Edinburgh Book Festival: The First Weekend

Edinburgh International Book Festival takes over Charlotte Square Gardens from 11-27 August. We headed down on the first weekend to see some great events

Feature by The Skinny | 14 Aug 2018

In the midst of all the Edinburgh Festivals, Charlotte Square Gardens becomes a haven for book lovers. With the Edinburgh International Book Festival underway, here are some events we caught during the first weekend.

Timely Tales with Tomi Adeyemi & Sophie Anderson

"I'm writing for little Tomi," begins Adeyemi. She always wrote stories, but had internalised that black people couldn't be in them; when she realised this, she was determined to write books she herself lacked – the result was Children of Blood and Bone, her epic fantasy.

"[Storytelling] connects all of humanity," notes Sophie Anderson, author of The House with Chicken Legs, a tale where a house with legs can take off at any time, and those living there have no control. "It expresses universal hopes and fears. There's always something you can relate to - it connects across cultures and times."

It's a critical moment to connect across lived experience. A bad encounter with the police left Tomi feeling powerless; she wanted to reclaim her voice - it became a strong theme in her book. "Books are a way to see into others' lives." You're living in first person, not through a Director's filter on film. Through the folklore and cultures they are inspired by, to writing advice to young writers (say when your dream happens, not if), Tomi and Sarah showcase two excellent debuts and act as a firm reminder how books can connect humans in these particularly turbulent times. [Heather McDaid]

Philip Pullman: Master Storyteller

Passion rings through as [Philip Pullman] speaks – stories are vital to a child’s education; he had considered creating the Nursery Rhyme Party until ill-health foiled those plans, a way to keep stories at the heart of children’s worlds. “The world is so full of stories,” he says, with myths, fairytales and folktales rolling off the tongue. Children may forget Pythagoras’ theorem, he adds, recalling his classroom days, “but they will never forget the story that was told to them on that rainy Friday afternoon.” [Mika Cook].

"The world is so full of stories" – read our full write-up on the Philip Pullman event

Laura Bates

Laura Bates is angry. The founder of the Everyday Sexism project, Bates is in Edinburgh to talk about her latest non-fiction book Misogynation, an extension of her life’s work interrogating the systematic misogyny that exists at every level in our society.

As her interviewer says, Bates speaks in quotes. Every sentence is a statement but she’s funny, optimistic, and empathetic. What becomes apparent quickly is that Bates’ activism exists as a spectrum. She’s as passionate about the lack of sex education in schools as she is in catcalling or the #MeToo movement or the pay gap.

While feminism and girl power is a hot cultural currency at the moment, Bates isn’t interested in trends. She’s been fighting the good fight her entire life and wants action. As she states as the event is winding down, conversation is not enough but it’s a start. Yes, Bates is angry but she’s also full of hope. [Katie Goh]

A Graphic Novel of Women

2018 marks the centenary of the first wave of women gaining the right to vote in the UK; We Shall Fight Until We Win marks this by celebrating pioneering political women, with publishers Sha Nazir, Heather Palmer and Laura Jones joining the festival to discuss the graphic novel anthology.

The collaboration was born from a meeting at 2017’s Festival and felt a good fit for both publishers. The use of the Kickstarter model to launch the comic, unusual for mainstream publishing, meant there was a short period of time to find illustrators and writers, and to choose the pioneering women to include. Sha notes that the selection was about finding a balance across decades and political alignment and asking the contributors who they would like to explore themselves.

And We Shall Fight Until We Win is just that: balanced. Certainly, it is a celebration, but it is an honest one, one which explores all that was done, those left behind, and that which is still left to do – the type of celebration which is pioneering in itself. [Mika Cook]

Edinburgh Comic Art Fair

Comics are great. It doesn't really need saying, but in the same year that the first graphic novel has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, it feels particularly great to see comics represented on such a large scale at international book festivals. Their comics strand Stripped has reached new heights in collaboration with BHP Comics, whose Edinburgh Comic Arts Fair took over the Principal Hotel, featuring creators including Neil Slorance, Metaphrog, Kathryn Briggs, Panels Comics and Magic Torch Comics, to name a handful.

ECAF is an excellent showcase of Scotland's thriving comic scene and a welcome inclusion to the festival programme. [Heather McDaid]

Edinburgh International Book Festival 2018 takes place until 27 Aug at Charlotte Square