Our Booked! programme in August was the biggest we have delivered yet. Making the most of the fantastic authors who join us in Edinburgh for the Book Festival, we toured to three towns and cities with mini-Festivals, took writers to the Hebrides to launch a fascinating new intercontinental partnership, and visited three Scottish prisons for five events, including two with offenders and their families for the first time ever. Read on to find out more about our travels!
ReimagiNation Rolls On
Our ReimagiNation tour of Scotland’s five New Towns continued with two stops in August. Marking 70 years since the passing of the New Towns Act, we brought literary and creative events for all ages while also asking local residents to help reshape often negative perceptions and narratives of their home-towns through discussion, debate and storytelling
After a hugely successful first stop in Cumbernauld back in May – which resulted in members of CACE Older People Active Lives taking part in an event at the Book Festival – we ventured on to East Kilbride and Irvine during the latter half of August. As well as bringing some of our brilliant international authors out on the road, we mixed in local voices and stories from each town in events for all ages – including two free schools programmes.
Public events featured the likes of M R Carey, Joe Hill, Mary Contini and Nick Sharratt, while each programme included a debate on the past and future of the town – chaired in Irvine by local son and celebrated British literary star Andrew O’Hagan. School pupils had the chance to meet with authors like Daniel Gray and Kristina Stephenson, as well as the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who read to primary school pupils in her hometown of Irvine. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous benefactor, the Book Festival was delighted to gift each pupil who attended a schools event in our Booked! programme a free book related to their event.
With the support of local organisations and partners we were able to inspire and entertain hundreds of people of all ages and backgrounds, many of whom have never attended the Book Festival in Edinburgh, while also delving in to the fascinating pasts, intriguing futures and captivating human stories of these major Scottish towns, places which are too often dominated by reactions to their built environments.
The ReimagiNation tour continues on to Glenrothes and finally Livingston in 2018 – look out for details on this website in the coming months.
A Return to the Granite City
After a stunningly successful event last summer, we returned north for the second Aberdeen Booked! Festival. This mini-Festival in Aberdeen Arts Centre delivered two days of events and activities, including some, like our Lunchtime Reading sessions with Aberdeenshire writing groups and an edition of our Unbound cabaret-style event, infused with local flavour, as well as a vibrant schools programme. Audiences got a chance to meet major European crime writers Arne Dahl and Michel Bussi, while Jake Arnott, fresh from sharing his new London-based novel The Fatal Tree, left the city inspired and excited by the prospects of the area’s Doric language. Edinburgh University’s Anne Galastro spoke about the rural Aberdeenshire captured by late Scottish artist Joan Eardley too. With the support of local library staff we hosted over 1000 school pupils, in events for both primary and secondary level – with each receiving a free book thanks to an anonymous benefactor of the Book Festival. Our return to Aberdeen was catalysed by an overwhelming demand for schools places in 2016, and we were thrilled to be able to offer great Book Festival events to more pupils from around the city this year – with well over 1300 attending over the two days.
In 2016 we began a fruitful partnership with Purvai, a festival of South Asian arts and culture at Stornoway’s An Lanntair, which celebrates the diverse South Asian heritage and connections in Scotland’s Western Isles. In August we began a new phase of that relationship, launching a year-long project commemorating the 70th anniversary of Indian independence and partition, called New Passages. In partnership with An Lanntair and Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival, we invited writers Abir Mukherjee and Nalini Paul to spend a few days in Lewis exploring and responding to the Mackenzie Collection, a rich and renowned collection of Asian art collected by Stornoway-born Colonel Colin Mackenzie, the first surveyor general of India. The authors will give new voice to the ongoing relationship between Scotland and India, asking what can or should be built – or even ‘reconstructed’, ‘unlocked’ – as these nations continue to define and redefine their contemporary relationships. The pair took part in an event during Purvai (pictured above) before travelling back to Edinburgh to perform in a special New Passages edition of our nightly Unbound event in the Speigeltent. Look out for updates on this site as the authors travel to India in the new year, followed by return visits to Edinburgh and the Isle of Lewis.
Unlocking Literature in Scotland’s Prisons
One of the most fruitful and rewarding elements of the Book Festival’s travelling work is our continued and developing relationship with Scotland’s prison service, and particularly the fantastic librarians who work within it. This year we were able to take authors to three prisons – HMP Edinburgh, HMP Greenock, and HMP Grampian – who took part in five events. We were especially thrilled to welcome the families of offenders to two of these events, and humbled that those involved chose to use precious visiting time to enjoy a live literary event. Our thanks go to the staff of all three prisons as well as the authors who took part – Stuart MacBride, Ryan Gattis, Emily Dodd, Jake Arnott, David Roberts and Julian Clary.
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