Imagine Better - Book Festival 2016 programme announced

Imagine Better - Book Festival 2016 programme announced

In a world of global uncertainty and shifting influence, this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival explores the power of the human mind to imagine a better world. Our 2016 events address interlinking questions on the impact of conflict; Europe’s place in the world and our place in Europe; the implications of the current refugee crisis; the effect of migration on Scots both here at home and around the globe and the role of society in our wellbeing. Over 800 writers, poets, illustrators, politicians, journalists, historians, scientists, philosophers and playwrights from 55 countries come together to energise, inspire and stimulate debate in Charlotte Square Gardens in August. 

Our Director, Nick Barley, said “You could say that the theme of this year’s Festival is ‘Project No Fear’. It’s about encouraging and celebrating the sort of courageous, positive, creative thinking that we desperately need in order to make the world a better place for everyone, rather than just for a privileged few. Novelists, journalists, scientists and poets – writers are the people we always turn to at a time when we need to imagine better. We welcome legendary novelists, prize-winning journalists and life-changing poets, as well as emerging talents whose unforgettable stories will revolutionise our future thinking. All in all, it’s a Festival bursting at the seams with big ideas.”

The bestselling American author, Jonathan Safran Foer will travel to Edinburgh to launch his new book, Here I am, his first novel in over a decade. Han Kang, author of The Vegetarian and winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, is joined by her translator, Deborah Smith, to discuss the key role of translation in bringing international fiction to an English-speaking audience. Doyenne of historical fiction Philippa Gregory introduces her new Tudor novel; Eimear McBride launches the follow-up to her award-winning A Girl is a Half Formed Thing and Prue Leith gives a glimpse into the second in her Food of Love series.  Scottish actor Alan Cumming, comedian Stewart Lee and survival expert Ray Mears also offer sneak previews of their brand new books. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown addresses globalisation and the new populism; Mark Thompson, formerly the Director General of the BBC, launches his argument on why the internet and 24 hour news has failed to lead to better democracy; leading German historian Jürgen Osterhammel brings his panoramic history of the 19th century and young Edinburgh entrepreneur Fraser Doherty introduces his guide to setting up a successful business in 48 hours.

Following a series of successful Book Festival events in 2015, a collection of Mexico’s finest journalists were invited to write essays on Mexico, its culture, politics and daily life.  The resulting book, The Sorrows of Mexico, is launched at the Book Festival with three of the contributing authors – Lydia Cacho, Sergio González Rodríguez and Eduardo Ruiz Parra – travelling to Edinburgh.

Other world renowned authors making their first appearance in Edinburgh include Thomas Keneally from Australia, one of China’s leading novelists Can Xue, Mexican writer Álvaro Enrigue and Jean-Christophe Rufin, co-founder of Médecins sans Frontières. From the world of sport, David Millar, Chris Boardman and Mark Beaumont will talk about their lives in cycling and former goalkeeper Packie Bonner recalls his 30 year career with Celtic and Ireland.  Musicians Wilko Johnson, Tim Burgess of The Charlatans and Brix Smith Start speak of their lives in, and out of, their respective bands, and James Robertson is joined by some of Scotland’s finest folk musicians to perform extracts from Pilgrimer, his Scots reimagining of Joni Mitchell’s classic 1976 album Hejira.

Three Guest Selectors have created a series of events examining these questions in more detail. Author and journalist Bidisha discusses the refugee crisis, its human realities and its deep political and economic roots with Wolfgang Bauer, one of the first undercover reporters to document the journey of Syrian refugees from Egypt to Europe, and Gulwali Passarlay who at the age of 12 was smuggled away from Afghanistan and endured a 12 month journey before arriving in the UK. She is joined by journalists Patrick Kingsley and Charlotte McDonald-Gibson who examine the economic and political causes behind the current crisis in the Mediterranean and Sudan-born writer Ahmed al-Malik, who fled to the Netherlands in 1989, and writes of modern day Khartoum. Graphic novelists Bessora and Karrie Fransman have created visual tales of migrant journeys, Ben Rawlence offers an insight into the world’s largest refugee camp and Lucy Popescu discusses her human rights work. Elsewhere in the programme Leila Al-Shami and Robin Yassin-Kassab look at the situation in Syria; Mostafa Salameh, the son of Palestinian refugees, talks of his life in the UK; respected Lebanese novelist Nada Awar Jarrar and Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan discuss their fictional accounts of encounters with refugees while Margaret Malloch and Paul Rigby explore all sides of human trafficking. 

The newly appointed Scottish Makar, Jackie Kay, is interviewed by Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland. In her Guest Selector series Kay examines the importance of poetry in everyday life.  She talks to Zaffar Kunial about being a British writer of mixed heritage in the 21st century; with her son, Matthew about the impact of war and anti-war poetry on her grandfather; and with the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy.  Poetry touches every strand in the programme – Hollie McNish reads from her poetic memoir of pregnancy; Billy Bragg presents some of his best-loved songs; Luke Wright introduces some of the original protest poets including Attila the Stockbroker and Tim Wells and also performs his poetic and political play What I Learned from Johnny Bevan.  William Letford and Lemn Sissay launch their new collections and Chimwemwe Undi, who was born in South Africa, of Xhosa heritage, and is now a spoken word poet living in Winnipeg, speaks powerfully of the immigrant experience and what it means to call a place home.

