Our Partnership with Edinburgh College of Art

Recently we worked with the Third Year Illustration Students at Edinburgh College of Art, who created innovative visual responses to original writing by our Citizen participants.

The Book Festival’s Communities Programme has been teaming up with the Edinburgh College of Art Illustration Department for a number of years, working on projects in different settings, from primary schools to community festivals.

Over last autumn, we invited the current Third Year students to collaborate with our Citizen Writers’ Group, sparking innovative creative dialogues where the illustrators were asked to respond individually to different texts. The images that emerged cover a huge range of different styles, mediums and techniques, demonstrating the talent and imagination of the illustrators, and showing how each visual interpretation of a text can highlight different meanings to the reader.

We asked Harvey Dingwall, Programme Director of Undergraduate Illustration at Edinburgh College of Art, to share his reflections on the partnership:

“The collaboration with Edinburgh International Book Festival Communities Programme has proved a great opportunity for the students over the years. Collaborating with an organisation that is doing such valuable and engaging work really expands the students’ educational experience. The students’ work itself contributes both to their professional practice portfolios, as well as giving them a rich experience and understanding of working with art organisations, seeing the creative opportunities and surprising places that this can take you. Despite the restrictions of COVID this year, the students were able to engage with writers and organisers. A fantastic range of illustrations were made to enhance and illuminate the whole project.”

A woman presenting to an audience

If you attended our Citizen Winter Warmer in November last year you will have seen some of these illustrations projected behind our writers as they shared their work. We are delighted to share Bernard Harkins’ story, There’s No Such Thing As Bad Publicity, below, alongside the illustrated responses. Bernard is a long-time participant in our Citizen project, and on seeing the illustrations inspired by his writing, he said, “It was great to see the illustrations from such talented artists. They really brought the story to life and added a whole new dimension to it. Fantastic work! Thank you.”

There’s No Such Thing As Bad Publicity by Bernard Harkins

Illustration by Daisy Whittle


Wednesday morning and time to change the poster advertising the forthcoming cinematic delights Mr Floyd thought. He fetched the ladders from inside the cupboard next to the double doors that were the entrance to the cinema, went through the doors and down the steps.

He extended the ladder, removed the poster from the bag and clambered up the steps. He unscrewed the bolts from the casing attached to the window, removed the old poster, inserted the new one and fixed the bolts back into place. It was as he felt his foot on the last rung of the ladder that he heard a voice behind him.

“Well, well, well I didn’t think you’d have the nerve to be showing that!’

He looked round to see a man dressed in a hat and grey raincoat.

“Err, sorry, what do you mean?”

“That film, Death Zombie Bloodbath.”

“What about it?”

“What about it? Have you not heard? There have been protests all across the country, it is the devil’s work a peril to the moral rectitude of our young people!’

He folded the ladder and shook his head.

“Away with you! It’s just a bit of fun! Something to make you jump in the dark.”

The man in the hat and raincoat began gesticulating and shouting, his face getting redder and redder.

“A bit of fun is it? Corrupting the youth of today! What a shocking attitude! I tell you there’ll be trouble! You’ve not heard the last of this!!”

He watched the man walk away and thought to himself, some people have nothing better to do than to try and spoil someone else’s fun, I didn’t even get a chance to tell him that the staff will be dressed as zombie’s on opening night. 

Little did he know that opening night would not quite go as planned.

Mr Floyd wasn’t the only one in Musselburgh keeping a close eye on the weather that evening, in his house on the banks of the fast-flowing River Esk, Donald Klam turned away from the window to address the ten people gathered in his living room.

“Let us all take a moment to pray for some better weather so that we can carry out the Lord’s work this evening.”

One member of the group raised their hand.

“Perhaps the weather is a sign. If it keeps up like this then no-one will go out to see the film Mr Klam.” The voice said without much conviction.

“Gordon, now I have to say that I think that is wishful thinking, anyone would think that you don’t want the town to see these lovely sign’s that we have produced.”

Donald Klam pointed to the cardboard signs dotted around the room they carried messages such as ‘Down with this Sort of Thing!’ ’The Deil’s Work is Afoot!’ and ‘No Zombies in the ‘Burgh!’ This was a personal favourite of Donald Klam’s, he felt that it worked on a number of different levels.

