Sir Sean books in for city's literary festival

WITH the likes of Sir Sean Connery, Terry Pratchett, Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin heading for the big white tents at Charlotte Square Gardens at the west end of George Street, it can only mean one thing – the Edinburgh International Book Festival is under way.

A great strand of the city's wider festival programme, the book festival is an outstanding, world-class festival in its own right – where a record 800 authors will participate in more than 700 events for adults and children, including discussions, readings and lectures.

The bookish delights that lie in store for the 2008 festival include a world-class line-up of talent – ranging from literary heavyweights such as Salman Rushdie, Louis de Bernires and Margaret Atwood, to cult favourites like Chuck Palahniuk and Will Self, and local heroes like Alexander McCall Smith, Ian Rankin and Irvine Welsh, pictured.

Hide Ad

The packed series of literary and political events culminates with a world exclusive: the launch of one of the most eagerly anticipated books for years, the memoirs of Sean Connery, Being A Scot.

In the city of his birth, and on his 78th birthday, the Capital's most famous son will be in discussion with his co-author, distinguished Scottish film-maker Murray Grigor, on the final day of this year's Book Festival.

Sir Sean's appearance also marks a James Bond presence in this, the 100th anniversary year of Ian Fleming's birth. Author and comedian Charlie Higson will launch the fifth and final episode of his hugely successful Young Bond series at this year's festival, and the authorised biography of Ian Fleming, For Your Eyes Only, will also be presented.

With such a line-up of talent on display, it's not surprising that bookworms went into a buying frenzy when the box office opened last month. In the first hour there were over 300,000 hits on the festival's website and 21,000 telephone calls, as 700 events sold out through the morning.

Sir Sean's session on his book sold out completely within about 40 minutes, with Alex Salmond, Atwood and Rankin soon following, along with writers' workshops.

The huge demand for tickets for the festival, which runs until August 25, has defied dire predictions that it would suffer the effects of the credit crunch.

Hide Ad

Catherine Lockerbie, the book festival's director, said that a determination to keep prices in check had helped to boost audiences. Internet bookings rose by a third, and demand had outstripped supply for many of the most popular shows, most notably this year's closing event, an audience with Sir Sean.

"One of our key aims is to keep the festival solvent, at the lowest possible ticket price," says Lockerbie, who operates the book festival as a non-profit making trust.

Hide Ad

"If I was company-minded, I would have hired a huge hall and charged 50 a ticket for Sean Connery, but that is not our ethos."

She adds: "Instead it is an intimate venue at 9 for each seat. It's a point of principle, but I am effortlessly denying us income."

As well as being delighted by ticket sales, Lockerbie is also overjoyed that so many authors have accepted her invitation to be part of what is an intricately constructed 25th anniversary festival.

She says: "It is my passion to make this the most international, illuminating, engaging, argumentative and inspiring celebration of words and ideas anywhere in the world."

Edinburgh International Book Festival takes place at Charlotte Square Gardens and runs until August 25. Ticket prices range from 5-12 (4-10) for adults, and 2-3.50 for children. Call the box office on 0845-373 5888.