Ishiguro, Stuart and Evaristo to feature at hybrid Edinburgh International Book Festival

Ishiguro, Stuart and Evaristo to feature at hybrid Edinburgh International Book Festival

Kazuo Ishiguro, Douglas Stuart and Bernardine Evaristo are among authors appearing at this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival, which will take place in August as a hybrid event.

This year's theme, Onwards and Upwards — Ideas and Stories for a Changing World, will see 250 events for adults, children and families available online, with tickets for a limited, socially distanced audience also on sale. The festival will run from 14th to 30th August at the its new home in the University of Edinburgh’s College of Art. Almost half the speakers plan to appear in person in Edinburgh, while others will be connecting digitally.

Nobel Prize winners Amartya Sen and Ishiguro will be speaking at events, alongside Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, while Salman Rushdie is "investigating truth" with BBC journalist Allan Little. Stuart will discuss his Booker Prize-winning debut Shuggie Bain (Picador) with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, while Evaristo will introduce her selection of new Black British writing. The 2021 International Booker Prize-winning author David Diop and translator Anna Moschovakis will also join the bill. The winners of the University of Edinburgh’s James Tait Black Prizes will also be announced in an event celebrating all the shortlisted authors.

Authors bringing new releases to Edinburgh this summer include Joan Bakewell, who explores the implications of downsizing, Eimear McBride with her first non-fiction release, Matt Haig, plus new novels from Pat Barker and Elif Shafak. 

Speakers joining the festival digitally include Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Viet Than Nguyen and Marilynne Robinson, novelists Torrey Peters, Jeff VanderMeer, Willy Vlautin and Rachel Kushner, plus Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. The festival will also celebrate stories from the Caribbean with Monique Roffey and Cherie Jones and from across Africa with Rwandan Scholastique Mukasonga, South Africa’s Damon Galgut and Pumla Dineo Gqola, Liberia’s Wayétu Moore and Kenya’s Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. 

Home-grown talent includes Ian Rankin who launches The Dark Remains (Canongate), his completion of William McIlvanney’s final manuscript, Ali Smith introducing "Art in a Time of Lies", a new film made with Sarah Wood, footballer Pat Nevin in conversation with Val McDermid, and Alan Warner launching his new novel.

Maggie O’Farrell will explore the influence of her neurological condition on her writing and her ideas, while Alexander McCall Smith will presents several books written during the pandemic. To coincide with her exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, artist Alison Watt will be joined by Andrew O’Hagan to discuss the importance of influence. Scottish crime writers Doug Johnstone, Ambrose Parry and Mary Paulson-Ellis all introduce their new books, and Abir Mukherjee discusses the latest in his series set in Calcutta.

This year's event also features a programme aimed at the trade called The Business of Books, for the publishing industry and wider literary sector “to share best practice and expertise”. It includes a Scottish publisher showcase on 17th August in partnership with Publishing Scotland. On 19th August, “Rethinking 'Diversity' in Publishing: Lasting Change” will mark one year since last year's academic study of the same name. Chaired by Canongate editor-at-large Ellah P Wakatama, guests include Margaret Busby, Crystal Mahey-Morgan of OWN IT! and Samantha Williams from BookLove. Further events include “Opening Up Books: Creating Book Events for People with Learning Disabilities” and a cover design masterclass.

Elsewhere, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown will discuss global solutions for global problems, and Ed Miliband will be joined by Ece Temelkuran to explore the need for major change.

In the Reading Scotland series, supported by the Scottish government’s Edinburgh Festival’s Expo Fund, the festival has teamed six Scottish writers with new books set in Scotland, some written in Scots, with six young Scottish filmmakers and commissioned short films evoking the spirit of the setting and mood of each novel.  

Festival director Nick Barley said: “We are incredibly excited to produce our first ‘hybrid’ festival with authors and audiences joining us both in person and online. We welcome a mix of Scottish and international voices to discuss their ideas, hopes and dreams and we aim to explore together how to move ‘Onwards and Upwards’ from this devastating pandemic. In our new home at the Edinburgh College of Art we have created three broadcast studios, two of which can accommodate limited audiences. These new facilities enable us to offer author conversations to worldwide audiences and to those closer to home who are unable to join us in person, as well as welcoming a limited in-real-life audience."

Barley said the festival has a "duty of care" to authors, audiences and staff, hoping to "rebuild confidence" by retaining one-metre social distancing for audiences in reduced capacity venues. He said: "Outside in the courtyard we are re-creating the ‘village green’ element of the book festival that our audiences enjoy with a bookshop, café, family play area, seating spaces and a big screen on which a number of the live events will be shown. The book festival has always aimed to be an oasis of calm and, as ever, this will be a space for audiences to chat, relax, read a book and while away the hours in the summer sunshine.”

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