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The Write Stuff: Scots Whay Hae!’s Top 10 Picks Of The Edinburgh International Book Festival 2021…



This year the Edinburgh International Book Festival is staging what they describe as, "a hybrid Book Festival" - with an online programme of over 250 events for adults and children, streamed live on the website.


Taken from the website, here is some further information - "Alongside, we will welcome in-person audiences for a wide range of the events in the programme, which you can book here on the website. This year’s Book Festival will take place from Saturday 14 to Monday 30 August at our new Festival home: the University of Edinburgh’s Edinburgh College of Art."


You can peruse the full programme here, and follow the festival on Twitter & Facebook as well as YouTube & Instagram. You can also keep up to date by signing up to receive the regular ebulletin.


With so many great events to choose from here are Scots Whay Hae!’s Top Ten Picks of what to see at this year’s festival to help you discover something just for you.


To find out more about each event, how to book your place and take part, and buy copies of the relevant books, click on the links below…


Graeme Armstrong, Jenni Fagan & Caleb Femi: Take Your Place - 14 Aug 13:00 - 14:00


Since early 2020 our sense of home and our relationship to place has changed dramatically. Recurring lockdowns and ‘stay at home’ orders have seen people confined to their houses, flats and immediate local area. For some, discoveries of outdoor hidden gems have provided a new way to connect with a familiar place, while others have felt trapped and isolated. During the Book Festival’s Citizen workshops, which have been taking place with local people from North Edinburgh and Musselburgh, the importance of place and the participants’ relationship to their local area and environment has been an ongoing theme. 


With this in mind, authors Jenni Fagan (Luckenbooth), Caleb Femi (Poor) and Graeme Armstrong (The Young Team), all of whom have placed locality at the centre of their writing in their most recent books, come together to discuss what home, environment and community will mean in a post-pandemic world.   This event is part of Citizen, our long-term creative programme working in partnership with organisations across Edinburgh and Musselburgh, offering local people a platform to explore identity, connection and place.


Find out about the Communities Programme: ontheroad.edbookfest.co.uk 


This is a live event, with an author Q&A. Authors and participants will be on stage, in the venue. After the event, Jenni Fagan will be doing an in-person book signing on the Festival site.


Pat Nevin with Val McDermid: Scottish Football’s Indie Star - 15 Aug 13:00 - 14:00


At the height of a luminous playing career, Pat Nevin spent evenings at theatre and ballet performances, and wrote a column in the Chelsea club newspaper championing his favourite indie bands. He even had the joy of helping John Peel with the admin for his legendary late-night Radio 1 show. This sense that there is more to life than sport is what makes his new book, The Accidental Footballer, so different from the average football memoir. Brought up as part of a socialist, Catholic family in Glasgow’s Easterhouse, Nevin developed a loathing for sectarianism which undoubtedly galvanised his efforts to stamp out racism in football. And after ending his playing career at Kilmarnock and Motherwell, Nevin has earned his place as one of the smartest and most perceptive football pundits in the business.


Join him for a blether with Val McDermid, covering Hibs, nights out at the Hacienda and the Happy Mondays.


This is a live event, with an author Q&A. Authors and participants will be on stage, in the venue. After the event, Pat Nevin will be doing an in-person book signing on the Festival site.


Scottish Publisher Showcase - 17 Aug 11:00 - 12:30


Get a taste of the breadth of Scotland’s vibrant publishing landscape from the shores of Leith to the Isle of Lewis. With 100-plus publishers in our small country, we celebrate and amplify the voices of the established and debut publishers who, despite the odds, continue to find and bring fresh voices to readers.


This showcase event is chaired by Scottish broadcaster and author Sally Magnusson and you’ll also see some familiar literary faces making an appearance, including popular Scottish authors Jackie Kay, Val McDermid and David Keenan. Publishers joining the event are Sam McDowell from Charco Press, Anne Glennie from Cranachan Publishing, Lauren Nickodemus from Monstrous Regiment, Kay Farrell from Sandstone Press, Libby Hamilton from Barrington Stoke, Laura Jones from 404 Ink, Sha Nazir from BHP Comics and Sara Hunt from Saraband.


