Mantel, Evaristo, Mitchell set for ElBF's August online programme

Mantel, Evaristo, Mitchell set for ElBF's August online programme

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is planning 140 online events over 17 days this August, spotlighting 200 authors and illustrators from over 30 countries including Hilary Mantel and Bernardine Evaristo.

Taking place from Saturday 15th August to Monday 31st August, the Book Fair will be hosting live conversations, discussions and readings from authors and illustrators who are coming together from around the world.

The line-up includes Mantel, discussing her 2020 Book Prize longlisted novel The Mirror and the Light (Fourth Estate); Arundhati Roy, reflecting on the implications of the global pandemic in Azadi (Penguin), her forthcoming collection of essays; and David Mitchell, exploring the musical inspiration behind Utopia Avenue (Sceptre). Also participating are Evaristo, who won 2019's Booker Prize, alongside Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Turkish author Elif Shafak, as she launches her new polemic How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division (Wellcome Collection), and Irish author Marian Keyes to talk about her latest bestseller Grown Ups (Michael Joseph). 

Scottish talent on the roster includes Maggie O’Farrell, dissecting her first historical novel Hamnet (Headline), Val McDermid, launching the latest in her Karen Pirie series in conversation with Joan Bakewell, Alexander McCall Smith, speaking with the former leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson, and Douglas Stuart, discussing his debut, Shuggie Bain, longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. Courtney Stoddart and Heather H Yeung are amongst writers in a Scottish BAME Writers Network showcase looking at Scotland’s literary heritage, past, present and future.

The Book Festival will celebrate the launch of Summer (Hamish Hamilton), the final installment in Ali Smith’s quartet of seasonal novels with a one-off exclusive showing of "Festival", a short film by Sarah Wood. In a series of keynote events launching new books, Andrew O’Hagan will be introducing his first novel in five years, Michel Faber will be discussing his Dickens-Inspired tale D (Doubleday), Ian Rankin will be bringing his latest Rebus story (Orion), and Richard Holloway will be launching Stories We Tell Ourselves (Canongate).

International authors appearing include Samantha Power, former war correspondent and US Ambassador to the UN; Guadeloupe-born novelist and playwright Maryse Condé; Japan’s Mieko Kawakami with her first novel translated into English; Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, a leading voice in the Umbrella Movement; American journalist Anne Applebaum on "the Twilight of Democracy"; and Maaza Mengiste, whose novel The Shadow King (Canongate), set during Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, was also nominated for the 2020 Booker Prize. All six authors shortlisted for the 2020 International Booker Prize also appear in conversation with their translators.

Leading events for a YA audience are appearances from Juno Dawson with her radical retelling of Alice in Wonderland and global bestseller Cassandra Clare discussing the first in her new trilogy. Meanwhile for poetry, British-Trinidadian and T S Eliot Prize winner Roger Robinson will feature in a session with Mojave American and Latinx Natalie Diaz and British "Instapoet" Nikita Gill; Sarah Crossan will introduce her new verse novel Here is the Beehive (Bloomsbury), her first book for adults; and Derek Owusu will discuss his novel That Reminds Me, the first novel from Stormzy's #Merky Books and winner of the 2020 Desmond Elliot Prize.

The Baillie Gifford Children’s Programme is meanwhile offering a 10 minute "Drawalong" activity for younger audiences on the Book Festival’s Facebook page (@edbookfest), while Rob Biddulph shows off his new picture book, Oliver Jeffers drops in from his home in New York to inspire budding illustrators of all ages, Julia Donaldson brings some of her favourite characters to life in two events, and Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell introduces the latest in her Wizards of Once series with special guest Eoin Colfer.  

All the events, which will cross continents, time zones and genres, will be free to access through the Book Festival's website. There will be audience chat rooms, Q&A sessions, a new online bookshop and, despite being online, there will still be the chance for audiences to meet authors face-to-face and even have their book signed.

Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, said: “It’s been a leap of faith for everyone involved, but in these extraordinary few months we’ve managed to transform the way we deliver our Festival, bringing writers and readers together in a new online space for discussion and imagination. Despite the challenges I’ve been inspired by authors’ enthusiasm to try out this new approach, joining us in Edinburgh from all over the world without having to leave their homes. As society searches for ways to make sense of the new reality, it’s clearer than ever that books and writers offer a framework for constructive dialogue and for sharing bold new ideas.

"Thanks to the continued and generous support of so many of our funding partners and sponsors, including the Scottish Government, Creative Scotland, City of Edinburgh Council, Baillie Gifford and players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and of course our loyal and adventurous audience, we are able to Keep the Conversation Going in August."

Mairi Kidd, Head of Literature, Languages & Publishing at Creative Scotland said: “In a context of enormous challenge the team at Edinburgh International Book Festival have created a bold and lively programme bringing audiences in Scotland and around the world together with writers, artists and other thinkers to explore pressing issues and the power of the imagination to sustain us. In the digital space these events have the potential to reach vast new audiences and we hope that this year's programme will open the doors to many more fans for the future." 

In a special event for industry professionals, the Book Festival is running "Chance to Change—the Future of Publishing", a forum "for shared thinking and debate about the future of publishing in these extraordinary times". It will be chaired by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey OBE. In addition, a Literary Scout Masterclass with Rebecca Servadio, managing partner of London Literary Scouting, and rights agent Andrea Joyce, is offering publishing professionals practical advice on accessing international markets.

Full details of the 2020 online Edinburgh International Book Festival can be found at