Authors launch city book festival

THE Edinburgh International Book Festival got under way yesterday with celebrated Scottish authors including Alasdair Gray and Alexander McCall Smith speaking to sold-out audiences.

The world's biggest books festival also played host to newly appointed Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson, author of the celebrated Gruffalo series.

Festival director Nick Barley, now in his second year, said the festival had maintained its focus on "quality" rather than chasing celebrities.

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"Literature is the key part of it. If we went too far down the celebrity line we would lose what we are really all about.

"Nevertheless, there are some well-known names coming along. Pamela Stephenson Connolly and Alexei Sayle are coming, not because they are celebrities, but because they have great stories to tell.

"They can be seen alongside world-famous novelists and poets such as Carol Ann Duffy and AS Byatt."

Sarah Brown, wife of the former prime minister, whose memoir Behind The Black Door published earlier this year gave an account of family life in 10 Downing Street, is due to speak at the festival today. Yesterday she tweeted that she was "pretty sure questions will relate to the last few weeks as so much has been happening".

Also speaking today will be Booker Prize winner and Scottish author Ali Smith, and Caitlin Moran, whose book How To Be A Woman raced up the Amazon book charts upon its release earlier this year.

The EIBF runs until 29 August.