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Edinburgh International Book Festival 2017

Paul writes:

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is in its last few days. I have spent a great deal of time there this year, but instead of writing about it, I’ve decided to compile a kind of photo-essay of the people and views I came across. Enjoy.

11 a damp day

My first day in Charlotte Square Gardens this year started damp, so here’s a monochrome study to start you off.

6 Sunil Khilnani

Professor Sunil Khilnani, writer and academic.

8 Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay, Scotland’s ‘Makar’ (our Poet Laureate).

12 Jackie Kay

Jackie is a charming person who interacts with genuine friendliness with her readers.

1 chris close

Every year, photographer Chris Close makes portraits of visiting authors and speakers, stringing the results up around the Festival’s walkways. There’s a small sample below.

2 Chris close3 chris close

4 chris close

Left to right. Top: Ade Edmondson, Liu Zhenyun, Greg James & Chris Smith. Centre: Simon Armitage, Ehsan Abdollahil, Mariana Enriquez. Bottom: The Last Poets, Paul Auster, Andy Hamilton.

7 Magnus Mills

Magnus Mills

10 Nick Barley, Misha Hoekstra, Daniel Hahn

Festival Director Nick Barley with Misha Hoekstra and Daniel Hahn – members of the panel for ‘The Power of Translation’.

28 Children's bookshop

5 filming

Braving the video camera.

13 Penny Pepper

Penny Pepper. I love the control knob on her wheelchair!

9 flashpack

Sometimes a shot of the professional photographers is too good to miss…

14 Paul Auster photocall

… here they are, capturing American literary giant Paul Auster.

16 Hanif Kureishi

Hanif Kureishi in conversation with a reader.

15 Sir Charlie Stinky Socks

Sir Charlie Stinky Socks proudly showing his author’s pass.

17 Laura Hughes and Pip Jones

Laura Hughes and Pip Jones.

20 Leon Morocco

Leon Morocco.

18 Gin tent

The Edinburgh Gin Tent, just outside the main book-signing venue, is many people’s favourite place to relax and chat about Festival stuff.

21 Josie Billington & Rick Rylance

Academics Josie Billington and Rick Rylance, who were at the festival to talk about ‘Is Literature Healthy?’ and ‘Literature and the Public Good’.

22 John Banville

John Banville.

19 gimme 5

“Gimme Five!”

25 Karl Ove Knausgaard

Karl Ove Knausgaard.

26 Bookshop

The profits from the bookshops here at the Festival all go back into Festival funds.

29 Robert Muchamore

Author Robert Muchamore drew a large crowd of secondary school students to his book-signing.

23 photographer

I’m not the only person who goes around getting ‘atmosphere shots’ in Charlotte Square Gardens.

31 Doug Johnstone

An animated Doug Johnstone.

27 who are we now

“Who are we now?”

32 Alex Scheffler

Alex Scheffler.

30 Richard English

Professor Richard English, who spoke about the controversial issues raised by his new book ‘Does Terrorism Work?’

24 shadows lengthen

Late afternoon, and shadows begin to lengthen in Charlotte Square.

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The copyright of the images on this page rests with the photographers; no reproduction may be made without written permission.

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Edinburgh International Book Festival

1.1I have just spent a long fortnight in and out of the International Book Festival in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. this has become an annual thing for me, and I have a whale of a time even though I’m actually engaged in hard work. while I’m there I’m writing, tweeting, talking, taking photos, so when I get back I don’t really want to write any more. So here’s an essay in photographs rather than words, about the scenes and faces at this year’s festival.

The photos were taken on a bog-standard Nikon D50 or an iPad.

PT

2.2 Graham Swift

Graham Swift

2.4 Ian Goldin

Ian Goldin

2.1 Ali Smith

Ali Smith

1.2 a wave of beards

A wave of beards swept through Charlotte Square. I think that’s author Philip Ardagh on the right.

2.2 Iain Macwhirter

Iain Macwhirter

Chris Close’s excellent photo-portraits of visiting writers etc. were on display again this year. The exhibition was better than ever – here are just a few faces, including Alexander McCall Smith, Gavin Francis, Joan Bakewell, Wilko Johnson, Ruby Wax, and Attila the Stockbroker. Thanks for letting me use these, Chris.

