Onwards and Upwards: 2021 Book Festival Programme Announced

Onwards and Upwards: 2021 Book Festival Programme Announced

After a universally challenging year, it’s onwards and upwards as we launch 2021's exciting programme of live, online Book Festival events.

A stellar line-up of over 300 writers, artists and thinkers from around the globe come together this August to share their ideas and stories for a changing world – and all online events are available to book from today.

During the Festival dates, 14-30 August, enjoy more than 250 events for adults, children and families online, all available to watch on a Pay What You Can basis. Online events offer the opportunity to chat with fellow book lovers and connect with authors by asking questions in our live Q&As. You can also catch up on events at a time that suits, and there’s unlimited ticket availability for the online programme, so you needn't worry about missing out. Visit our How To Book page for all the information you'll need.

In this exciting new chapter for the Book Festival, a wide range of the live-streamed events will also have in-person audiences at our new Festival home, the University of Edinburgh's Edinburgh College of Art. Around half of our participants will appear in person in Edinburgh, while others join digitally from their homes around the world. Tickets for socially-distanced in-person events will go on sale from midday on 22 July.

The Book Festival Bookshop will open its doors again during this year’s Festival and you’ll find it located in the beautiful Old Fire Station building at our new site on Lauriston Place. Our online bookshop is open 24/7 and will feature titles from authors in the 2021 programme. Selected authors will be offering book signings online and in-person too.

Our Director, Nick Barley, said: “We are incredibly excited to produce our first ‘hybrid’ festival with authors and audiences joining us both in person and online.  We welcome a mix of Scottish and international voices to discuss their ideas, hopes and dreams and we aim to explore together how to move ‘Onwards and Upwards’ from this devastating pandemic. In our new home at Edinburgh College of Art we have created three broadcast studios, two of which can accommodate limited audiences. These new facilities enable us to offer author conversations to worldwide audiences and to those closer to home who are unable to join us in person, as well as welcoming a limited In-Real-Life audience.

“The Book Festival is at the forefront of the re-emergence of public events, and we have a duty of care to our authors, audiences and staff.  It is important that we help rebuild confidence and we have therefore chosen to retain 1 metre social distancing for audiences in the studios. This gives us a reduced capacity of 100 in the New York Times Sculpture Court and 60 in the Baillie Gifford West Court. Outside in the courtyard we are recreating the ‘village green’ element of the Book Festival that our audiences enjoy with a bookshop, café, family play area, seating spaces and a big screen upon which a number of the live events will be shown. The Book Festival has always aimed to be an oasis of calm and, as ever, this will be a space for audiences to chat, relax, read a book and while away the hours in the summer sunshine.”

Although we can’t promise sun, we will be bringing hundreds of the world’s best writers and thinkers to take part in live conversations this August, including events with Nobel Prize winners Amartya Sen and Kazuo Ishiguro, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Booker Prize winners Salman Rushdie, Bernardine Evaristo, Richard Flanagan and Scotland's own Douglas Stuart (with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon) and many more. You can browse our entire programme now – we're sure you'll find plenty to enterain, challenge and inspire.

This year we’re exploring stories and ideas for a changing world, one dealing with the impact of Covid-19, climate change, poverty, inequality and the varied effects of technology, with authors, politicians, doctors and others discussing the overlapping crises we face – and how we can move forward. Other key themes for 2021 include an interrogation of Britain's history of colonialism, a celebration of LGBTQIA+ voices, a look at the importance of our bodies in shaping our sense of self, and more - visit our Themes page and explore the programme through the prism of some of this year's most important and interesting topics.

Of course, the Baillie Gifford Children’s Programme is full of fun for all ages – with 60 events to take part in from home including readings, draw-alongs, and dancing.We’re also excited to launch a new series of pre-recorded, audio-only events, available from the very start of the Festival, and a range of walking tours and family trails around Edinburgh.

Over 60 of our online events offer BSL Interpretation or Live Captions courtesy of StageText - you can find a list of these events in our What's On section. We're pleased to once again offer an interactive event designed especially for those with learning disabilities focused on the wonderful new picture book You Can! by Alexandra Strick and illustrator Steve Antony, created with the support of our friends at PAMIS.

There's plenty more to see and discover in our packed 2021 programme. The Book Festival is for everyone – whether you are in a position to pay for a ticket or not, whether you join us in person or from your sofa – so join the conversation this August as we all try to make sense of our changing world.

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