“Now, not a word more, let us pray.” He said in a stern voice.


Illustration by Hester Aspland


Outside on the banks of the River Esk an owl perched on the branch of a tree, it was happy to find some shelter on this stormy night. As it settled down to dry off it looked out from its vantage point, this owl had lived a number of years but had never seen weather like this. The tree overlooked the Roman Bridge on the same side as the bus garage. As the owl peered out through the branches it could see that on the other side of the riverbank the storm was in full flow, yet on this side of the river the weather was calm, there was no rain and no wind. In fact to the owl it looked like that the bridge straddled two distinct weather systems.

At the cinema Mr Floyd glanced at his watch again, 15 minutes to go and no-one outside and no sign of the weather letting up. That’s it he thought, I’m cancelling the show he got an old poster turned it over and began writing on the blank side with a thick black pen. He had just finished the ‘D’ in cancelled when he heard a noise behind him.

“It seems a shame now that we’re all dressed up just to go and get changed again, why don’t we go across to the pub dressed like this, imagine the look on people’s faces when they see us.” Malcolm suggested.

On the other side of the River Esk Donald Klam had roused his followers into a frenzy and they took to the streets waving their signs.

“You see Gordon, the Lord provides for his own, look how clear and calm the evening is.”

On the other side of the Esk, Malcolm and his colleagues battled against the wind and rain and made their way to the Roman Bridge as they neared the bridge the storm seemed to calm slightly.

“Malcolm the weather seems to be getting a bit better.”

“Aye Jean it does, now let’s practice our scary chant for when we reach the pub!”

“We are the Burgh Zombies, we are the Burgh Zombies come to drink your blood and gnaw your bones, we are the Burgh Zombies.”

The owl sat in the tree eyes blinking gazing at what was about to unfold, in its left ear it heard

“We Shall Overcome!”

Right ear

“Burgh Zombies”

Left ear

“We Shall Overcome!”

Right ear

“Burgh Zombies”


Illustration by Donger Liu

From the wall of rain a dishevelled figure appeared, covered in what appeared to be blood, with a face that seemed to be wracked in pain, moaning and rattling what appeared to be chains.

“What is it Mr Klam? What is it?”

Donald Klam held up his placard.

“Back ghoul! Back ghoul!”

He moved towards the figure and began to hit it with his placard.

“Look Mr Klam, look, there’s more of them!”

Other ‘Ghoul’ like figures emerged from the wall of rain grabbing at Donald Klam as he attacked the first zombie and then pulling him back into the wall of rain.

“Quick everyone! We need to help Mr Klam!”

Malcolm and the others ran forward just in time to grab Donald Klam’s legs as his head, shoulders and upper torso disappeared into the rain.

In the middle of the two groups Donald Klam could feel his arms and legs being stretched in opposite directions and it felt like out of their sockets. He began to scream in pain, as he screamed the zombies screamed louder, as he was pulled by his legs in one direction he screamed, as he was pulled in the other by his arms the zombies screamed.

Illustration by Zoë Brown


Mr Floyd settled down behind his desk with his mug of coffee, bacon roll and today’s edition of the Musselburgh News dated Friday 6 November 1964. He scanned through the usual news about the Boys Brigade, Births, Deaths and Marriages until he found the headline he was looking for:


He let out a loud laugh and tears ran down his cheeks, he looked up at the picture of PT Barnum that adorned the wall opposite his desk, offered up his coffee mug to salute him and thought about the crowds that would be coming to see the film.

“You are right as always PT, ‘There’s no such things as bad publicity!’”


Illustration by Ali Lay



For the next part of our collaboration, we are producing a booklet which includes over 30 bespoke illustrated responses to a unique tour of Musselburgh written by Citizen participant, Olivia Begbie. Olivia’s tour interweaves history, memory, and a sense of place informed by a lifelong love of her hometown, and so has provided plenty of food for thought for the illustrators to respond to.

We are extremely grateful to the Third Year Illustration students at Edinburgh College of Art, and Harvey Dingwall for making this collaboration possible.

Citizen is 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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