4.1 Alexander McCall Smith & Gavin Francis

4.2 Joan Bakewell & Wilko Johnson

4.3 Ruby Wax & Attila the Stockbroker

And back to my own pics…

1.4 Book Shop

1.5 posing

2.10 Michael Scott

Michael Scott

2.5 Thomas Clark

Thomas Clark

2.9 Zaffar Kunial

Zaffar Kunial

1.10 relaxation

Relaxation…

1.6 photo bunch

Photo call

2.11 Jackie Kay

Scots ‘Makar’ Jackie Kay

2.13 Roy Hattersley

Roy Hattersley

1.8 staff

2.3 Louis de Bernieres

Louis de Bernières

2.7 Gordon Brown

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown

2.8 Richard & Daniel Susskind

Richard Susskind & Daniel Susskind. In the background is journalist Lee Randall, who chaired their event.

2.12 Carol Ann Duffy

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy

2.6 Roger Mason

Roger Mason

1.9

1.7 Cloud

Late in the day we heard that actor Gene Wilder had left our world of pure imagination, maybe to watch from this cloud.


Can you twang? Can you pick a country blues guitar?

crumb-hurt-2

If you can, head over to our client Marie Marshall’s poetry blog and see if you can put a tune to some words she came up with one night.

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ClareTalking of twanging guitars, It’s festival time here in Scotland, and Paul is out-and-about. If you spot him at The Foodies Festival in Inverleith Park, Edinburgh, or at the International Book Festival in Charlotte Square, or at Edinburgh Fringe events such as Harry Venning’s ‘Release Your Inner Cartoonist’ (the Pleasance, Venue 33) rubing shoulders with ‘Clare’ (see opposite), say hello! The twanging of guitars was what was happening at Perth’s Southern Fried Festival, which took place over the last weekend in July. It is Scotland’s biggest celebration of Americana and regularly hosts musical acts from both sides of the Atlantic. Paul was visiting on behalf of the Scottish review site ‘The Mumble’, and managed to see, and in many cases meet, some really interesting musicians, along with other  festival-goers. There were performances from the likes of Martha Fields, aka ‘Texas Martha’, Black Diamond Express, Yola Carter, Imelda May, Dean Owens, Daniel Meade & the Flying Mules, Amythyst Kiah, Andy Fairweather-Low, and many more.

2016-07-28 09 Southern Fried

One exciting pre-festival event was a press and media briefing, and premier of American Epic, a four-part documentary series which will be shown this coming winter on BBC4 in the UK and PBS in the USA. The documentary, which took ten years research, uses hitherto undiscovered archive material, and documents not only the sudden flood of recordings of blues, bluegrass, and other grassroots music, but the technology that gave rise to it – along with the reason why so much of both the archive and the technology was lost during the Depression and World War 2. Co-writer and producer Allison McGourty was interviewed after the premier, and took part in a question-and-answer session.

2016-07-28 10 Allison McGourty

Allison McGourty interviewed in Perth Concert Hall.

Paul says, “I look forward to this festival every year, and every year it seems to go from strength to strength.” Amongst the highlights for him were “… meeting and talking to Yola Carter and Martha Fields, both of whom were utterly charming… getting to know Marc Marnie, the larger-than-life photographer, who has been photographing musicians since 1977… hearing Imelda May live… eating soul food… chatting to Lloyd Reid about Hofner arch-top guitars…” Some of Paul’s memories of the weekend are captured in the photos here.

2016-07-29 02 Pete Caban

Scottish bluesman Pete Caban

2016-07-29 05 Texas Martha

Texas Martha and the House of Twang

2016-07-29 17 Soul food

Some of the soul food on offer.

2016-07-30 01a Black Diamond Express#

Black Diamond Express.

2016-07-30 15 Yola Carter*

Yola Carter.

2016-07-30 21 Imelda May*

Imelda May.

2016-07-31 01 Yola Carter

It’s Yola’s birthday!

2016-07-31 15 Daniel Meade*

Daniel Meade & the Flying Mules.

2016-07-31 17 Daniel Meade (h)

The Flying Mules’ amazing guitarist, Lloyd Reid.

Images © Paul Thompson / Bookseeker Agency


Stanza 2016

StAnza header

Here are some visual memories of this year’s StAnza at St Andrews. As always, the main venues for this exciting poetry festival were the Byre Theatre and the Town Hall, each place having rooms enough for simultaneous presentations, readings, performances, and exhibitions.

2

Will Philip

I got the chance to meet and chat with several interesting people and to catch some of the excellent poetry sessions. I had a long chat with Scottish poet Will Philip, in which we explored everything from the concept of art, through the poetry as communication, to theology. My good friend and colleague Damo Bullen was there, and we had a chinwag – when he wasn’t checking the Burnley v. Blackburn score on his smartphone – and caught the performance by Jemima Foxtrot together.

