertaining line up of story tellers, writers and illustrators. This is a year of anniversaries to celebrate – Harry Potter (20th), Cat in the Hat (60th) and Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books (75th). Highlights include Sir Chris Hoy reading from his “Flying Fergus” cycling adventures, Julia Donaldson, Debi Gliori, Clare Balding, Patrick Ness, and a Winnie the Pooh Heffalump hunt. In the Story Box Tent, free story telling sessions, as well as educational but fun Science, Animal and Music events, arts, crafts and comic workshops.
Pick up a copy of the colourful Programme (with 6 intriguing covers) from bookshops, cafés, arts and cultural organisations across Scotland. Or Download a pdf from the website.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival 2017 runs 12 - 28 August, 2017.
Tickets go on sale at 8.30am on Tuesday 20 June.
Website - www.edbookfest.co.uk
Box office tel. 0845 373 5888
Box office (to book in person):
EICC, Morrison Street (20 June only)
The Hub, Castlehill, Edinburgh (21 June - 12 August).
EIBF, Charlotte Square Gardens (12 – 28 August).