The 2021 Book Festival starts next weekend

Our very first hybrid Book Festival begins a week tomorrow on Saturday 14 August! Our exciting new format offers over 250 events to enjoy online while we’ll welcome in-person audiences for a selection of events in our new home at Edinburgh College of Art. Whether you’re local to Edinburgh or live further afield, everyone can take part in this year’s celebration of the written word, literature and ideas.

Read on for more info about our Opening Night celebration, recently added events, poetry at this year’s Book Festival, book signings (in-person and online) and the new Festival Village.

Opening Night: Culture in a Time of Crisis

Join us in-person or live online from wherever you are at 8.30pm on Saturday 14 August as we look at the power of creative ideas to uplift, transport and help us understand the world we live in.

Featuring poetry, songs, stories and polemics, this evening’s event is an introduction to the 2021 Book Festival and a celebration of culture in a time of crisis. We’re delighted to welcome special guests including journalist, author and women’s rights campaigner Nayrouz Qarmout, award-winning author Kirstin Innes and multi-talented poet and novelist Angus Peter Campbell.

New events and participants

David Keenan: A Mausoleum for the Two of Us
Join us as we welcome multi-award winning David Keenan to the Book Festival stage to celebrate his new novel which has been a decade in the making. Monument Maker is an epic romance of eternal summer and a descent into the horrors of the past. He talks to writer and former BBC journalist Lara Pawson live in Edinburgh.

Book to watch David Keenan: A Mausoleum for the Two of Us in-person or online.

Extra Teeth: Words with Bite
Extra Teeth magazine celebrates the best new writing from Scotland and beyond, featuring innovative original prose by bestselling, award-winning and emerging writers. In this special event, taking place both in-person and live online, the magazine’s co-founders share how Extra Teeth came to be, how it survived lockdown and what’s next for the literary publication. We’re delighted to also be joined by writers Bhavika Govil, Ross McCleary and Catherine Wilson, who share their magazine contributions.

Book to watch Extra Teeth: Words with Bite in-person or online.

Warren Ellis: The Beautiful Connections of a Bad Seed
Award-winning Australian musician and composer, well-known for his long-term collaboration with Nick Cave, makes his debut appearance at the Book Festival with his first book Nina Simone’s Gum. Ellis’ inspiring story looks at the small everyday moments and how these can form beautiful connections between people.

Book to watch Warren Ellis: The Beautiful Connections of a Bad Seed in-person or online.

Poetry: The Art of the People

This year’s poetry series, featuring events for adults and children as well as a number of captioned events, embraces diversity and explores identity, connection and place. Enjoy an eclectic mix of poetry events from home online or in our brand new venues at Edinburgh College of Art, including:

  • Writer and theatre director Ross Mackay, along with participants from our Citizen Programme, share their joyful mass participatory poetry project in a celebratory event not to be missed.
  • Shetland-based Jen Hadfield brings her latest book of poetry, The Stone Age, a glorious collection of dialogue between a writer and the world. Working with filmmaker Alison Piper, a new short film based on the collection will premiere at the event, chaired by Scottish singer and songwriter Karine Polwart.
  • In honour of Edwin Morgan’s centenary in 2020 and co-commissioned by Celtic Connections, Songs from Scotland premieres a stunning collection of music using Morgan’s poems composed by award-winning musician Gavin Bryar.
  • One of Britain’s best-loved poets, Salena Godden, joins us live on stage in Edinburgh with her long-awaited debut novel Mrs Death Misses Death which has already been optioned for film and TV.
  • The first Young People’s Laureate for London, Caleb Femi, talks to artist and novelist Tice Cin about community, photography, and why poetry is ‘the art of the people’.
  • Prize-winning poet Kayo Chingonyi brings his moving new poetry collection A Blood Condition to this year’s Book Festival. Shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection 2021, don’t miss your chance to see the Zambia-born London-based talent live as he shares his work about the people and culture of his upbringing.
  • In a unique event, multi-award winning Scottish poet Robin Robertson shares the stage with his brother Tim as they join us live in Edinburgh with their magical new book Grimoire. While Robin performs dark readings, artist Tim draws along. Watch as witches, ghosts, selkies, changelings and shape-shifters appear on screen in a haunting and beautiful event evoking the mythology of landscapes and people of Scotland and beyond.

Book signings – online and in-person

Selected authors will be signing copies of their books after their events either on-site in Edinburgh College of Art’s Courtyard or online via Zoom.

In-person book signings
If you are visiting the Festival Village at Edinburgh College of Art this year, selected adult and children’s authors will be in the Signing Tent in the Courtyard after their events. You can purchase books from our independent Bookshop in the Festival Village and say hello to authors on-site while they sign your copy. You don’t need a ticket to an event to join the Singing Tent queue and entry is free!

Carol Ann Duffy, Zoë Wicomb, Emma Dabiri, Philip Ardagh, Val McDermid, Alexander McCall Smith, Joan Bakewell, pictured left, Ian Rankin, Gordon Brown and many more will be signing books after their events. See individual event listings to see if authors are taking part in book signings at this year’s Festival.

Picture by Bill Heaney

Online book signings
Back by popular demand, our virtual book signings offer you the opportunity to meet authors on Zoom and have your own copy personally dedicated.

If you would like to join a signing please select the ‘Meet the Author’ option when purchasing the book from our online Festival Bookshop, at least 5 days before the author’s event date.

Online signings are limited to only 20 spaces and offered on a first-come first-served basis. Don’t miss your chance to meet authors including Matt Haig, Ali Smith, A L Kennedy, Caleb Azumah Nelson and more!

“I really enjoyed my online book signing with Ian Rankin. Thank you so much!” – Audience member 2020

Visit the online Festival Bookshop

New Festival Village – open daily from 14 August

We can’t wait to open the doors to our brand new Festival Village at Edinburgh College of Art at 9.30am on Saturday 14 August. Open daily until late throughout the Festival until 30th August and free to enter, you can expect lots of festival fun for all ages, including:

  • Live in-person events with a selection of the world’s best writers taking place in our indoor venues.
  • Free screenings on our large outdoor screen each day (more details coming in our next ebulletin).
  • Book signings with selected authors in the Signing Tent.
  • Shelves full of thousands of wonderful titles in our independent Book Festival Bookshop.
  • A café, bar and beer garden serving delicious food and drink all day.
  • And costumed characters, DrawAlongs, a children’s play area, an animal illustration trail and more for younger festival-goers.

COVID-19 NOTICE: Please note that our indoor venues will have 1 metre social distancing in place and masks will be required to be worn inside. Please check the website regularly, and especially just before you leave to visit the Book Festival in-person – details may change at short notice as we adapt to regulations.

Join us and help warm our new home as we go onwards and upwards with our very first hybrid Book Festival!


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