Edinburgh Book Festival reveals 2021 programme

Edinburgh Book Festival returns this August with a hybrid online-offline programme of 250 events featuring authors from around the world

Article by Peter Simpson | 06 Jul 2021
  • Torrey Peters

It's all kicking off in Edinburgh. After a raft of Edinburgh Fringe announcements last week, the Edinburgh Book Festival have revealed details of their 2021 programme.

A new home, and a new format

The 2021 edition of the Edinburgh Book Festival (which runs 14-30 Aug) is made up of 250 events, all of which will be available to stream online on a Pay-What-You-Can basis; limited numbers of tickets for in-person attendance will also be available. Around half of all this year's speakers will appear in person at the Book Festival's new hub at Edinburgh College of Art, with the rest beaming in through the wonders of the internet.

The new venue retains the classic Book Festival bookshop (taking up residence in the Old Fire Station building next door) and signings (via Zoom, if your favourite author isn't in town), and adds an outdoor big screen which will stream selected events from the programme to be revealed later.

Programme highlights

Among the early stand-outs from the programme is Take Your Place (Sat 14 Aug, 1pm). Inspired by the Book Festival's Citizen community workshops, authors Graeme Armstrong (The Young Team), Caleb Femi (Poor) and Jenni Fagan (Luckenbooth) will discuss what home, environment and community will mean in a post-pandemic world.

In a similar vein, One City: A Just Capital? (Mon 23 Aug, 11.30am) revisits the One City short story project – which aimed to help tackle poverty and social exclusion in Edinburgh – ahead of a new updated volume's release next year. Nadine Aisha Jassat, Sara Sheridan and Anne Hamilton are joined by Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith to discuss the project, the divisions within the capital, and ways to resolve them.

Helen McClory discusses her stunning new gothic novel Bitterhall, alongside a debut screening of a short film to accompany the book by Scottish filmmaker and longtime friend of the mag Bryan M Ferguson. McClory's prose paired with Ferguson's exuberant and occasionally batshit visuals? Consider us intrigued, and a little bit frightened (Thu 19 Aug, 5.30pm). That event is part of the Reading Scotland series pairing Scottish filmmakers and authors. James Price – another great of Scottish short filmmaking – presents a new film to accompany The Young Team by the aforementioned Graeme Armstrong (Mon 23 Aug, 5.30pm), with shorts by Anthony Baxter, Niamh McKeown, Jamie Crewe and Alison Piper also commissioned by the festival.

Elsewhere, Annihilation author Jeff VanderMeer discusses his new climate crisis thriller Hummingbird Salamander with author and Extra Teeth editor Heather Parry (Sat 21 Aug, 8.15pm); Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro talks through his latest, Klara and the Sun (Sun 29 Aug, 7pm); and Alan Warner delves into Kitchenly 434, his English country house satire that's a "relentless deconstruction of masculine delusion" (Thu 19 Aug, 11.15am).

Pride and Prejudice: Celebrating LGBTQIA+ Voices

We're delighted to be sponsoring Torrey Peters' appearance at the Book Festival. She'll be dialling in from home to discuss her groundbreaking, Womens' Prize for Fiction-nominated debut novel, Detransition, Baby, which explores the intertangled personal lives and relationships of three women, trans and cis (Sat 14 Aug, 5.30pm). Peters' event is part of the Pride and Prejudice strand, highlighting LGBTQIA+ voices from across literature and the arts.

Further highlights from the strand include a discussion on dialects between Harry Josephine Giles and Duck Feet author Ely Percy (Wed 18 Aug, 4pm); theatremaker Travis Alabanza in conversation with Shon Faye, journalist and author of The Transgender Issue, on the need to move beyond toxic narratives and transphobia (Sat 28 Aug, 5.15pm); and a 'Post-Apocalyptic Cabaret' by Aberdeen performance night Hysteria, curated by Mae Diansangu and Hanna Louise (Sat 28 Aug, 8.30pm).

The full programme is available now – check it out at edbookfest.co.uk. Edinburgh Book Festival 2021 takes place at Edinburgh College of Art, Lauriston Place, and online, 14-30 Aug. Tickets for in-person events go on sale on Thu 22 Jul at midday.