My first year was 2006 and I was a regular attendee until we moved to Australia for a few years. We timed our move back with the book festival in mind—I didn’t want to miss August!
Walking in and feeling like I am with my people is something that makes this a really special festival for me. What’s unique about the Book Festival is the community that comes together every August. You know you’re going to run into people you haven’t seen for a year. Having been to book festivals in numerous countries around the world, nobody does it better.
Being able to witness conversations between authors, politicians, philosophers, illustrators, and other creative people is inspiring. The creative energy of the Book Festival is invigorating and rare in everyday life. The whole idea of access—it can mean inclusivity for everyone, but it can also be about access to people and ideas and ways of thinking that you wouldn’t know otherwise.
In Charlotte Square, you felt like you were in this bubble, a little happy place. And I think that’ll happen at the Edinburgh Futures Institute too—we can create that, as a community. Unlike many festival events, the Book Festival encourages lingering with the lawn chairs, gin carts, and convivial atmosphere.
I went to the Michael Pedersen event last year with Shirley Manson and Charlotte Church, which was fabulous. Afterwards we went out to the courtyard and the three of them came out to say hello and hang out with everyone. This sense of connection was reminiscent of what used to happen in the Spiegeltent, where you could see people relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere.
I went to the Nadia Shireen event with my kids last year, and it was great because my girls got to see a mixed race writer drawing, engaging with them, and speaking about the Grimwood characters. They are looking at the world totally differently after that event.
My favourite festival memory is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi and Nicola Sturgeon, it was a remarkable conversation. I’ll never forget hearing these two intelligent women speak about the challenges and beauty of our world. That’s the core of why I absolutely love this festival. When you have a really good chair, you really feel like you’re eavesdropping rather than watching an event. That intimacy is a really lovely thing to witness. That’s really what I felt with that event, so that was my favourite festival memory.
I’m really excited to see what happens in the new venue. There’s access to more bus routes, and to the Meadows, and this can bring in a more diverse audience, or parents and families who might stay for a while. There’s something to be said for the comfortable bubble, and feeling like you found your people, but at the same time, it’s good to be a little out of your comfort zone. And hopefully, the new site will have a bit of both and feel more welcoming to even more people.