P.J. Harvey, Jarvis Cocker, Irvine Welsh, Maggie O’Farrell, Julia Donaldson, and Scotland’s First Minister interviewing actor Brian Cox, are among the literary smorgasbord being served up at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2022.
Over 550 guests from 50 countries will be appearing at this August’s Book Festival, online and in-person, for adults and children of all ages, with the Festival's rallying call this year "All Together Now".
Like many things, Covid-19 made a lasting impression on the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Last year, planning in a climate of pandemic uncertainty, the Book Festival beefed up its technical offering, and produced a hybrid festival of in-person and online events, out of the Edinburgh College of Art. It was the Festival’s first move from its traditional home at Charlotte Square Garden since 1983, and built on the hastily assembled, fully online Festival of 2020.
“We’ve learned a great deal in the last two years,” says Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, “alongside the return of our full-scale in-person festival we can also offer the accessibility and international reach of live-streamed events.”
This year and next, the “Book Festival Village'' will again be stationed at the Edinburgh College of Art, before it moves to a new permanent home, in 2024, at the Edinburgh Futures Institute. Both venues are part of the University of Edinburgh campus, which Barley sees as a long-term strategic partner.
The move to the Futures Institute, on the site of the old Royal Infirmary on Lauriston Place, will provide the Book Festival with the facilities to further develop its online programming, while also providing a familiar bookfest-like environment, with its historic building and ‘village green’ space.
2022 Adult Programme
Central Hall, a five-minute walk from Edinburgh College of Art, is the biggest of several new event spaces that the Book Festival has expanded into for its 600 events this year. The Lothian Road venue will host Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa and Vietnamese American poet Ocean Vuong, Outlander writer Diana Gabaldon, Jack Monroe, Alexander McCall Smith, Denise Mina, William Dalrymple and Armando Iannucci.
Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020 winner Maggie O'Farrell launches her new novel The Marriage Portrait, a portrayal of the battle for survival by a captivating young duchess in 16th century Florence.
Val McDermid follows up last year’s bestselling 1979 with 1989, the latest in her series chronicling modern Scotland, while Irvine Welsh talks for the first time about his new crime novel The Long Knives, and comedian Frankie Boyle will talk about his debut novel, a gritty thriller set in post-indieref Glasgow.
The most recent winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Abdulrazak Gurnah, talks about his novel Afterlives.
Other prominent writers discussing their new books will be Booker Prize winners Marlon James, Damon Galgut, Howard Jacobson and Julian Barnes.
Douglas Stuart is back on home soil with Young Mungo, the follow-up to his Booker-winning first novel Shuggie Bain and Anne Enright returns to the Book Festival to reflect on finding influence and inspiration in Ireland. Enright will also interview American writer Mary Gaitskill.
Two more Irish writers making a return to the Book Festival are Colm Tóibín – the new Irish Laureate for Fiction who was recently awarded the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime of achievement – and Small Things Like These author Claire Keegan.
Monica Ali introduces Love Marriage, her first novel for a decade.
Around 40 or so guests, from Booker Prize finalist NoViolet Bulawayo to 93-year-old iconoclast Noam Chomsky, are listed in the Festival programme as appearing remotely.
Martha Wainwright, Jarvis Cocker, Vashti Bunyan, and Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross will be sharing stories of their journeys through the world of music, while writer Sinead Gleeson discusses This Woman’s Work – the anthology she co-edited about women and music – with contributor Ottessa Moshfegh.
Screenwriter Abi Morgan and actor Alan Cumming discuss their memoirs.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon joins the Festival to interview the aforementioned Scottish actor Brian Cox, who will no doubt giving some candid insights from a life on stage and screen, and in a separate event Sturgeon will interview Louise Welsh about her new novel The Second Cut.
The Book Festival has been a reliable place to follow deep dives into current affairs and this year should be no different.
“The world has changed immeasurably since 2019,” says Book Festival Director Barley, “we’re learning to live with the effects of the pandemic and war in Europe – but we’re also beginning to imagine what a better future should look like. Exploring these issues in inspiring conversations with scientists, historians, poets and novelists is exactly where the Book Festival comes into its own.”
Questions around the role of Europe and the impact of war remain front of mind. Chernobyl expert and bestselling Ukrainian historian Serhii Plokhy will discuss Ukraine’s position at the crossroads of Europe and Russia, while Gideon Rachman, Andrew Wilson and Lea Ypi come together to investigate the rise of authoritarian leaders.
