Writing the City

Writing the City

70 years after the dream of utopia began, the Book Festival has been travelling to Scotland’s New Towns – Cumbernauld, Glenrothes, Irvine, Livingston and East Kilbride – putting on a Festival in each location to explore the stories of the places and the people who live or have grown up there. Now we bring some of those ideas to Edinburgh, look back at the past, consider what it takes to make a town work and ask what the next 70 years holds. Also, in partnership with the LSE’s Theatrum Mundi, artists, architects and academics investigate the city through speculative fiction and celebrate how writers inspire a city’s future. Edinburgh’s New Town is 200 years old and authors discuss the city and the culture that inspired it.


Reading the City

Edinburgh’s New Town

Saturday 12 August 12:30pm - 1:30pm

Edinburgh has inspired writers, poets and thinkers throughout the ages: from the great philosophers of the Enlightenment to gritty modern crime fiction. Listen to readings about Auld Reekie, learn about its influence on local authors and join in with a...

The Story of Edinburgh

Journey Through the Literary Landscape

Saturday 12 August 1:30pm - 5:30pm

Drop in for a mix of lively storytelling and readings, led by authors from Edinburgh's literary history. You can also explore the city digitally through a touchscreen programme with LitLong: Edinburgh, an innovative way to experience the city from the...

Chris Leslie & Johnny Rodger

Reaching the Heights

Saturday 12 August 4:30pm - 5:30pm

When a major city undergoes regeneration, there are always some cons among the obvious pros. In Disappearing Glasgow, artist and photographer Chris Leslie and Professor of Architecture Johnny Rodger present a joint project exploring how Glasgow’s...

Sheila Szatkowski

Enlightenment City

Sunday 13 August 11:00am - 12:00pm

When Voltaire said, 'We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation' he was mainly thinking of Edinburgh. It may no longer be the intellectual hub of the western world, but as Sheila Szatkowski shows in Enlightenment Edinburgh, a guide to the...

Iain Fraser & Anne Fraser Sim

Art of Midlothian

Sunday 13 August 12:30pm - 1:30pm

An hour of pure Edinburgh indulgence in the form of a personal journey exploring the city. For A Sketchbook of Edinburgh, Iain Fraser and Anne Fraser Sim, owners of the Elephant House café, have commissioned 150 works from four local artists to...

Angus Farquhar & Diane M Watters

Resurrection of St Peter’s

Sunday 13 August 7:15pm - 8:15pm

In St Peter’s, Cardross, architectural historian Diane M Watters and Angus Farquhar, Creative Director of the Glasgow-based arts organisation NVA, tell the fascinating story of the short-lived (1966-79) Catholic seminary that has been called both the...

Will Self & Richard Sennett

Draughtsmen Drafting

Monday 14 August 1:30pm - 2:30pm

Our Writing the City events continue with a fascinating conversation between novelist, commentator and psychogeographer Will Self and Richard Sennett, Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics. Taking inspiration from Italo Calvino's...

The Quito Papers Edinburgh

Reimagining Future Cities

Monday 14 August 3:45pm - 4:45pm

Though written in 1933, the Charter of Athens still defines how and why cities are built. The Quito Papers is an ambitious global project, led by Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen, which is rethinking the vision of how towns and cities are built in the...

Honor Gavin, Adam Kaasa & Ishbel McFarlane

Cities of Our Dreams

Tuesday 15 August 12:15pm - 1:15pm

Every city is a creative imagining, a utopian dream where, hopefully, we will live happily ever after. Ishbel McFarlane created Plan, an interactive game to get people thinking about the complexities of creating New Towns. Honor Gavin and Adam Kaasa’s...