MORE than 800 writers from 55 countries are set to appear in 750 events in this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival which runs from now until August 29.

As well as seven of the 13 authors long listed for the 2016 Man Booker Prize, the festival will feature Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in conversation with the Scottish Makar, Jackie Kay. Ex-prime minister Gordon Brown addresses globalisation and the new populism while Mark Thompson, the former director general of the BBC, launches his argument on why the internet and 24-hour news has failed to lead to better democracy.

Other speakers are Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England, Erica Jong, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, leading German historian Jürgen Osterhammel and young Edinburgh entrepreneur Fraser Doherty who introduces his guide to setting up a successful business in 48 hours.

Authors launching new books include Scottish actor Alan Cumming, comedian Stewart Lee, survival expert Ray Mears and best-selling writers Philippa Gregory, Jonathan Safran Foer and Eimear McBride.

This year the festival explores the power of the human mind to imagine a better world. Events address interlinking questions on the impact of conflict, Europe’s place in the world and Scotland’s place in Europe, the implications of the current refugee crisis, the effect of migration on Scots both at home and around the globe and the role of society. Around 220,000 people are expected at the festival – a huge increase on the 30,000 who attended the first event in 1983 to hear 120 authors. At the time it was the third literary festival in the UK. Now there are more than 300 with 30 in Scotland but with a length of 18 days the Edinburgh event is probably the longest in the world.


Following a series of successful book festival events in 2015, a collection of Mexico’s finest journalists were invited to write essays on Mexico, its culture, politics and daily life. The resulting book, The Sorrows of Mexico, is launched this year with three of the contributing authors – Diego Enrique Osorno, Sergio González Rodríguez and Emiliano Ruiz Parra – travelling to Edinburgh.

Other world-renowned authors making their first appearance in Edinburgh include one of China’s leading novelists Can Xue, Mexican writer Álvaro Enrigue and Jean-Christophe Rufin, co-founder of Médecins sans Frontières.

From the world of sport, David Millar, Chris Boardman and Mark Beaumont talk about their lives in cycling and former goalkeeper Packie Bonner recalls his 30-year career with Celtic and Ireland.

Musicians Wilko Johnson, Tim Burgess of The Charlatans, and Brix Smith Start speak of their lives in, and out of, their respective bands, and James Robertson is joined by some of Scotland’s finest folk musicians to perform extracts from Pilgrimer, his Scots reimagining of Joni Mitchell’s classic 1976 album Hejira.

Author and journalist Bidisha discusses the refugee crisis, its human realities and its deep political and economic roots with Wolfgang Bauer, one of the first undercover reporters to document the journey of Syrian refugees from Egypt to Europe, and Gulwali Passarlay, who at the age of 12 was smuggled away from Afghanistan and endured a 12-month journey before arriving in the UK. She is joined by journalists Patrick Kingsley and Charlotte McDonald-Gibson who examine the economic and political causes behind the crisis in the Mediterranean and Sudan-born writer Ahmed al-Malik, who fled to the Netherlands in 1989, and writes of modern day Khartoum.


Elsewhere, Leila Al-Shami and Robin Yassin-Kassab look at the situation in Syria, Mostafa Salameh, the son of Palestinian refugees, talks of his life in the UK, respected Lebanese novelist Nada AwarJarrar and Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan discuss their fictional accounts of encounters with refugees while Margaret Malloch and Paul Rigby explore all sides of human trafficking.

A centrepiece of the Migrant Stories within the festival is the world premiere of a theatrical adaptation of Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro’s short stories. Adapted for the stage by multi award-winning playwright Linda McLean, The View from Castle Rock imagines the extraordinary experiences of Munro’s Scottish ancestors who sailed from Leith Docks in 1818 to Canada.

French graphic artist Barroux presents the world premiere performance of Alpha, a dramatic realisation and live drawing of his powerful graphic novel about an African migrant who leaves the Ivory Coast to find his family in France.

At the end of the festival, Philip Howard revives David Greig’s play Europe as a rehearsed reading featuring nine actors. First performed in 1994, the play still resonates powerfully with today’s themes of refugees seeking a new home.

These three performances are supported by the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund.


This year highly respected human rights barrister Philippe Sands, QC, delivers the Frederick Hood Memorial Lecture while Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell gives the Siobhan Dowd Trust Memorial Lecture and philosopher AC Grayling explores the legacy of a complex intellectual in the PEN HG Wells Lecture.

American theatre director Bryan Doerries brings his extraordinary Theatre of War, which uses ancient Greek drama to make sense of contemporary trauma. Matthew Green looks at the causes and treatment of post traumatic stress disorder while Harry Parker and Victoria Hendry turn to fiction to examine the post-combat lives of soldiers. Christopher Rush ponders the contradictions in our attitudes to war and peace; Max Hastings offers a new perspective on the Second World War and General Sir Richard Shirreff, former Nato deputy supreme allied commander Europe, warns of confrontation with Russia.

Poetry touches every strand in the programme. Hollie McNish reads from her memoir of pregnancy, Billy Bragg presents some of his best-loved songs, Luke Wright introduces some of the original protest poets, including Attila the Stockbroker, and Tim Wells performs his poetic and political play What I Learned from Johnny Bevan.

Meanwhile, William Letford and Lemn Sissay launch their new collections and Chimwemwe Undi, who was born in South Africa of Xhosa heritage and is now a spoken-word poet living in Winnipeg, speaks powerfully of the immigrant experience and what it means to call a place home.

The Baillie Gifford Children’s Programme contains rapping bears, singing farmers, giant talking beetles, dinosaurs, gymnasts, heroes, heroines, mythical and magical creatures and older readers will discover moving and uplifting tales of coming of age, friendship, family and finding themselves.

Entry to Charlotte Square Gardens is free. More details at www.edbookfest.co.uk.