Historian Antony Beevor will talk about his new book exploring the dramatic story of Russia’s revolution and a savage civil war that continues to influence the modern era.
In a story from closer to home, Norman Scott will share his own perspective on his affair with politician Jeremy Thorpe in the 1970s, and a subsequent failed assassination attempt.
Meanwhile the festival will explore the relationship between money and power in the post-pandemic world and rising inequality in the UK, in events featuring leading economists Mariana Mazzucato and John Kay; historian Adam Tooze and journalist Oliver Bullough.
Poetry heavyweights, alongside up-and-coming talent, also feature this year with the likes of American poet Ada Limón, while P J Harvey will be in conversation with fellow poet and editor Don Paterson about her magic realist poem Orlam set in the West Country and written in the Dorset dialect.
Look out, too, for Edinburgh Makar Hannah Lavery, and Michael Pedersen with special guests Shirley Manson and Charlotte Church.
Lemn Sissay, Malika Booker, Kayo Chingonyi and Salena Godden will take the stage together to celebrate the work of Black British poets.
More Black perspectives
Black perspectives also take centre stage in non-fiction events at this year’s Festival. Howard W French presents a revised history of modern civilisation from the point of view of Africa and its people in conversation with Olivette Otele.
Two writers best known for their fiction – Tsitsi Dangarembga from Zimbabwe and Esi Edugyan from Canada – will discuss their essays on race and representation.
Lord Simon Woolley, founder and director of Operation Black Vote and the first Black man to lead an Oxbridge college, will talk about his own inspiring life story with Baroness Lola Young.
From democracy to dictatorship, the translators and family members of imprisoned Egyptian writer and political activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah – including leading Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif - will share his collection of writing and discuss the reality of living under dictatorship.
This August the Book Festival features a range of LGBTQIA+ voices. Participants include Imogen Binnie, Torrey Peters and Shola von Reinhold who join Harry Josephine Giles to talk about the evolution of trans literature, and award-winning poet and performer Joelle Taylor who encourages audiences to use personal experience and perspectives to create new forms of poetry.
Scottish Books Staged
In an unprecedented year for performance at the Book Festival, This is Memorial Device is a full theatre production in the Wee Red Bar, a new play based on David Keenan’s novel of the same name, and presented throughout the Festival. Graham Eatough’s adaptation is the latest development in a long-term partnership between the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and the Book Festival.
Performance events also include a series entitled Scotland Through Time – supported through the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund – looking at Scotland’s past, present and future through new books.
Using a fusion of sign language, image and performance, Sarah Smith presents Hear No Evil. Telling the story of Jean Campbell, a Deaf woman who in 1817 in Glasgow was accused of murder when her child drowned in the Clyde, the performance explores what was a turning point in rights for Deaf people in Scotland, and is created in partnership with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s BA course in Performance in British Sign Language and English.
Next up is Homelands, the new memoir by Chitra Ramaswamy, brought to life using a mixture of images, sound and performance. Telling the story of the author’s friendship with Henry Wuga, who fled Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport in 1939, it interweaves their life stories through the lenses of immigration, community and the desire for connection.
Moving into a speculative future, Deep Wheel Orcadia is a fusion of music, image and performance written in Orkney dialect and based on the verse novel by Harry Josephine Giles. It is accompanied by a chamber group playing music by BAFTA-winning composer Atzi Muramatsu, commissioned specially for the project.
International performances include the premiere of a major touring production of theatre, music and image, Discretion.
Sixty years ago, Algeria won independence from French rule following a bloody eight-year war. Many fled to France to escape violence by both sides, including Faïza Guène’s parents. In a special commission supported by the British Council, the Book Festival is working with Guène to turn her book Discretion into a performance, directed by its English translator Sarah Ardizzone, with film and photography by Guène, music from Sylvie Paz and Hakim Hamadouche and acted by Lina Soualem.
Philippe Sands' book The Last Colony, charts the unlawful deportation of the inhabitants of the Chagos Islands by the British Government in the 1960s. The author is joined by RSC and Bridgerton actor Adjoa Andoh to present an illustrated performance of his book featuring readings accompanied with music by acclaimed French pianist Guillaume de Chassy.
Globally acclaimed Scottish stories
As part of Scotland's Year of Stories 2022, the Book Festival, with support from EventScotland, will champion books by globally-acclaimed Scottish authors.
Ali Smith returns to discuss her latest work, Companion Piece. Richard Holloway, who has spoken at every Festival for the last 23 years, returns for an on-stage discussion with his friend, the artist Alison Watt.