Helena Nelson and I, along with another visitor to the HappenStance stall at the Poetry Market, had a long discussion about lip-reading as part of the reception/interpretation of spoken performances. Helena gave me a copy of her book How (Not) To Get Your Poetry Published – thank you Helena, that’ll come in very handy – and told me I should style myself a ‘literary secret agent’ because it sounded much more glamorous.

3

Helena Nelson

Yes, literary secret agent, I like that.

On top of that there were pieces of cake served on poem-bearing serviettes at the Poetry Market, macaroni pies and Schiehallion ale at the Studio Theatre, and blissful scones at the café in the Byre. StAnza is still in full swing as I write this, but alas my own visits are over until next year…

… when maybe the literary secret agent may even step into an open mic event. You never know.

Paul

 

4

Kirsten Luckins

5

Valerie Laws

 

6

Aase Berg

9

The Poetry Market

7

Jemima Foxtrot


Pitlochry, as the dread hour approaches…

theatre

Brightly lit though Pitlochry Festival Theatre might be at night, buzz though festival-goers might around such visiting celebrities as Ronnie Browne, Gregor Fisher, and Charlotte Green, there comes a time when a hush falls over the handful of brave ones who stay behind for the storytellers’ lock-in. Collars are turned up at the suggestion of icy fingers at the neck, and there are anxious glances over the shoulder at the hint of a presence walking through the River Room. Attention is then fixed on the storytellers – actors Dougal Lee and Helen Logan – as though to draw comfort from them. But there is no comfort there. They have us under their spell!

article2This is how it is at every ‘Fearie Tales’ event during Winter Words. Eight chilling tales are read to us in four late-evening sessions. The stories themselves are selected from submissions by contemporary writers from Scotland and beyond. On Friday 12th of February I was there myself. I spoke above of a lock-in, and indeed one of the stories told to us was set at a remote inn after drinking hours, where a stranger told the small company of the nightmares that had beset him since he was a child, as we feared for his mortal safety. The scene in the cold morning light, however, was a plot twist that stunned…

To an extent you never know what to expect at ‘Fearie Tales’. I was there in anticipation of hearing client Marie Marshall’s ‘The Ice House’ – was that you, Marie, lurking by the door of the River Room, flitting away when the applause came? Really you are too shy.

article1‘The Ice House’ was read by Helen, who put layers of character into her reading. The story itself was a tribute to M R James, arguably the greatest writer of ghost stories in the English language. James himself makes an appearance in the story, as an avuncular mentor to the narrator – a young, female, law student at the time of the action – and provides, though he doesn’t realise, the denouement in the form of a letter. The story takes us, via a discussion about humankind’s deepest terrors, a sense of dread in a lonely place, and the delirium of a fever, to the revelation of a brutal crime. The construction of the story is very Jamesian – a typical Marie Marshall emulation – and the sense of period and place is perfect. I do hope there will be some way in which this story can be read more widely, whether Marie places it on her web site, where she does showcase a handful of her stories, or in a collection.

I shall be back in the River Room at Pitlochry on Saturday 20th, when another client’s story is due to be performed. This time it will be by Lucy P Naylor, the Queen of Quirk, and the action will range from a Dundee ‘pletty’ to the city’s ancient Howff graveyard.

The canny short-story-writer knows to pen and submit something written with Dougal’s or Helen’s voice in their ear, to structure their story to suit reading aloud, and to consider each actor’s strength in characterisation. Nothing facile gets through the selection process at Winter Words, and you know that by the time each ‘Fearie Tales’ session comes, that you will hear what is probably la crème de la crème of the Macabre. The festival as a whole is worth a winter break here in the Scottish Highlands.


An evening of chills in Pitlochry

Ice House

Well, more a series of evenings, as the ‘Fearie Tales’ stories get under way at the Winter Words festival in Pitlochry, on Friday 12th February. The Friday and Saturday evenings of each Festival weekend are rounded off by a brace of macabre or ghostly tales, the winners of an annual competition run by the festival organisers.

One of the most consistent story-writers in the competition is our client Marie Marshall, whose weird stories have been amongst the winners almost without a break since 2008. Her stories, each with a Scottish setting, have included:

Chagrin – in which an elderly man is haunted by the memories of an old love every time he sees anyone with red hair.
Vae Victis – the testimony of a Roman Legionary on the Empire’s northernmost frontier, of a nameless terror that comes in the midwinter night.
Place of Safety – the tale of a young man who loses his love to a magician.
On The Platform – waiting, waiting for morning, but who is the ghost and who the ghost-hunter?
Da Trow i’ da Waa – a writer, having taken a remote cottage in Shetland, finds truth in Carnacki’s saying, “There can be no safety when the monster breathes through wood and stone.”
Voices – the audio diary of an Australian academic on a Highland mountain-top, listening for Random Voice Phenomena.

