Edinburgh International Book Festival reveals 2018 programme

Freedom will be the major theme at this year’s EIBF, while guests range from celebrated writers like Philip Pullman, Carol Ann Duffy and Ian Rankin, to famous figures like Rose McGowan, Bret Anderson and Jeremy Corbyn

Article by Jamie Dunn | 07 Jun 2018
  • Book Festival

This year’s Edinburgh International Books Festival (EIBF) launched today under the banner of freedom, and will be calling upon this year’s authors, participants and audiences to consider the importance of freedom in a world where democracy and capitalism, long the staples of western society, are being brought into question.

Festival director Nick Barley expanded on this idea at this morning’s launch: “We didn’t want to have a festival that was simply dominated by a discussion of anger about Brexit,” he said. “We wanted to reverse back from that and ask our writers and our audiences about the things that caused the Brexit vote to happen in the first place. What are the conditions that caused the election of Donald Trump and the sustained success of Vladimir Putin? We kept talking about the conditions and factors that are behind all these things and we kept coming back to one word: freedom.”

Freedom might sound like a rather nebulous concept for a festival, but EIBF's plan this year is to open up all sorts of discussions around the word: subjects like freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of identity. These ideas, we’re told, will be discussed in a diverse and wide-ranging programme of talks, debates, workshops and readings taking place in Charlotte Square Gardens and the new expanded venues on George Street this August.

Muriel Spark and a WhatsApp novella

Book Festival 2018 will nod in a big way to the centenary of Muriel Spark’s birth. To mark the occasion, the festival’s expansion on to the west end of George Street will this year include the new Spark Theatre, as well as a major series of events celebrating the life and work of this much-loved Scottish writer (more info here).

This year’s edition also boasts the festival’s first digital event, with WhatsApp novella The Right Kind of Chaos. Combining digital technology with innovative storytelling, the novella is presented in partnership with Fire Exit and written by David Leddy, with readers who sign up receiving installments of the novella via text messaging service WhatsApp throughout the festival.

Authors heading to EIBF

As ever the programme is pleasingly wide-ranging, with authors and events for every taste. Among those heading to Charlotte Square are Kenyan novelist and playwright Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, who’s back in Edinburgh for the first time in 12 years to discuss the release of a new edition of his prison memoir Wrestling with the Devil. Grandfather of Norwegian literature Dag Solstad returns after a six-year absence, Karl Ove Knausgaard launches the final element of his My Struggle series, The End, and comedian Susan Calman previews her brand-new book The Kindness Quest: Dancing for Joy.

Another eye-catching guest is rapper, poet and political activist Akala, who'll be discussing his searing polemic on race and class Natives. We’re also looking forward to the appearance of actor and activists Rose McGowan, who’s been one of the most powerful voices in helping fight and expose predatory male behaviour in the American film industry. She’ll be discussing new book Brave with Afua Hirsch. Hirsch also chairs other discussions with the likes of novelists Diana Evans and T Geronimo Johnson, speculative fiction writer Prayaag Akbar, and Miranda Kaufman, author of Black Tudors.

Other writers you’ll want to check out include His Dark Materials and La Belle Sauvage author Philip Pullman, the always controversial Richard Dawkins, and actor Jim Broadbent, who's created his first graphic novel with illustrator Dix. Hot tickets also include an event with spoken word star Salena Godden and an appearance from bestselling thriller writer Jo Nesbo, who'll be in town with Macbeth, his fresh take on Shakespeare’s 'Scottish Play'. You also don't want to miss EIBF's chat between the great Ali Smith and Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

More local talent heading to the festival include Graeme Macrae Burnet, who’s followed up His Bloody Project with new thriller The Accident on the A35; Denise Mina, who'll be talking killers and outcasts with fellow crime author Liam McIlvanney; poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who's doing a reading with some of the emerging poets for her Laureate’s Choice collection; Edinburgh-based filmmaker Mark Cousins, who’s discussing his new book The Story of Looking; the prolific Ian Rankin, who’ll be dropping hints on his new Rebus novel In a House of Lies; and author and poet Jenni Fagan, who's at EIBF to present new collection The Witch in the Word Machine.

Musician memoirs

The world of music is well represented at EIBF this year. There’s Suede’s Brett Anderson, who’ll be discussing his recent memoir Coal Black Morning in which he ponders his upbringing as well as the heady days of Britpop. There’s more music memories in the form of post punk ledge Viv Albertine, with the Slits guitarists presenting To Throw Away Unopened, her followup to her witty first memoir Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson will also be gracing EIBF to regale us with stories of his childhood and meteoric rise to fame, while DJ Semtex will be shedding light on his love for rap with his book Hip Hop Raised Me.

Sticking with music, Legendary Queen axe-man and badger lover Brian May will be sharing the Book Festival stage with Roger Taylor. Confusingly it’s not May’s bandmate, but his namesake, the celebrated photography historian Professor Roger Taylor. They’ll be discussing the work of Scottish photography pioneer George Washington Wilson in a unique 3D presentation.

Political figures

EIBF will also be wall-to-wall (or tent canvas-to-tent canvas) with politicians and political commentators. Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will be in conversations with the leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Peer Shami Chakrabarti to explore the question of whether the current form of globalised capitalism is forcing democracy towards its ultimate demise.

Former PM Gordon Brown will be giving an account of the highs and lows of his career as he discusses his autobiography My Life, Our Times. Jo Swinson, deputy Lib Dem leader, will share her ideas on how to make society truly gender neutral, while Tory politician Jesse Norman will be praising Scottish economist Adam Smith. Political pundit Robert Peston, meanwhile, will be asking what we need to mend our fractured society. The family of Nelson Mandela, including his youngest daughter, Zindzi, and former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton are also guests at the festival.

The above only scratches the surface of this year's overflowing Edinburgh International Book Festival. For full details and tickets, head to www.edbookfest.co.uk

Edinburgh International Book Festival, 11-27 Aug