Edinburgh 2015 book festival line-up unveiled

HOLLYWOOD actor Alan Cumming, Scottish pop icon Edwyn Collins, American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will be among the main attractions at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this summer.
Actor Alan Cumming will be one of the attractions at this year's festival. Picture: GettyActor Alan Cumming will be one of the attractions at this year's festival. Picture: Getty
Actor Alan Cumming will be one of the attractions at this year's festival. Picture: Getty

Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Marilynne Robinson, double Oscar-nominated playwright and screenwriter David Hare, historical novelist Philippa Gregory and Wolf Hall star Mark Rylance are also lined up for the event.

The line-up of guests for the event this August in the city’s Charlotte Square Gardens come from 55 countries, with director Nick Barley predicting the square will become a “global village” like never before.

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Writers from China, Congo, Palestine, Turkey, Nigeria, both North and South Korea, and one of the most remote parts of North Canada will be flying in for the festival.

Rev. Jesse Jackson will appear at the festival. Picture: GettyRev. Jesse Jackson will appear at the festival. Picture: Getty
Rev. Jesse Jackson will appear at the festival. Picture: Getty

After two years of intense discussion and debate at the event about Scotland’s future, Mr Barley pledged that the theme would continue with a look at Scotland’s place in the world in the wake of the independence referendum and the general election. Alex Salmond, Gordon Brown and BBC political editor Nick Robinson are among the guests.

Cumming – who has wowed Edinburgh Festival audiences in recent years in the play The Bacchae and his own cabaret show I Bought a Blue Car Today – will make his book festival debut after being asked to appear by author Ian Rankin, one of this year’s guest curators.

Rankin will also interview singer-songwriter Collins, who will appear with his wife Grace to discuss his recovery and return to performing live after two devastating strokes in 2005.

Big-name Scottish authors returning to the festival include Man Booker nominee Ali Smith, who last week won the annual Women’s Prize for Fiction, Irvine Welsh, who be discussing his latest novel A Decent Ride, and Alistair Moffat, whose new book History of Scotland looks at the evolution of the country from prehistoric times to last year’s referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon will discuss crime fiction with Val McDermid. Picture: GettyNicola Sturgeon will discuss crime fiction with Val McDermid. Picture: Getty
Nicola Sturgeon will discuss crime fiction with Val McDermid. Picture: Getty

The writer and artist Alasdair Gray will break a self-imposed ban on discussing his iconic novel Lanark to coincide with a new stage adaptation at the Edinburgh International Festival.

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The first anniversary of the death of the first Scottish national poet Edwin Morgan will see a specially-assembled cast of actors stage a one-off performance of his translation of the classic French play Cyrano de Bergerac.

Mr Barley said: “When we started programming this festival it was before both the referendum and the general election, when we didn’t know what the future might hold for Scotland.

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“The one thing that struck me as being very important is that Scotland shouldn’t forget its history as an outward-looking, internationally-minded nation.

“I felt really strongly that, come now, we would need a bigger sense of Scotland and its relationship with the rest of the world. This year’s festival is also about listening to other people’s stories – we have more authors from overseas than ever before. I actually think it will be the most international book festival that’s ever been held in the UK.”

Star attractions are expected to include Robinson, billed by Mr Barley as “one of the greatest living writers in American, if not the world”, and Kenyan-born novelist Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen, who will lift the lid on her new book about the last wife of Henry VIII.

Among the big-name overseas writers will be German’s Jenny Erpenbeck, the newly-crowned Foreign Fiction Prize winner, and Congolese novelist and poet Alain Mabanckou, a Man Book International Prize nominee this year, who Mr Barley saw being “absolutely mobbed by adults and children alike” in his country’s capital Brazzaville.

Human rights issues and conflicts around the world will be tackled in a host of events, including Mr Jackson’s appearance, a discussion on national security led by Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, a lecture by former Beirut hostage Terry Waite and the launch of a new collection of essays on the Middle East by Palestinian lawyer Raja Shehadeh.

Ms Sturgeon will mark her debut at the event by revealing her passion for crime fiction in discussion with Val McDermid, after the festival asked her to choose a favourite author to appear alongside.

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The First Minister’s predecessor, Mr Salmond, will debate capitalism and how to create a fairer society with Channel 4’s economics editor Paul Mason.

Another hot ticket is expected to be the appearance of Nick Robinson, who became the focus of “anti-bias” protests against the BBC in the run-up to the referendum and is currently battling cancer.

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Celia Imrie, one of Britain’s leading stage and screen stars, and Helen Lederer, who shot to fame with roles in Absolutely Fabulous and French & Saunders, will both be discussing debut novels.

Rylance will read from the crowd-funded Man Booker nominated novel The Wake, while Hare, who was twice Oscar-nominated for The Hours and The Reader, will be delving into his memoirs.

Fringe favourite and Have I Got News For You star Paul Merton will talk about his autobiography and the mental health struggles it reveals.

Highlights of the children’s programme include Cressida Cowell launching the final instalment of the How to Train Your Dragon series.

Tickets for all events go on public sale from 23 June.