Edinburgh Book Festival goes online

Published: 31 July 2020
Reporter: David Chadderton

Edinburgh International Book Festival entrance Credit: Helen Jones

This year's Edinburgh International Book Festival will feature more than 140 online events over 17 days from Saturday 15 to Monday 31 August 2020.

Nick Barley, Director of the festival, said, “it’s been a leap of faith for everyone involved, but in these extraordinary few months, we’ve managed to transform the way we deliver our festival, bringing writers and readers together in a new online space for discussion and imagination. Despite the challenges, I’ve been inspired by authors’ enthusiasm to try out this new approach, joining us in Edinburgh from all over the world without having to leave their homes. As society searches for ways to make sense of the new reality, it’s clearer than ever that books and writers offer a framework for constructive dialogue and for sharing bold new ideas.”

Headline events include Hilary Mantel discussing the final novel in her trilogy on Thomas Cromwell, Executive Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans examining the European Green Deal with former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Arundhati Roy on the implications of the global pandemic in her new collection of essays and David Mitchell exploring the musical inspiration behind Utopia Avenue. 2019 Booker Prize Winner Bernardine Evaristo will join Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, historian William Dalrymple discusses the East India Company with Fergal Keane, Turkish author Elif Shafak launches her new polemic How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division and Irish author Marian Keyes brings her latest bestseller Grown Ups.

Scottish writers include Maggie O’Farrell on her first historical novel Hamnet, Val McDermid in conversation with Joan Bakewell, Alexander McCall Smith chatting with the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson and Douglas Stuart on his debut novel Shuggie Bain, a love song to 1980s Glasgow. Kirstin Innes talks about Scabby Queen, Kapka Kassabova and Gavin Francis explore borders created by lakes and islands while Andrés N Ordorica, Courtney Stoddart and Heather H Yeung look at Scotland’s literary heritage.

All six authors shortlisted for the 2020 International Booker Prize appear in conversation with their translators (with one exception who wishes to remain anonymous) and the Festival hosts the first interview with the winning author announced on 26 August. The winners of the University of Edinburgh’s James Tait Black Prizes are revealed as is the winner of the biennial Edwin Morgan Poetry Prize.

In the second year of a collaboration with the New York Times, events include the evolving place and rise of women in politics with In Her Words editor Francesca Donner, an interactive session with The Times Crosswords team and a special edition of The New York Times Book Review featuring senior staff editor John Williams, plus a discussion on capitalism and climate change in the era of COVID-19 chaired by international climate reporter Somini Sengupta.

The poetry line-up includes appearances from Roger Robinson, Natalie Diaz and Nikita Gill. Scottish Makar Jackie Kay is joined by US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo in her 16-week Makar to Makar series, while Allie Esiri welcomes actors Helena Bonham Carter, Tobias Menzies and Hamilton’s Jamael Westman to read poems from her new anthology A Poem for Every Autumn Day.

All events are free to watch through the Book Festival web site. A number of events across the programme will be BSL interpreted, and further events will be live captioned. Audiences can mingle with each other before and during events by entering a live chatroom, and many events offer a Q&A session with the authors.

There will be an online bookshop featuring titles from all authors in the 2020 programme in addition to showcasing a range of books from Scottish publishers. There will also be a selection of live online book signings where audience members are able to chat to the author face-to-face and get their book signed after the event. A maximum of 50 people can book into each signing once they’ve purchased a copy of the relevant book from the Festival’s online bookshop.