Announcing Story Nation

Our new Communities Programme in Prisons, Hospitals and Care Homes

We are delighted to introduce our long-term engagement project, Story Nation, which brings the Book Festival directly to communities across Scotland.

Every August, the Book Festival is an exciting hub for exchanging ideas, and a joyous celebration of all things written and illustrated.  Poetry, live performances, readings and conversations with authors are just some of the events that create a magic atmosphere in Charlotte Square every summer.

Our Story Nation project aims to bring the spirit of the Book Festival to audiences who, for various reasons, cannot access our physical events. It aims to combat isolation and create rich opportunities for engagement with the written word among vulnerable or unheard communities, enthusing and empowering readers across Scotland.

Led by a team of skilled professional authors and artists, Story Nation will engage with people in a range of settings (including prisons, hospitals, care homes and hospices), creating bespoke activities to suit each of their needs.

Story Nation in Prisons

In September 2019, we began working in partnership with Open Book to deliver Story Nation across eight Scottish Prisons. The project has sparked engaging dialogues, with the poetry, books and ideas explored throughout the August Festival acting as a springboard for discussion of wider issues.

Facilitated by Open Book Lead Readers, groups engage with readings on particular themes, such as home, mental health and (in)justice. Participants also engage with filmed events from the Festival, with works they have read brought to life by the authors on stage. We are working with a range of prisoner groups including adult male and female prisoners serving sentences of differing lengths.

Author Ryan Gattis at a prison event in 2017

Story Nation at the Royal Sick Children’s Hospital

We are delighted to be working with Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity Arts team, to take Story Nation to the Royal Sick Children’s Hospital. We want to bring the fun of our August Festival Children’s Programme to the hospital throughout the year, by delivering a dynamic programme of writing, reading and creative workshops for long-term patients in one-to-one and group settings.

In May 2020, unable to access the hospital itself because of the Coronavirus crisis, we gifted 120 books to children being discharged into a shielding environment. Catriona McIntyre (Arts Coordinator, Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity) gave the following feedback:

“Three huge boxes of gorgeous books arrived today, and I wanted to say a huge thank you on behalf of ECHC. I can't wait to get them out to families, some of whom have described books as 'much needed breathing space' during all this”.

We will begin face to face workshops in the hospital in August 2020.


Story Nation in Care Homes

Through Story Nation, people in Care Homes across Scotland will be able to engage with the Festival’s treasure trove of online content showing past events. Selected Care Homes will benefit from in-person workshops led by artists and facilitators, who can create accessible and interactive sessions for all to enjoy. We will start delivering in-person sessions in Care Homes in Spring 2021.

Books can offer us ‘breathing space’, escape and excitement. They can ignite our imaginations and creativity helping us to engage with issues, enabling us to see each other and the world around us more clearly. Our aim for Story Nation is to help people to make lasting connections through the shared joy of books, reading, writing and conversation.

Underpinning the project is a commitment to long-term, deep-rooted engagement. We are exceedingly grateful to the funders of Story Nation for their generosity and commitment to the work of Edinburgh International Book Festival. The project would not have been possible without their support.

As with all of our Communities Programme projects, we will be posting updates about Story Nation on the On The Road blog homepage. You can find out more about the Book Festival’s year-round projects by subscribing to our newsletter.

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