Books, talks and Totty Rocks

Book lantern magic

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!

Where do I go next?

A tented town of books.

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.

Bring me a glass of wine, dear.

If the weather is good you could spend the day here, sitting in the sun, enjoying the buzz, reading one of a pile of books bought in the book shop.

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.

Smile please, or glower if you'd rather.

Photographs on vinyl of writers at the book festival.

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.

There's a question about this.

Writer Stuart Kelly posing his green question.

Smooth back, jaggy thistle

Writer Sara Sheridan going with the thistle.

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 –

Wine and chat this way

Launch party for Lin Anderson’s latest thriller The Special Dead.

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 ( 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.

Red and black

Writer Lin Anderson in her red and black Bloody Scotland outfit.

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.

Welcoming not creepy

The dark aspect of the Edinburgh Book Festival.

Like a scene for a story book.

The enchanted book town after dark on a balmy August evening.

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.

Robert Adam's number six

Six Charlotte Square, the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland.

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.

Walk into my parlour…

Entrance to the festival, entrance to a different world – just like a good story.


About jingsandthings

I am me. What do I like? Colour Shapes Textures Paintings, photographs, sculptures, woven tapestries, wonderful materials. The love of materials probably comes from my father who was a textile buyer, and I grew up hearing the names of mills and manufacturers which sounded magical and enticing. Glass in all its soft and vibrant colours and flowing shapes, even sixties glass which makes its own proud statement. A book I can immerse myself in. Meals with family or friends with lots of chat and laughter (and probably a bottle or two of wine). The occasional trip abroad to experience the sights, sounds, food, conversation, quality of light and warmth of other countries. To revel in differences and be amazed by similarities. I like to create and to experience, to try and to achieve. And then there are words – read, heard, written at my keyboard, or scrawled on sticky notes, or along the edges of dog-eared supermarket receipts excavated from the unexplored nooks of my handbag. What do I dislike? Cold Snow Bad design Fast food Condescension
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Books, talks and Totty Rocks

  1. Mama Cormier says:

    Looks like a fun but classy event. We have a huge outdoor book fair here in Toronto but yours sounds a little more sophisticated than ours.

    • I Seem to remember the Edinburgh one is in the top five in the world – part of an international clique of book festivals. It’s quite an event.All sorts of big names, writers as well as journalists and politicians.

  2. Chris says:

    This sounds wonderful. Every city should have such a major event. We have Blue Metropolis in Montreal, a five day international literary festival that’s smaller than the Edinburgh one, but it’s multilingual. This past spring’s edition featured more than 200 events in eight languages. Authors came from a dozen countries. One event I love is the literary walking tour–with the focus on a different local author and / or part of the city each year. The main venue, a hotel, was much less appealing than the setup in Edinburgh. Almost no dining or snacking options, and what was offered was absurdly priced. Terrible acoustics in some of the presentation rooms. But the authors and books, of course, were what counted.

  3. Book festivals are big in Scotland. Apart from Edinburgh most other cities and many towns have them on a smaller scale. They provide an opportunity for readers to engage with authors, and the events for children encourage children to enjoy reading. So many benefits. Authors get opportunities for greater exposure, so sell more books. Readers enjoy the buzz. And local shops, eating places and hotels benefit from increased visitors.

    Some festivals add other entertainment and events to the programme, and some have competitions. Most have opportunities for new authors to read from their works. All great fun.

  4. Kev says:

    Great pics! Looks like I’m missing out. 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.