The third Guest Selector, GP and author Gavin Francis, examines the intersections between medicine and literature through poetry, memoir, journalism, essay and fiction. He discusses Tools of the Trade, a pocket-sized poetry anthology which is given to all new doctors in Scotland and brings together neurosurgeon James R Doty and GP John Gillies, who is leading the Edinburgh University Compassion Initiative.  Francis also talks to poet, physician and translator Iain Bamforth; discusses motherhood with Chitra Ramaswamy and Eula Biss and mental health with Ruby Wax.

American theatre-maker Bryan Doerries brings his extraordinary performance Theatre of War, which uses the plays of the Ancient Greeks to make sense of contemporary trauma. Matthew Green looks at the causes and treatment of PTSD while Harry Parker and Victoria Hendry turn to fiction to examine the post combat lives of soldiers. Christopher Rush ponders the contradictions in our attitudes to war and peace; Max Hastings offers a new perspective on WWII and General Sir Richard Shirreff, former NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, warns of future confrontation with Russia.

A centrepiece of the Migrant Stories within the Book Festival this August will be the world premiere of a specially commissioned theatrical adaptation of Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro’s moving and enigmatic short stories.  Adapted for the stage by multi award-winning playwright Linda McLean, The View from Castle Rock imagines the extraordinary experiences of Munro’s Scottish ancestors who sailed from Leith Docks in 1818 in the hope of a better life in Canada. The production is presented in collaboration with Stellar Quines.

French graphic artist Barroux presents the world premiere performance of Alpha, a dramatic realisation and live drawing of his powerful graphic novel about an African migrant who leaves Mali to find his family in France.  At the end of the Festival, Philip Howard revives David Greig’s play Europe as a rehearsed reading featuring nine actors. First performed in 1994, the play still resonates powerfully with today’s themes of refugees seeking a new home. These three powerful performances are supported by the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said:  “Since 1983, the Edinburgh International Book Festival has been bringing together some of the world's finest authors and the best of contemporary Scottish talent. This year’s programme is sure to capture and excite audiences, whilst raising Scotland’s cultural profile on the international stage.  The Scottish Government is proud to support the Festival via the Expo Fund and have provided £100,000 this year to support the creation of a series of performances exploring the migrant experience, written and adapted by notable authors and playwrights from Scotland and overseas.” 

Winners of the University of Edinburgh’s James Tait Black Prizes will be announced at the Book Festival as will the young Scottish poet receiving the biennial Edwin Morgan Poetry Award.  Highly respected human rights barrister Philippe Sands QC will deliver The Frederick Hood Memorial Lecture, Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell will give The Siobhan Dowd Trust Memorial Lecture and philosopher A C Grayling will explore the legacy of a complex intellectual in The PEN H G Wells Lecture.

A series of debates on subjects including Europe, the state of the NHS and the future of healthcare, Building Scotland and the merits of categorising Young Adult fiction will culminate in Allan Little’s Big Debate which in 2016 will address whether we are at The End of the Transatlantic Era.

We continue to champion new talent and our annual First Book Award, now in its seventh year, features 44 debut novelists and short story writers. There are novels translated into English for the first time from internationally renowned authors including György Spiró, one of Hungary’s most prominent literary figures, Lena Andersson, one of Sweden’s sharpest contemporary analysts, and Agustín Fernández Mallo, a writer and physicist whose novel Nocilla Dream spawned the Nocilla Generation of Spanish authors. The list also includes some exceptional home-grown talent including Kate Tempest, James Yorkston, Lorna Gibb, Frank Gardner, Harry Parker and Dorothy Alexander.  The winner of the First Book Award is voted for by readers and visitors to the Book Festival and announced in October.

The Baillie Gifford Children’s Programme encourages young people to exercise their imagination with stories from picture books to gripping teen thrillers. Including energetic performances from Julia Donaldson and Kristina Stephenson, books from Cecilia Ahern, Sophie Kinsella, Julian Clary and Andy Stanton and celebrations of Shakespeare, Roald Dahl, Paddington, Winnie the Pooh and Harry Potter and a Big Draw and workshops from Illustrator in Residence, Alex T Smith, this vibrant celebration of ideas offers something for everyone from babies to teens. There are rapping bears, singing farmers, giant talking beetles, dinosaurs, gymnasts, heroes, heroines, mythical and magical creatures and older readers will discover moving and uplifting tales of coming of age, friendship, family and finding themselves.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival receives funding from Creative Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council and this year welcomes over 800 participants from 55 different countries to Charlotte Square Gardens and runs from Saturday 13 to Monday 29 August 2016.  Entrance to the Gardens is FREE, and full details of the programme can be found at www.edbookfest.co.uk. Tickets to all events go on sale at 8.30am on Tuesday 21 June 2016, online at www.edbookfest.co.uk, by phone on 0845 373 5888 or in person at the Box Office at the Roxburghe Hotel on George Street (on Tuesday 21 June only, thereafter at The Hub, Castlehill).

We look forward to welcoming you to Charlotte Square Gardens in August!

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