This year’s winning entry from Marie is The Ice-house, in which a young woman awakens an old evil in the dunes of Tentsmuir. If you want to hear it read aloud by Scottish actor Helen Logan, make your way to the Pitlochry Festival Theatre and grab a seat in the River Room for 9.30pm.

Marie hopes to have a collection of her short stories published this year, so watch this space!

 

 


Edinburgh International Book Festival

Prof. David Crystal

Prof. David Crystal

Every year I make it my business to spend some time at the Edinburgh International Book Festival – sometimes at the Book Fringe too, if I can make it, but definitely at the Book Festival in Charlotte Square. In addition to attending events and writing reviews, I get to meet a lot of interesting people, at book-signings, in the media yurt, and just round and about.

Ben Crystal

Ben Crystal

This year I have been lucky enough to rub shoulders with, amongst others, Professor David Crystal, the UK’s foremost academic in the field of linguistics, and his son Ben Crystal, Shakespearean actor and expert on the ‘original pronunciation’ experiment. It was a great thrill and privilege to meet David and Ben, and to talk to them, as my field of study has touched on their fields of expertise. I have several books by David Crystal, and lately have bought their jointly-edited Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary.

blog2 MS

Meera Syal

Other names I’m able to drop this year include poet David Kinloch, Paul Merton, Anthony Sattin the biographer of T E Lawrence, actor Meera Syal, Nicolas Parsons, Helena Nelson of Happenstance, and political geographer Erik Swyngedouw. I was also able to listen to the music of Scotland’s alternative hip-hop band Stanley Odd. Not that any of these people are unapproachable, as there is an opportunity for anyone to meet them at book-signings.

One feature that grows and moves in the village that Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square becomes, is the collection of photo-portraits taken by the Festival’s resident photographer, Chris Close. During the long fortnight he has the task of photographing the writers, celebrities, and others against a white screen, and displaying them around the Festival walkways. This has to be one of the best jobs at the Festival!

Stand-out moments from this year – for me – include the following: Ben Crystal’s presentation, to a young audience in the Baillie Gifford Imagination Lab, on getting into Shakespeare; engaging Erik Swyngedouw in discussion about dissent, trades union membership, democracy, and such; the tray-bakes in Café Brontë; the ‘end-of-term’ antics around the media centre on the last day. And just about everything else; if it is not a complete oxymoron, I would say that everything stood out. And what’s more, the sun shone all the time I was there.

I always try to escape for a while, and to take in some of the other events in Edinburgh. This year I was lucky enough to be alerted to and invited to Brite Theater’s one-woman version of Shakespeare’s Richard III, featuring Emily Carding, which was totally captivating. On my last day there I took some time to stroll through Princes Street Gardens and the Royal Mile, taking in the stalls, buskers, and Fringe events. The end of the Book Festival always seems to mark the end of summer for me. Back home the apples and Victoria plums are ripening and we’re testing out the central heating system.

Paul

'Insight Radio', who broadcast on behalf of the RNIB, had interviewers in Charlotte Sq.

‘Insight Radio’, who broadcast on behalf of the RNIB, had interviewers in Charlotte Sq.

Anthony Sattin

Anthony Sattin

Helena Nelson

Helena Nelson

Nicolas Parsons being interviewed in the sunshine.

Nicolas Parsons being interviewed in the sunshine.

Erik Swyngedouw (left)

Erik Swyngedouw (left)

Photographer Chris Close

Photographer Chris Close

'Busy doing nothing' outside the Media Yurt.

‘Busy doing nothing’ outside the Media Yurt.

Cedric © Chris Close

Cedric Villani © Chris Close

Maggie O'Farrell © Chris Close

Maggie O’Farrell © Chris Close

Ronnie Browne © Chris Close

Ronnie Browne © Chris Close

Irving Frankel © Chris Close

Irving Frankel © Chris Close

Veronika Elektronika and Solareye of Stanley Odd.

Veronika Elektronika and Solareye of Stanley Odd.

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All the images in this update are © Paul Thompson, except for those from the official collection of Festival portraits, which are © Chris Close and are used here by his kind permission. No further use may be made of any of these images without the direct permission of the copyright-holders.