One of the many festivals in Edinburgh at this time of year is the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Its programme of events is so large that when listed make a book to add to the thousands for sale at the event.
Nowhere else can you rub shoulders and chat with so many authors and celebrities from around the world, all keen to woo the public in order to give us their views on the world, to sell their books. Exciting stuff!
Every year the book festival takes over a large grassy garden in Charlotte Square, a green space in the heart of the New Town, which belongs to the owners of buildings on its perimeter. A town of marquees is erected from the ticket and milling area you first pass through to marquees of various sizes sponsored by businesses for author readings and interviews, activities for children, space for hospitality, a writers’ retreat, book signing areas, media accreditation and PR space, as well as bars, cafes, toilets and of course the festival bookshop, with a roofed walkway running past all.
In the centre of the square are tables and chairs for visitors to lounge in good weather while reading, sipping a coffee, or licking an ice cream from the nearby barrow. In the Moulin Rouge bar opportunities abound for new writers to read their work to an audience (not always quietly attentive) and meet up with fellow word toilers.
The place has an atmosphere of its own – a mixture of staid and extrovert, laid back and lively, buzzing, and reflective, funny, sad, confrontational, thought-provoking, satisfying, enjoyable.
As well as books, the festival promotes its authors by posting vinyl printed photographs of them around the area. Too boring if they all stood upright and po-faced, so some adopt quirky poses, peculiar outfits. A L Kennedy’s had her standing to attention in a buttoned-up jacked with tape across her mouth. I didn’t get a shot of that one, and two of the three I managed to take were of authors known in the Borders, Stuart Kelly and Sara Sheridan.
We were at the book festival as we had received an invitation to the launch party of Lin Anderson’s latest crime novel. Last year, Lin came to Borders Writers’ Forum and gave us one of her master classes – a fascinating and informative afternoon. Lin is one of the founder members of Bloody Scotland, a group of crime writers who hold their own Bloody Scotland festival each year to promote their books and entertain and inform the crime reading (and writing) public. This year’s festival is in Stirling from 11th to 13th September. If you fancy attending or learning more – https://www.bloodyscotland.com/2015-brochure/
Lin Anderson is a tall, slim lady, and she quipped that the outfit she was wearing and her wedding dress are the only clothes that fit her properly as both were specially made for her. She was wearing a red and black tartan skirt and a red and black jacket with silver buttons engraved with thistles – what Lin calls her Bloody Scotland outfit – an ensemble made by Edinburgh designers Totty Rocks (http://www.tottyrocks.co.uk). They told her never before had they made a skirt or jacket so long for a customer. If the name Totty Rocks seems familiar, then think First Minister, as this is where Nicola Sturgeon buys the stunning outfits we see her wearing on television and in media photos.
It was dark as we left, but this is when, on a balmy August evening, Charlotte Square and the book festival look their most intriguing and inviting. Calm descends as people mull over the events of the day, caught in the colours that highlight venues and turn the scene into a magical wonderland.
We walk past the central house on the north side of Charlotte Square, number six, Bute House, which was conveyed to the National Trust for Scotland by the Marquess of Bute in 1966 in lieu of death duties. The building bears the signature of the famous architect Robert Adam.
Until the Scottish Parliament was set up (1999) Bute House was the official residence of the Secretary of State for Scotland. Today, the four storey house is home to the Cabinet Room, offices, conference room, and official reception, sitting and dining rooms of the First Minister. It is also where ministers of the Scottish Government, official visitors and guests are received and entertained. The second and third floors contain the private residence of Scotland’s First Minister, although I understand Nicola Sturgeon only uses Bute House for official business, preferring to stay with her husband in their own home in Glasgow. There were lights on as we passed, so perhaps our First Minister had, as Alex Salmond her predecessor often did, been enjoying an event at the book festival.