Off site communities events this August

This year’s August Festival saw the most extensive array of communities activities yet. Read on to find out more about how we brought the Book Festival away from the site and to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access it.

The August Festival brings the communities programme together with a vast array of talented authors from all over Scotland and around the world, and each year we plan a series of events which reaches those who aren’t able to join us on our site at Edinburgh College of Art. For many authors, this work is an opportunity which takes them into new environments and enables them to engage with new audiences.

This year, we delivered a wide range of workshops both at the Festival site and beyond, with visits in five different prisons, at Craigroyston Community High School, Streetreads Library and Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Children and Young People. Our partnership with Birks Cinema in Aberfeldy ensured that a series of five specially-selected events, with Alexander McCall Smith, Serhii Plokhy, Alan Cumming, Ian Rankin and Brian Cox were streamed for free for those who didn’t have online access in a rural area where wifi coverage can be patchy.

We donated over 430 books to community groups as part of these visits and are dedicated to building a lasting legacy with these groups through our year round Communities Programme.

Tiger play at the RHCYP


This year, we arranged seven events across five different Scottish prisons, many of which we work with throughout the year, via our long-term partnership with Open Book. From the Festival programme, we select authors whose writing and life experiences have the potential to chime with the large range of prisoners we meet, including women and young offenders.

In some sessions, such as Alan Parks’ visit to HMP Barlinnie, and Doug Johnstone’s event at HMP Glenochil, the authors answered questions on how to get into writing and shared advice about the process of having work published. Other authors such as Gabriel Krauze and Omar Musa engaged the inmates with tales of the their own lives, and reflected on some of the challenges of writing from experience in their books Who They Was and Killernova respectively. Charlie Roy’s debut novel, The Broken Pane, which focuses on women’s lives, mental health and family, was especially relevant to the women she met at HMP and YOI Polmont.

It was heartening to receive some of the feedback from those who attended the sessions:

‘It was very comforting, like a bit of normality, to attend a book reading’

‘Events like this are important because they can be an eye opener and encourage people to try harder to change or believe they can change’

We are grateful to the prison staff and librarians who enabled these visits to take place, and the effort they put in to provide these opportunities to as many prisoners as possible.

Streetreads Library

At Streetreads, a library in central Edinburgh which is open to people who are experiencing homelessness, award-winning Glasgow-based writer Ryan O’Connor talked about his new book The Voids. Ryan held an informal Q&A session, where he talked about his own life story, and how he drew on personal experience for creating the plot and the central characters. Reflecting on the visit, Ryan said: “I really enjoyed the Streetreads event and would be happy to return if they ever wanted me to.  I think what they’re doing is great.”

Our partnership with Streetreads continues as Citizen Writer in Residence Eleanor Thom is there on Tuesdays throughout September and October, running a series of drop-in workshops to give the participants the chance to tell their own stories, imaginative and real.


Audience at Streetreads library

Children and Young People

As part of our Story Nation project, we were delighted to work with Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity Arts Team to arrange a mini Book Festival at the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People (RHCYP) over the final August weekend. This included a special children’s theatre production of There’s A Tiger In The Garden, performed by Flock Theatre to a large group of younger children accompanied by their parents in the outpatients area of the hospital. At the end of the show the children were able to meet the performers and puppets, plus we gave each child a copy of the book to take away.

Former Children’s Laureate and author of the How To Train Your Dragon series, Cressida Cowell, wowed audiences introducing her brand new book, Which Way To Anywhere, as well as meeting children who could not join the communal space by visiting them individually on their wards. Catriona, the Arts Development Officer commented after the visit: “We were all a little star struck! Cressida was incredible, captivating the group in The Hub with her storytelling and illustrations, also meeting a super fan on the wards who was unable to come down.”

We were also delighted to arrange for prolific YA author, Alex Wheatle, to meet with some of the teenagers in their wards at the RHCYP, as well as to host a well-attended conversation at the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services outpatient hub. We gifted signed copies of Cressida’s and Alex’s books to each of the young people who attended their events at the hospital.

As part of his busy time at the Book Festival this year, Alex Wheatle also visited third year pupils at Craigroyston Community High School to talk about his life and his writing, including his latest book, Kemosha of the Caribbean. As Colm, the Librarian at Craigroyston reflected, “Alex’s event has had a big impact on our S3s – our history students really engaged with Alex’s story. Listening to him helped bring their learning about Britain during the 70’s and 80’s to life.  S3 students who don’t study history also really enjoyed the session… EIBF involvement has helped our young people to enjoy books and to connect with inspiring authors and activities.”

Alex Wheatle on stage

Keep your eyes peeled on the blog for an update on the Communities Programme that took place at the Edinburgh College of Art site this August.


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.

Our prison visits during the August Festival are supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Citizen is also supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and through the PLACE Programme (funded by the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council, and the Edinburgh Festivals, and supported and administered by Creative Scotland).

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