Edinburgh International Book Festival switches venue for August event

Edinburgh International Book Festival switches venue for August event

The Edinburgh International Book Festival will run from 14th to 30th August at a new location: the Edinburgh College of Art.

Organisers say they are planning a range of live online author talks, workshops and readings. Some events could take place in front of socially distanced audiences, if circumstances allow. Further details of the line-up will be announced in June.

This will be the event's first year at the University of Edinburgh college on Lauriston Place, a shift from its usual event at Charlotte Square Gardens, following a new partnership with the university. It comes after the festival went online only last year in response to the pandemic.

Festival director Nick Barley said, with in-person ticket sales impossible to forecast due to Covid-19, the festival “simply can't justify” the costs of tents and infrastructure normally put into Charlotte Square Gardens. 

He explained: “While we are now experiencing a full lockdown in Scotland which is challenging for so many people on so many levels, we very much hope that the combination of this, together with the ongoing vaccination programme, will bring the virus under control by August. While 2020 proved extremely challenging for the book festival it also opened up some extraordinarily exciting opportunities. Building on the success of our online book festival we can now announce that we will be entering into a new strategic partnership with the University of Edinburgh that will enable us to inhabit this innovative space in 2021 with facilities to create events for both digital and, if circumstances permit, physical audiences.

He added: “In the grassy courtyard of Edinburgh College of Art we will, if rules allow, re-create the elements of the book festival that our audiences love – bookshops, cafes and open spaces in which to come together safely offering the ‘oasis of calm’ for which the book festival is renowned. The college offers excellent studio and theatre facilities for both online broadcasting and potential events with a socially distanced audience.”

The partnership gives the festival licence to occupy spaces within the University of Edinburgh’s Edinburgh College of Art in August. Barley said the partnership with the university was likely to be a long-term arrangement and the festival was likely to continue to use the spaces in a Covid-free era.

He added: “Digital events will continue to be a key part of future book festivals, enabling us to reach truly global audiences as well as those closer to home who face barriers to attending the event.  We are excited that our hybrid festivals of the future will engage with authors and audiences around the world in a more environmentally responsible way.”

Principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, Professor Peter Mathieson, said: “We were delighted to be asked by the Edinburgh International Book Festival to support future events through this mutually beneficial arrangement. Building on our existing partnership this new deeper relationship will help to ensure that people in Edinburgh, and all over the world, can continue to come together to explore the power of ideas through their love of literature.”   

The 2020 Edinburgh International Book Festival presented a fully digital programme In August, with 146 online events including appearances from Bernardine Evaristo, Douglas Stuart, Samantha Power, Matt Haig, Hilary Mantel and Marian Keyes.