Featuring every kind of writing from graphic novels, children’s and young adult books to literature in translation, this event spotlights the latest brave and bold literature emerging from Scotland’s publishing scene. Presented in partnership with Publishing Scotland.


This is a live event, with an author Q&A. If buying a ticket to watch the event in-person, Sally Magnusson and some of the publisher participants will be on stage, the others will take part remotely and you’ll see them on a large screen in the venue.


Harry Josephine Giles & Ely Percy: The Drama’s in the Dialect - 18 Aug 16:00 - 17:00


On a far-off space station, Astrid and Darling search for hope as they battle with a pace of progress that threatens to leave them behind. The first full-length novel to be written in Orcadian dialect in over 50 years, Deep Wheel Orcadia is described by author Harry Josephine Giles as 'a gay space communist fantasy written in a small language and about the small peace of small things'.


In Ely Percy’s witty and acerbic coming-of-age novel Duck Feet, local Scots dialect also sits front and centre. Narrator Kirsty Campbell’s quirky view of teenage life in working-class Renfrew, told in episodic chapters, is anything but peaceful as she figures out who she is and where she fits in. The language of both novels brings poetry and life to the young characters, as they attempt to steer a course through the challenges they face.


Join Giles and Percy as they discuss the importance and pitfalls of writing in their home dialects with author Heather Parry.


This is a live event with an author Q&A. Authors and participants will be on stage, in the venue. After the event, Harry Josephine Giles and Ely Percy will be doing in-person book signings on the Festival site.


Alex Renton & Lisa Williams: Scotland's Black History Matters - 18 Aug 17:30 - 18:30

It is still a misconception and a deflection tactic used in Scotland that we 'were not as bad as the English’, but as statues were toppled during the Black Lives Matter rallies last year, people were armed with new knowledge and a curiosity to reckon with the past. For some, this has meant confronting the uncomfortable truth that they are beneficiaries – politically, economically and socially – of colonialism and empire.


Lisa Williams’ Black History Walking Tours – which she created in her role as founder of the Edinburgh Caribbean Association – give people a chance to learn about prominent Black figures, and also understand Scotland’s past and ongoing racist politics. She met journalist Alex Renton after the publication of his book Blood Legacy, which details the story of his own Scottish ancestors who were part of a group of 3,000 British people who, at abolition in 1834, owned half of all enslaved people in the British Caribbean.


Williams and Renton will be talking to Sally Magnusson about inheritance, the case for reparations and how we must rethink the past to ensure a different future.


This is a live event with an author Q&A. Authors and participants will be on stage, in the venue.


Alan Warner: Confessions of a Rock Groupie - 19 Aug 11:30 - 12:30


1970s England – the days of glam rock, then punk rock; of Multi-Coloured Swap Shop and Branston Pickle. This is the period Alan Warner sets his novel Kitchenly 434. The place: a remote country house owned by one of the world’s best-known rock stars, Marko Morrell. The protagonist: an ageing groupie who looks after Marko’s house while he is elsewhere. This bucolic setting forms the backdrop for a novel that canters between farce and tragicomedy. But behind the comic capers there is a morality tale – the story of a man trading on his delusions and careering towards some potentially unforgiveable mistakes.


In this, the Oban-born author’s eighth novel, Warner builds on some of the superb characterisations of young women familiar from Morvern Callar and The Sopranos and adds a dollop of pathos in the form of a central male character who elicits sympathy despite his best efforts to make our skin crawl.


We welcome Warner to talk about his masterful scene setting and his antihero of Kitchenly Manor with V&A Dundee Director Leonie Bell.


This is a live event, with an author Q&A. If buying a ticket to watch the event in-person, the author will take part remotely and you’ll see them on a large screen in the venue. The interviewer is on stage in the venue.


