By Frances Sutton, Edinburgh International Book Festival
Being asked to describe a ‘typical day’ at the Edinburgh International Book Festival is a challenge - I’m not sure there ever is such a thing.
With adult and children’s authors jetting into Edinburgh from all over the world holding talks, reading workshops, poetry readings and debates in eight tented theatres, there’s always something different going on. But I’ll give it a go…
Charlotte Square Gardens wakes up at around 8am as the Book Festival team arrives, raring to go for another day. The morning meeting takes place in the calm of the Authors’ Yurt to chat through any unusual events for the day, then we take a quick trip next door to see if the press team have got the coffee brewing yet. In my experience, all festivals seem to be fuelled by coffee (and cake!)
After a time check to make sure all clocks and watches on site are synchronised, and a radio call to each department, we’re ready to open the gates and the first visitors of the day flood in. Some head straight to their first event, others to the café for their morning coffee. Many go to the box office to see if tickets for some of our sold out events have become available. You might see a procession of small flower fairies skip across the lawn and the Gruffalo might be spotted wandering into a theatre to join his creator, Julia Donaldson.
This year, historian Antony Beevor will be talking about the Second World War to a packed audience, while Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy will read from her new collection. Meanwhile, the world renowned visual artist Gabriel Orozco will introduce Edinburgh to some of the very best in contemporary Mexican writing and poetry. Andrew O’Hagan, who is one of the nine Man Booker Prize nominated authors, will be doing book signings at the Festival.
Behind the scenes, a stream of authors will be welcomed into the Authors’ Yurt to meet their mediators before being miked up and escorted to their events. In the neighbouring press tent, Colombia’s Sergio Farjado will be found being interviewed for BBC World Service, whilst journalists from The Times, Guardian and Scotsman busily write up stories on the authors they have just listened to.
The afternoon takes much the same shape. The Yurt will be busy with a group of eight actors preparing for their rehearsed reading of Edwin Morgan’s translation of Cyrano de Bergerac, whilst a buzz surrounds the arrival of civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson as press photographers and TV crews jostle for position before his press call.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s bookshops will be busy with folk making purchases, waiting to meet authors, browsing the shelves for books featured in the Festival programme and indeed from other well respected Scottish authors.
As the light starts to fade, Edinburgh’s bars will get busier and the beautiful mirrored Spiegeltent will transform into an evening cabaret show, as Unbound (the Festival’s live literature slot) takes to the stage. Because it’s free and unticketed, a queue will form early with audience members eager to join the music and dancing that invariably carries on into the night.
As the evening draws to a close, the bookshops start to get quieter and shut for the night, whilst the duty manager does the rounds to ensure that everything is as it should be. Eventually, sometime after 1am, he will check that all members of the public and staff have left the site for the night.
Charlotte Square Gardens is finally quiet for a few hours…
The Edinburgh International Book Festival runs from Saturday 15 to Monday 31 August 2015. Full details of the programme, and tickets to all events can be found at www.edbookfest.co.uk.