Scotland

Edinburgh International Book festival celebrates 30 years

Image caption The first Edinburgh Book Festival was held in 1983

The Edinburgh Book Festival, which is celebrating 30 years, is the "largest and best-respected literary festival in the world", according to its director.

Nick Barley said the festival, which runs until 26 August, was "more popular than ever" and tickets sales had been "extremely positive".

More than 800 authors from around the world will take part in 700 events during the festival.

All the events take place in the city's Charlotte Square Gardens.

Mr Barley, who has been the festival's director for four years, said its continued success was a "testament to his predecessors".

Jenny Brown, the festival's first director, back in 1983, said there was nothing like it in Scotland at the time, and in fact there were only two other similar events in the UK. Now there are more than 300.

She said: "It was conceived of as being a big, one-off celebration of books and the written word at the Edinburgh Festival, which had every other art form represented but nothing on literature.

"To our astonishment we had a brilliant programme, with people like John Updike and Anthony Burgess, and the public loved it."

Mr Barley said there had been an "explosion of literary talent" in Scotland over the past 30 years.

Val McDermid, Iain Banks, Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and Christopher Brookmyre
Image caption The festival celebrates an explosion in Scottish writing

In 1983, many of today's leading Scottish writers, including Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith, Irvine Welsh, James Kelman and J K Rowling, were yet to publish the novels that would bring them fame across the world.

And a young Iain Banks was writing his first book.

Mr Barley said that Banks, who died in June at the age of 59, had been hoping to read from his final book, The Quarry, at the festival this year.

The festival director said: "One of my biggest regrets is that I will not be able to spend time with Iain Banks, who has been a stalwart of the festival for many years."

Instead, the festival has arranged a tribute to the Fife author featuring Rankin, along with Val McDermid and Ken MacLeod, who was a close friend of Banks.

For Mr Barley, one of the highlights of the festival will be the "guest selectors", who include Man Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood.

She will appear at four events discussing with different authors how the best fiction breaks literary boundaries.

Other guest selectors include award-winning journalist Gavin Esler who will run sessions examining "our loss of faith in institutions that have previously upheld society's values", such as the media, the Church, the government and economists.

Novelist Neil Gaiman explores the reshaping of the modern fantasy story and bestselling author and founder of the Women's Fiction Prize, Kate Mosse, presents a series of discussions re-evaluating the role of women in the world today.

Nick Barley is the director of the book festival
Image caption Nick Barley is the director of the book festival

Mr Barley said: "The guest selectors have been a joy to work with and it gives audiences a chance to see them more often."

Many of the festival's sessions have already sold out, including, on the festival's first day, bestselling author Salman Rushdie, Edinburgh novelist Alexander McCall Smith and former Joy Division and New Order bass-player Peter Hook.

Other sell-out events include former politicians Ann Widdecombe, Tam Dalyell, Jack Straw and Roy Hattersley.

BBC TV presenter Andrew Marr, who will be making his first public appearance since suffering a stroke earlier this year, has also proved popular, as have fellow broadcasters Robert Peston, Melvyn Bragg, Will Gompertz and Jeremy Bowen.

One of the first events to sell out was The Independence Debate with Kirsty Wark, which "seeks to debunk the myths and false statements around Scotland's referendum debate", a theme Mr Barley intends to return to at next year's festival which will coincide with the referendum campaign.

Events featuring Ian Rankin, Christopher Brookmyre, Caitlin Moran, Dr Susan Greenfield, Rupert Everett, Ruby Wax and A C Grayling are also among those which have proved popular with ticket-buyers.

Literary superstar

As well as established names, Barley said it was important that the festival introduced its audience to rising starts of the literary world.

He pointed to New Zealand author Eleanor Catton, whose second novel The Luminaries was named on the longlist of the Man Booker Prize, as one-to-watch.

He said: "I confidently predict she is a literary superstar of the future."

As well as Peter Hook in conversation with Ian Rankin about the musician's days in intense post-punk legends Joy Division, the musical strand in the festival also includes Tracy Thorn from band Everything But The Girl and John Taylor of eighties pop sensations Duran Duran, who have also written memoirs.

Inspector Rebus author Rankin, famous for his love of rock music, will also hold a session with Tim Burgess of The Charlatans.

Mr Barley said the inclusion of "authors who did not mean to be authors" opened up the festival to people who were not necessarily interested in literary novels.

Other strands at the festival include Stripped, which looks at comics and graphic novels, and the incredibly popular children's programme featuring household names such as Julia Donaldson and the newly-appointed Children's Laureate, Malorie Blackman.

The festival, which runs for 17 days, is expecting 200,000 though the gates of Charlotte Square Gardens.

The 2013 Edinburgh International Book Festival runs from 10-26 August.

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