'Exceptional' Book Festival enters the record books

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THE Edinburgh International Book Festival has broken all previous records with 25,000 more people visiting the event this year.

The overall attendance figures are up 15 per cent on 2002, and book sales up by a massive 20 per cent.

Overall, more than 185,000 people visited Charlotte Square Gardens and more than 250 events were completely sold out, some of them - including Tony Benn and Ian Rankin - within days of the box office opening.

Initial figures also show that over 17,000 people attended children's events and more than 9000 children attended events for schools.

Festival director Catherine Lockerbie said: "This has been quite an exceptional year for the Book Festival. Once again, we have broken all previous records.

"We have been privileged to present outstanding events by such major world figures as John Irving, Susan Sontag, Ariel Dorfman and Mario Vargas Llosa, many on rare or first-time visits to Scotland.

"This year’s festival has also been notable for the very high level and quality of involvement and participation by the public."

The festival’s experimental five-night series with George Monbiot, where the audience were invited to set the agenda of the night, proved a major attraction and sold out throughout.

Ms Lockerbie added: "Many events demonstrated that there is an increasingly powerful desire among members of the public to discuss issues of importance, such as the continuing impact of the Iraq war, and that the Book Festival is providing a vital forum for public opinion."

The Lloyds TSB Scotland Children’s Programme also attracted big names including best-selling children’s authors Eoin Colfer, Jacqueline Wilson and Debi Gliori, whose book-signing sessions lasted up to four and a half hours.