Irvine Welsh’s Edinburgh housing estate to host pop-up book festival

Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh was brought up in a housing estate in Muirhouse in Edinburgh.
Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh was brought up in a housing estate in Muirhouse in Edinburgh.
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The housing estate where Irvine Welsh was brought up is to get its own book festival.

Muirhouse will host a pop-up event and get its own writer-in-residence under a three-year-project aimed at getting more local people interested in culture.

A team of “community programmers” will be created to help stage the festival in 2020 at the North Edinburgh Arts centre. They are expected to join forces with centre staff, author Eleanor Thom and the Edinburgh International Book Festival on the venture, which will be inspired by the idea of “what being a citizen today means”.

A separate series of events, including one at the book festival in the New Town next August, are also envisaged under the “Citizen” project.

It is aimed at “giving a voice to communities” in several parts of the city with low levels of involvement in the festivals, including Muirhouse, Wester Hailes and Moredun.

People will be encouraged to “explore their connection to each other and their relationship to their local area” as part of the project.

READ MORE: Interview: Irvine Welsh on his new novel, Trainspotting and Trump

It is being launched after organisers of the book festival staged pop-up events in several locations around Scotland, including Cumbernauld, Irvine, East Kilbride, Livingston and Glenrothes.

Citizen is being launched after the book festival received a £585,000 share of a £5.8 million initiative – backed by both the Scottish Government and the city council – to spread the benefits of the festivals, which are said to be worth £313m to the economy. Thom is expected to work with writers, musicians, illustrators and other artists to inspire residents to tell their stories of life in Muirhouse and “share their views on community, home and their relationship to the wider world”.

Welsh, who was born in Leith, moved to Muirhouse when he was four and attended Ainslie Park High School.

Thom said: “The most powerful stories are likely happening beyond the geography of the festival and exploring these narratives can transform how we all see our city, ourselves and others.

“That’s why Citizen is important. I’ll be asking what kinds of stories people want to hear, as well as listening to the stories people want to tell. I’m motivated by my belief sharing stories can effect change.”

North Edinburgh Arts director Kate Wimpress said: “We’re sure Eleanor, as North Edinburgh Arts writer-in-residence, will spark many interesting conversations and inspire creativity among all the users of our venue and beyond.

“We aim to be a place where we can make connections, share ideas, learn together and take creative risks, and this project will contribute directly to those aims and offer new perspectives for the future.”

Other strands of Citizen will see another Edinburgh-based author, Claire Askew, work with several city high schools.

Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, said: “I feel passionately that book festivals are not just about books. They are much-needed forums for public discourse.

“If we are going to sustain a genuinely inclusive forum for grassroots democratic discussion in Edinburgh, we must reach out more effectively to give everyone the chance to take part. That’s why it’s so exciting to be able to work with community groups that haven’t traditionally been so well represented in the audiences at the August festival.”