Edinburgh International Book Festival closed its doors to the public for another year. And now that we’ve all had time to reverse levitate back to earth from the euphoria that went with another hugely successful festival, I think now’s as good a time as any to look back at the highlights of August in Charlotte Square.
As I write this, the white tents are being dismantled by the workmen and new grass is being readied for a fresh layer to see it through whatever a Scottish autumn and winter can throw at it. The smell around the Square is awful after all the mud churned up with the several days of heavy rain, but the magic still hovers as do the many great memories.
The morning of Saturday 13th August seems so very far away already. So much happened in such a short space of time that it’s almost impossible to take it all in while it’s happening, and only through a certain amount of retrospective analysis can it fully be absorbed.
It was a very wide ranging festival for me as I attended 58 separate events through fiction, poetry, biography, political, historical, religious and cultural themes. My total attendances comprised thus:
- 40 author events
- 11 Ten at Tens3 debates
- 1 full day workshop
- 1 lecture
- 1 play
- 1 award ceremony
I also attended half a dozen or so Story Shop readings and a couple of Unbound events in the evening. Only 13 of the events I attended were through the free Press facilities, i.e., I paid my way and supported the Festival.
Top 10 Memorable Moments
I had many, many highlights during the festival. Having now had enough time to contemplate them all and reminisce, I can reveal that for me, the cream of the crop were the following:
- Alasdair Gray was a brilliant way to start the 2011 book festival with Glasgow’s favourite artist, as he led us through his life and in his new book, A Life in Pictures.
- The day long novel writing workshop with Caroline Dunford was money well spent and I made a few new friends into the bargain.
- Finally meeting my great writing pal, Diane Parkin, who travelled up from England to spend a few days at the book festival.
- Robin Robertson’s hour in the Spiegeltent was packed with gripping poetry that was so moving, even Nick Barley admitted over Twitter to shedding a tear.
- Tobias Wolff’s surprise appearance at a free Ten at Ten event, which I was lucky enough to catch.
- Managing to bag a ticket to one of the hottest events of the festival: Neil Gaiman’s appearance at the Guardian Book Club.
- Pauline Black agreeing to me photographing her staged photo shoot with Chris Close.
- Meeting Shereen Nanjiani in the Press Pod. I used to have *such* a crush on her!
- The fantastic hour of literary entertainment and laddish nonsense during the Alan Bissett and Doug Johnstone event. I’d love to share a beer with these guys.
- Michael Scheuer and his views on the CIA and the American war on terror, so controversial that one bloke couldn’t handle it and had to be ejected.
I was lucky to meet some amazing people over the 17 days of the festival, either through the blogging network, other authors, pure chance, or through my media credentials. However it happened, I’d like to say a huge thanks to all of the following that helped make my Edinburgh Book Festival go with such a BANG!
Diane Parkin (author, journalist, long-time friend – website)
Caroline Dunford (author, journalist, awesome tutor – website)
Tina Finch and Andy Corelli from Siege Perilous
JF Derry (author, academic – website)
Pauline Black (for being such a great sport during her photo call)
Michael MacLeod (Guardian Blogger)
Francesca Panetta (Guardian Audio)
Charlotte Higgins (Guardian Culture)
Shereen Nanjiani (STV)
Kirsty Wark (BBC)
Esme (sorry, never got your surname :-( )
Harrison “Harry” Kelly
Rob Burdock (blogger – RobAroundBooks)
Lizzie Siddall (blogger – Lizzy’s Literary Life)
Janette Currie (blogger – Book Rambler)
Vanessa from the Edinburgh Bookshop
Colin Fraser (ANON Poetry and official @edbookfest tweeter)
Chris Close (official site photographer – website)
Chris Scott (another official photographer – website)
The few Press photographers that came and went in the press tent that took time to chat
Behind the Scenes
Of course, none of the above could have been possible without the many behind the scenes staff that work at the book festival. One of the things I quickly learned when I received my media accreditation, was the amount of work that actually goes into making the festival run smoothly day by day.
To the visitor, more often than not the experience of attending the book festival is a pleasant one. I never tire of hearing the many compliments paid to the staff and how they are always so nice and polite, and how amazing it is that they carry out their work with permanent smiles on their faces, and a glow that tells how much they actually enjoy working there—and who wouldn’t, right?
But there are others, too, that make the festival run smoothly, people who you don’t often see but without whom, none of it would come off at all. There are the assistants like Fiona Rae who set each tent up as required for the next event, the staff that sit by the technical consoles like Izzy hour after hour to make sure the tents are powered and the microphones work, the staff in the box office like Hanna Wright who sit day by day answering queries and selling tickets. There are the administrative staff in the back office, photographers like Chris Close, and the press team managed by Frances Sutton, all of whom work long days but somehow manage to keep smiling and do all they can to keep the media people happy.
And so this next section is dedicated to all of these people. I took the liberty of interviewing a small selection of staff for this article and you can find what they had to say in the podcast link at the end.
Everyone who visited, worked at, or was a guest of the Edinburgh International Book Festival owes a massive thanks to all of these people and all of their colleagues for making it all run so smoothly.
The Colin Galbraith Podcast
Ep.2: Wrapping up the 2011 Edinburgh Book Festival