Body Matters

Body Matters

At the Book Festival we are passionately interested in matters of the mind – but this year we consider the all-important role our bodies play in our sense of self. From the ‘body positivity’ movement, to our physical and mental health, how do our bodies and bodily functions help shape who we are? We invite writers and thinkers to join us for open and candid discussions about the machine we live in, reflecting on how we talk about things like ageing, illness, disability, sex, birth and our own mortality – including the role AI could (and can) play in enhancing our body and mind. Expect fun and frank discussions about a subject integral to almost everything we do.


Joan Bakewell with Richard Holloway: Moving On

Sunday 15 August 10:00 - 11:00

BSL Interpreted, Captioned
Situated in a leafy square in North London, Joan Bakewell’s generous townhouse was a regular meeting place for the extended family she adores, a happy by-product of a stellar career. Her recent decision to downsize was not just a pragmatic thing: it...

Eva Baltasar & Lina Meruane: Body Politics

Thursday 19 August 16:15 - 17:15

Rebecca Solnit has argued that ‘every illness is narrative’ and Lina Meruane’s novel Nervous System certainly gives credence to that view. It centres on a woman named Ella who, in struggling to finish her PhD, becomes fixated on the functions and...

Raynor Winn with Sally Magnusson: Nature and Mortality

Saturday 21 August 14:30 - 15:30

BSL Interpreted
The Salt Path chronicled the experiences of Raynor Winn and her husband Moth when, both in their 50s, they were evicted from their beloved farm in Wales. Shortly afterwards, Moth was diagnosed with an incurable brain disease. Against all medical advice,...

Maggie O'Farrell: Loves, Labours, Loss

Saturday 21 August 19:00 - 20:00

Edinburgh-based Maggie O’Farrell hit a spectacular new career high last year with the publication of Hamnet – winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, a huge bestseller across the world and unquestionably a standout book of 2020. Why did...

Jeanette Winterson: Remaking Ourselves

Sunday 22 August 13:00 - 14:00

BSL Interpreted
In a recent interview, Jeanette Winterson said ‘I believe in human beings, even though they have done some terrible things. But, when I look at history, every invention of ours ends up being used in the worst possible way. What will we do with...

Alison Bechdel: Can Exercise Fix Us?

Monday 23 August 14:30 - 15:30

BSL Interpreted, Captioned
Yoga with Adriene, wild-swimming, step-trackers, Strava: just a few of the trends that have dominated the fitness industry – and our lives – in recent years. What does our fitful relationship with exercise tell us about who we are today? American...
In what is ostensibly an era of choice, the most personal decisions we make – about our bodies and how we live our lives – continue to be subject to analysis, discussion and frequently unwelcome debate. We are under scrutiny and surrounded by...

Peter Scott-Morgan: Rewiring Humanity

Tuesday 24 August 17:30 - 18:30

The first sign that something was not right came to scientist Dr Peter Scott-Morgan when he was getting out of the bath – no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't manage to shake the water from his feet. Not long after, he was diagnosed with MND...

Eimear McBride: Disgust

Thursday 26 August 16:00 - 17:00

BSL Interpreted
‘Women are really angry. I am… I do feel a really deep, burning sense of injustice at the way women are treated in our world and I want to write about that.’ So said Eimear McBride in a recent interview and she has seen through that impulse with a...

Olivia Laing: Your Body is a Battleground

Thursday 26 August 16:15 - 17:15

Olivia Laing had the idea for her new book Everybody in the summer of 2015 at the height of the refugee crisis in Europe. The chaotic times that followed – including Britain’s vote for Brexit and Trump’s victory in the US elections – only served...