The newly-knighted Ian Rankin returns to the Festival for a conversation with Sam Baker about Murder Island, William McIlvanney and his upcoming Rebus novel, while poets Alycia Pirmohamed, Jay Gao and Andrés Ordorica present their anticipated collections.
In a new ECA venue, the Castle View Studio, the Festival will host daily creative workshops with experts in their fields.
The line-up includes Close Reads – sessions dedicated to writers discussing favourite works – with hosts including acclaimed translator Daniel Hahn, American writer Joy Williams and feminist researcher and writer Lola Olufemi.
There are writing workshops with poets Ada Limon and Omar Musa; an exploration of the poetry of Ocean Vuong; illustration with the book cover artists behind Zadie Smith and Sally Rooney’s books; and creative sessions with BHP Comics, all served up against the backdrop of Edinburgh castle.
Children’s Book Festival
A big component of past Book Festivals has been children's and youth literature. This year sees the return of some leading lights in this area: bestselling author-illustrator Cressida Cowell, the creator of the Gruffalo Julia Donaldson (whose creation has become a kind of Book Fest mascot), British poet Dean Atta, author Juno Dawson, comedy writer and former doctor Adam Kay of ‘This is Going to Hurt’ fame, and celebrated comedian and cartoonist Henry Packer.
With affordability becoming a watchword across society, Barley is keen to highlight perks at the Festival for young people.
“I’m thrilled that thanks to Baillie Gifford, every young person coming to a Schools event gets a free ticket and a free book this year," says Barley. "With all online events and a selection of our in-person theatre tickets also available on a Pay What You Can basis, we’re doing everything we can to make the festival accessible to everyone.”
The Baillie Gifford Children’s Programme includes a range of hands-on workshops for children from toddlers to teens, and the multi award-winning Michael Morpurgo returns with Carnival of Animals, a musical event for the over fives.
For the first time, the Book Festival will host the YA Book Prize Ceremony and authors Sinéad Burke, Rosie Jones, Jason Reynolds, Humza Arshad, Elle McNicoll, Ross Montgomery, and Aisha Bushby will also all present their own books and stories in a series of lively events.
Walking tours return with TV producer, actress and youngest-ever Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding, alongside Alex Wheatle and Lisa Williams, and poetry writing workshops with Nikita Gill are set to be a firm favourite with teens and preteens.
Young climate activist Mya-Rose Craig returns to Edinburgh to talk about Birdgirl, her own story of how her love of these creatures has shaped her life.
Now in its fourth year at the Festival is the Book Festival’s flagship Citizen programme, which has brought local communities in North Edinburgh, Musselburgh and Tollcross together through shared creativity.
This August the Festival showcases some of the inspirational work created by the groups: participants will share their own stories in flagship events including the Festival’s much-loved community meal, Stories and Scran, presented in partnership with the Scran Academy, and featuring local people from North Edinburgh, Tollcross and Musselburgh.
In a separate project, the Citizen Writers’ Group, led by author Eleanor Thom, presents One Day Ticket - a brand new play that will take the audience on a journey through the memories of Edinburgh in a script-in-hand performance by seven actors.
Elsewhere, young people from St Thomas of Aquin’s RC High School have worked with poet Ryan van Winkle to create an extraordinary interactive exhibition, Planet Citizen.
As part of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022, the Festival launched Scotland’s Stories Now earlier this year. People of any age and ability were asked to submit a story responding to the prompt ‘On This Day’, and each day of the Festival at 5pm, a different one of these stories will be read out live by its author.
Finally, for authors and those in the publishing industry, the festival's The Business of Books strand returns for the second year. The programme comprises of six events ranging from discussions from ways in which the book trade is evolving to showcases of literary talent. Tickets will be offered on a Pay What You Can basis.
The 2022 Festival's slogan "All Together Now" reflects the range and variety of this year's programme, the sense of returning to live gatherings, and the need to address growing strife and division.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival’s public programme runs from Saturday 13 – Monday 29 August 2022.
Book tickets at the Edinburgh International Book Festival's website from 10am on Thursday 23 June 2022.
Picture: Launching the programme at the Festival Village site at Edinburgh College of Art are festival fan Oona Dooks (daughter of Citizen programme Writer in Residence Eleanor Thom), family favourite The Gruffalo (created by famous children’s author Julia Donaldson) spoken word artist Bemz who appears as part of The Business of Books programme, and Book Festival Director Nick Barley.