Bid to promote Edinburgh book festival across Scotland

Book festival chief Nick Barley is keen to promote the event beyond Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Book festival chief Nick Barley is keen to promote the event beyond Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE Edinburgh International Book Festival has revealed plans to roll out a series of new events across Scotland in an attempt to increase the nationwide reach of the event.

A string of “mini festivals” will be created across the country in locations that do not already boast a literary event.

I really want to create mini-festivals beyond Charlotte Square so that we can enhance the local quality of what we do

Nick Barley

Festival director Nick Barley said several new events would be held each year for the foreseeable future under plans to “instil a love of reading and books”.

Some of Scotland’s most remote corners, including parts of the Hebrides, are likely to be included under the prog­ramme, which will be a major expansion of the book festival’s activities.

However Barley, whose event opened yesterday, insisted the regional spin-offs were not aimed at competing with existing festivals, such as those staged in Wigtown, the Borders, Ull­apool and Boswell, in Ayrshire.

The new “Booked!” series will showcase local writers and authors, while each area chosen for the initiative will sec­ure a major showcase at the main festival event in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, in August.

One-off events are being held away from the festival site this month under the initiative – which is being paid for with a £175,000 grant from the People’s Postcode Lottery.

These include talks behind bars at prisons in Edinburgh and Dundee featuring singer Edwyn Collins and crime writer Christopher Brookmyre.

Barley said talks were already under way with several potential partners over running a “book festival-style series of events” in their area.

“We’re in conversation with lots of different people about doing events all across Scotland. We’ll be rolling out year-round activities with the aim of trying to build connections which we can then bring back to Edinburgh,” he said.

“It wouldn’t just be stand-alone events, but mini-festivals. It is our job to try to bring in the widest possible audience for book events, but we are also good at doing festivals.

“What really makes [American civil rights leader] Jesse Jackson’s event great in Edinburgh this month is that it’s happening alongside debut Scottish novelists. People get to feel the buzz of the festival.

“I really want to create mini-festivals beyond Charlotte Square so that we can enhance the local quality of what we do. The best festivals are both local and international at the same time.”

Creative Scotland, which has just published a review of the literary and publishing sector, said there are now at least 50 different events held across the country. Among the most far-flung are those held in Shetland, Colonsay, Islay, Huntly and Nairn.

Barley added: “We don’t want to compete with existing festivals, but there are plenty of places that don’t have any at all. We’re pretty close to announcing the first ones and plan to roll them out from the autumn.”

Emma Turnbull, literature officer at Creative Scotland, said: “The Edinburgh International Book Festival is the largest festival of its kind in the world.

“It’s fantastic that through the Booked! programme many more people across Scotland will now have the opportunity to see, explore and enjoy the wonders this dynamic festival has to offer. Reaching out into communities, it will take an inspiring programme of authors and artists to readers across the country.”