Summer in Edinburgh

9/3/2013

The tents in which this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival was held have gone. All that remains are the citrus yellow patches and muddy ruts in the grass where they used to stand and the bare stripes that were once the walkways. It's almost impossible to imagine that so much was packed into Charlotte Square Gardens, now locked to the public until next year.

Inevitably, because Fraser Ross Associates is based in Edinburgh, we spent a significant part of the second half of August either at the Edinburgh International Book Festival or making our way there and back. We've enjoyed meeting authors we haven't met before, reacquainting ourselves with others we know well, and watching 'our' writers and illustrators take part. Some of them are old hands, and for others it was a first. For all of them, an invitation from the Book Festival is a feather in their cap.

It's been lovely - and helpful - to meet up with some of those publishers who made the journey north. For a publisher, festivals like Edinburgh's - a long way from the London headquarters of most publishers - represent a significant investment . They'll be keen to see it repaid in good PR and robust booksales. Sending authors and illustrators to the Edinburgh International Book festival is a gamble for a publisher, just as it's a gamble for many of those who buy tickets. But those gambles can pay off in any number of ways - serendipity has a major role to play at this festival.

The Director of the Children's Programme, Janet Smyth and her team have come a long way in enticing a wider audience of young people into Charlotte Square Gardens - and they should be congratulated on that. Yes, there were many sell-out events, but for those attending the not-so-full tents, there were still plenty of treats and surprises. 

It's 30 years since the first book festival in Edinburgh, and Joan Lingard has been on the programme at every one of them. Now in her 80s she made the trip to Charlotte Square Gardens again this year - once to be interviewed by Janet Smyth about her life as a writer, and the second time to talk to a packed tent of school children. In an interview ahead of this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival, she revealed the genesis of the book festival - a collaboration between the Society of Authors and Scottish PEN. Today's version is certainly bigger and the tents are a great deal more substantial, but the essential components remain the same - writers, readers and books.

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