Guest Blog: Susie McGuinness

Our June blog comes from special guest writer – Susie McGuinness – who joined the Book festival as our new Communities Programme Assistant a few weeks ago. Read on to hear more about Susie’s first few weeks in the job and her highlights of the Communities events happening this August.

Since joining the festival team in June I’ve been on a whirlwind tour of the year-round Communities programme, and with August fast approaching there’s lots of planning to do. Here’s a fly by look at what I’ve been up to…

I’ve loved dropping into weekly online sessions with the Citizen Collective, our writing group for young people across Edinburgh. Steered by prompts from poet Ryan Van Winkle, the young writers have produced poems from the point of view of vending machines, unraveled stories lifted from Wikipedia deep-dives, and wrestled with complex forms (I’ve already forgotten what a sestina is!). The quality of work they produce in as little as five minutes is amazing- you can catch some of it being performed alongside writers from the other Citizen programme strands at the Stories and Scran event on Monday 14 August.

Last week I got to visit The Alternative School at Spartans Community Football Academy to hear from school staff and our writer in residence Chris Barkley about how his year embedded in the school has been going. It was great to hear Chris’s reflections on relationship building with the young people and, having seen the first cut of their short film, I can’t wait for the pupils to get to share their work at the festival at their Letters of Hope event on Monday 21 August!

One of my favourite jobs so far this summer has been organising free tickets for lots of our community partners. I’ve loved chatting to folk from across Edinburgh about which parts of the programme spark joy for them, and I’m looking forward to regularly bumping into groups from Deaf Action, North Edinburgh Arts and Gig Buddies (amongst others!) throughout the Festival.

As much as I’m looking forward to being onsite at Edinburgh College of Art, I’m also excited to be taking authors out and about. We’ll be taking authors to the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and the Streetreads Library (a gorgeous cosy space for people experiencing homelessness, that I got to visit last week). Plus, this week I’ve been working with our partners at Open Book, organising author visits to prisons across Scotland. The Lead Readers from the prison-based reading groups have been telling me about their recent reads – I’m currently enjoying the challenge of matching authors to groups and getting the corresponding books sent out to the different prison libraries.

On books, our festival intern Dan is locked in a constant battle with the boxes of new programme books arriving on his desk every day, and I’ve been enjoying getting to borrow from the steadily filling bookshelves. I raced through Jenni Fagan’s upcoming memoir Ootlin and I’m onto Alva Gotby’s They Call It Love– I’m hoping I’ll get to catch their events at the Festival but it’s looking like it’s going to be a busy August.

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