Reading Scotland: Helen McClory, The New Edinburgh Gothic - 19 Aug 17:30 - 18:30


In a northern European city not unlike Edinburgh, three young people’s lives intersect in the flat they share. But as Helen McClory’s eagerly anticipated Bitterhall unfolds, her characters Daniel, Orla and Tom begin to be haunted by something very strange indeed. What exactly is Bitterhall, and who is James Lennoxlove, the author of a Victorian diary that’s fallen into Daniel’s possession? McClory’s novel is a book that toys with our subjective and objective realities and paints Scotland today in an intriguing light.


As part of our Reading Scotland series, Helen McClory has worked with filmmaker Bryan M Ferguson to create a 5-minute film which is screened for the first time as part of today’s event. The film aims to evoke the mood of McClory’s novel and should act as a fascinating introduction to Bitterhall for those who have not yet read it. Following the screening, McClory discusses her book with chair Peggy Hughes.


This is a live event with an author Q&A. Authors and participants will be on stage, in the venue. After the event, Helen McClory will be doing an in-person book signing on the Festival site


Peter Ross: The Stories and Glories of Graveyards - 20 Aug 14:30 - 15:30

How is it possible that a book about graveyards can be so full of life? The colourful characters who populate Peter Ross’s non-fiction book, A Tomb with a View, include a bisexual Italian Bohemian hedonist named Marchesa Luisa Casati, who is buried in Brompton Cemetery alongside her taxidermied Pekinese dog.


Hilary Mantel said, 'In his absorbing book about the lost and the gone, Peter Ross takes us from Flanders Fields to Milltown to Kensal Green, to melancholy islands and surprisingly lively ossuaries... a considered and moving book on the timely subject of how the dead are remembered, and how they go on working below the surface of our lives.'


Ross joins us in conversation with James Runcie to share his book and its cornucopia of stories, showing us how graveyards are far from simply resting places for the dead, but memory palaces rich with history and vitality.


This is a live event with an author Q&A. Authors and participants will be on stage, in the venue. After the event, Peter Ross will be doing an in-person book signing on the Festival site.


Alison Watt with Andrew O’Hagan: The Joy of Influence - 24 Aug 11:30 - 12:30


Alison Watt is one of Scotland’s best-known living artists, renowned for her paintings of human figures and more recently for her intimate depictions of the folds in fabrics and draperies. With titles such as Phantom and Aware, these evoke the human body even in its absence. Watt has often spoken about the influence on her work by other artists, and now she has produced an exhibition for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery featuring paintings made in response to the art and practice of 18th century Scottish artist Allan Ramsay.


In the catalogue for the show, novelist Andrew O’Hagan has written a story, Affinity, which acts as a fascinating companion piece to Watt’s work. A long-standing friend of Watt, O’Hagan has himself spoken about the importance of artistic influences on his own work, drawing from the worlds of film, music and art among other things.


Watt and O’Hagan will share the Edinburgh stage to discuss the joy of influence.

This is a live event with an author Q&A. Authors and participants will be on stage, in the venue.


David Keenan: A Mausoleum for the Two of Us - 27 Aug 19:00 - 20:00


'Hallucinatory’ and ‘entirely exhilarating,’ David Keenan’s debut novel This Is Memorial Device was as popular with reviewers as it was with readers. Published in 2017, Keenan’s alternative history of life for the lost youth of Airdrie in the late 1970s and 80s is now regarded as a Scottish cult classic. Four years on we can celebrate a new novel from Keenan that’s been a decade in the making, and Monument Maker feels like another career-defining project. It’s epic in scope, ranging from the siege of Khartoum and the conquest of Africa in the 19th century through the Second World War and up to the present day – and shot through with the memory of a single summer and an unravelling love affair. Dreamlike in tone and polyphonic in its accumulation of voices and registers, this meditation on art, romance and time is a book like no other.


David Keenan will be in Edinburgh to discuss his labour of love with fellow writer Lara Pawson, who worked for many years as a journalist based in various western African countries for the BBC World Service. She has long been an admirer of Keenan’s work. Pawson’s first book, In the Name of the People: Angola’s Forgotten Massacre, was followed by This Is the Place to Be: a visceral, fragmentary memoir about her class, race and sexuality while reporting on a conflict.


This is a live event with an author Q&A. Authors and participants will be on stage, in the venue.




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