Gordon Brown tops the bill at Holyrood politics festival

FORMER Prime Minister Gordon Brown, authors Iain Banks, James Robertson and Louise Welsh, and sculptures by the late George Wyllie will top the bill at this year’s Festival of Politics, it was announced today.

The festival, which will be held at the Scottish Parliament over two weekends in August, will also include a play about sectarianism, author Alexander McCall Smith and historian Tom Devine debating the most important events in Scottish history, and a roster of cutting-edge Scottish bands playing live.

The events have been brought together under the theme “Politics. Culture. Creativity. A Force for Positive Change”.

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Launching the programme today, Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick said: “The Festival of Politics shows the kind of innovation that sets the Scottish Parliament apart from others in engaging both the head and the heart.

“While debate and discussion remain the bedrock, we have added contemporary art, music and theatre to our programme that continues to push boundaries.

“This year’s Festival of Politics continues to offer an exciting and intelligent addition to Edinburgh’s festivals season. We are delighted to be part of these internationally-renowned cultural events.”

This is the eighth Festival of Politics, but for the first time it will take place on two consecutive Fridays and Saturdays, August 17-18 and 24-25.

Gordon Brown will deliver the inaugural Campbell Christie Lecture, named in honour of the former STUC leader and chairman of Falkirk football club, who died last year. It is a free event and will take place in the parliament’s debating chamber on August 24 at 4.30pm.

Later the same evening, top contemporary writers Iain Banks, James Robertson, Louise Welsh and others will discuss how Scottish writing has reflected politics and society over the last century. Stuart Kelly will chair the discussion, beginning at 6.30pm.

Several sculptures by renowned Scottish artist George Wyllie, who died last month, will be on show in the parliament garden.

A panel including his daughter, Louise Wyllie, will discuss his philosophy on creativity and his influence on younger generations, followed by a tour of his works. The event on August 17 at 4.30pm is free.

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The same evening, an anti-sectarian comedy, Singin I’m No a Billy He’s a Tim, will explore bigotry and ethnic identity by looking at what happens when a Celtic and a Rangers fan are locked up in a cell together on the day of an Old Firm match.

In An Audience with History on August 18, author Alexander McCall Smith and historians Alistair Moffat and Tom Devine will debate what are the most important events in Scottish history, and which historical figures should be included in the Great Tapestry of Scotland’s Parliament of our Ancestors panel.

Other events include a debate on young people and creativity, featuring Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue and Vicky Featherstone, artistic director and chief executive of the National Theatre of Scotland; an evening with internationally-acclaimed Scottish singer-songwriter JJ Gilmour; a panel discussion on how accessible sport is, including ex-rugby player and broadcaster John Beattie, former athlete and Olympic medallist Liz McColgan, and Kim Atkinson, policy director of the Scottish Sports Association.

Former First Minister Jack McConnell will return to Holyrood for a debate on The Power of Small Nations along with Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta, former president of East Timor, and former Canadian prime minister Kim Campbell.

• Full details of the festival programme are available from www.festivalofpolitics.org.uk