Citizen Tours, Talks and Screenings at the 2021 Edinburgh International Book Festival

Citizen Tours, Talks and Screenings at the 2021 Edinburgh International Book Festival

This August, we are inviting authors and audiences to examine what it means to be a part of a community through our Citizen and Story Nation programmes.  These series of events and activities reflect on Edinburgh, its residents and their sense of place and home in Citizen, our ongoing programme of long-term partnerships with organisations and residents across the city and Musselburgh. Citizen is supported by the players of People’s Postcode Lottery through the Postcode Culture Fund and through the PLACE programme.


Noëlle Cobden, our Communities Programme Director, said “Community is at the very heart of the Book Festival. We are committed to diversifying audiences and expanding engagement across Edinburgh and this year, following our move to Edinburgh College of Art, we have been working to build ties with our new community in Tollcross. It is an opportunity to continue focusing on elevating and amplifying local voices across the city and reflecting these voices in our Citizen programme.”


New for us in 2021 is the Citizen City Tour, developed alongside Tollcross Community Action Network together with photographer Alicia Bruce and our Citizen Writer in Residence Eleanor Thom.  This free, self-guided audio tour encourages participants to explore the gap between Edinburgh’s postcard exterior and its inner heart with contributions from Omar, the owner of the Khartoum Café; Kelly, GM of the Cameo and Carol Ann, a long-time resident who recalls visiting the ‘Steamie’ or public washhouse in Tollcross.   


Confined for the best part of the last 16 months by various ‘stay at home orders’, Jenni Fagan is joined by Caleb Femi and Graeme Armstrong in Take Your Place to explore how relationships to home and identity have shifted over the course of the pandemic. Award-winning theatre director Ross MacKay heads up R-Words: Infectious Poetry for Everybody tracing the spread of his idea to infect people with poetry from conception to completion. Ten poets contributed their first lines of poems, which were then distributed across the country in a game of poetry consequences. ‘R-Words’ brings these poems together for the first time, read aloud by some of our community writing groups.  With a new One City collection of short stories set for publication in January 2022 Lesley Hinds, founder of OneCity Trust and Lord Provost’s Poverty Commission, is joined by several of the contributing writers, including Irvine Welsh, Anne Hamilton and Sara Sheridan, to look at the deepening trends of poverty and inequality within Edinburgh.   


Following on from the success of last year’s virtual event, Stories and Scran returns for a second helping. This community meal, enjoyed by our participants in the Citizen programme, will take place in Edinburgh College of Art, with dinner provided by The Scran Academy. The meal will be followed by a Citizen showcase of live readings, audio stories and short films in a celebration of community spirit.

Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery said: “I’m delighted that players are supporting the Citizen programme, helping bring the community together after a challenging year. As an Edinburgh resident myself, I’m looking forward to taking part in the activities alongside other local people to learn more about our city and those who live in it.”

Running in tandem with Citizen, the Book Festival’s Story Nation programme, which seeks to bring the joy of the Festival to communities who cannot attend events in person, takes a selection of authors from the Festival programme to visit Scottish Prisons in August including HMP Edinburgh, Perth and Cornton Vale.  The Book Festival also continues to work with the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity organising ‘costume character’ visits, workshops and distributing books at the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People. This builds upon work started in 2020 to engage children staying at the hospital in creative activities. 


Through Story Nation we will also pilot a series of screenings at The Birks cinema in Aberfeldy in August, and throughout the autumn, reaching out to audiences who are unable to attend the Festival in Edinburgh, and can suffer from unreliable broadband connections at home. Broadcasting writers and illustrators appearing in both the adult and family programmes in Edinburgh, these screenings connect the community to the Book Festival and will be supplemented with additional creative activities led by Perthshire artists.


Anna Beedham, Enterprise Director, The Birks Cinema, said: "I'm really excited to work in partnership with Edinburgh International Book Festival to bring this pilot programme to the screen at the Birks Cinema, Aberfeldy. I look forward to welcoming our audiences, and visitors back into our unique venue, to experience a literary treat, or three!" 

The Edinburgh International Book Festival runs from 14 to 30 August at Edinburgh College of Art, Lauriston Place. All events are available to view online live and on demand and tickets for a small, socially distanced audience are also on sale from Thursday 22 July at midday for some events.    Full details of all Citizen events, walking tours and screenings can be found on the Book Festival website –



Notes to Editors:

All events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival remain subject to the social distancing guidelines set in place by the Scottish Government and may be subject to last-minute change or cancellation. Edinburgh International Book Festival is committed to safeguarding its staff, authors and audiences from Covid-19 and is acting under continual advice and supervision from local authorities.     We are currently working to a 1m social distance for audiences at all events in the Baillie Gifford WestCourt and New York Times Sculpture Court Studios.  Please visit for the latest information and guidance.

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