Monday and Tuesday Review of the Edinburgh Book Festival

Monday and Tuesday Review of the Edinburgh Book Festival
Image: Colin Galbraith

Apologies for yesterday, folks. This blog post is a day late due to the attention of a hacker at about 3:10am the night before last (Monday). It would appear that this technical challenged choob hacked into my domain and brought the blog down using an automated script.

As you can see, though, little twats with nothing better to do will have to try harder in order to throw me off course, for I am backed up to the hilt. So nae joy, wee man!

As days at the Edinburgh Book Festival go, Monday was right up there with the best. It had it all: legends of literature, chance meetings, networking opportunities, wonderful discussions and debate, emotional tear-jerkers, and for me, a rather exciting development in my book fest blogging exploits: media accreditation.

I’ll come back to that last one in a moment, but first the day started off early with a coffee in Costa (they let me charge my iPhone while I’m supping my froth) before I headed up for the ‘Ten at Ten’ event, the free (but ticketed) 10-minute reading with an un-named author. To my absolute amazement, the US giant that is Tobias Wolff strolled into the Writer’s Retreat to read a short story, the only one he’s ever written from the point of view of a Collie dog. A truly wondrous start to the day.

I’ll summarise the author events I went to here, but you will find fuller write-ups building up over at my Edinburgh Book Festival blog.

William McIlvanney
After the ‘Ten at Ten’, I got chatting to another author, Sean White. We grabbed a coffee and talked shop—the challenges of publication, etc.—before I headed off to see one of my favourite authors of all time: William McIlvanney.

McIlvanney, to me, stands for everything that is good in Scottish literature, as well as good old-fashioned up-standing values. He is a true gentleman and has what I would reckon to still have the best smile in world literature.

He read from a new selection of poems, all related to the subject of life and the requirement for us to analyse ourselves. “An unexamined life,” he explained, “is like taking a lifetime to get down to the shops for a message, then forgetting what it was you went for.”

McIlvanney’s habit of pulling cracking one-liners out of the air continued as he commented on the publishing industry: “Many books are published for dubious reasons these days,” and on the recent riots in London: “Hope begins in confronting the reality of experience.”

The Press Pod
Following McIlvanney’s deep and fascinating hour, I took a seat in the coffee shop and checked my email. There was one that specifically hooked my interest. It was from the press office confirming that my media accreditation application had been successful.

Oh joyous day, oh glory be!

Now, the thing about media accreditation is that it allows you certain things: ability to request free tickets, photographic and interview possibilities, entry to the Press Pod, and free coffee and biscuits. Being fully ticketed up and with a certain level of caffeine always in my blood during most times of the day anyway, none of that is really a draw (although I have requested a bunch of tickets to fill up certain days that had some gaps—and why not, eh?). What is a draw is the Press Pod, access to which permits me to be able to blog immediately, without having to take notes and publish my blog late at night when I get home. I’m tired enough by this point so it really is going to be a life saver.

The other exciting thing is the people I get to meet and watch in more detail—I get to see how the book festival works from the other side of the fence. And after only my first day with media accreditation, I can confirm that it is a veritable hive of activity with a LOT of very busy people all running around doing a LOT of work. These people are rarely seen by the visitors to the festival, and my appreciation of the work they do has already multiplied ten-fold.

Finally, the utter top most exciting thing with my author’s hat on and a little bit of the kid inside me, is that to get to the Press Pod I have to walk passed the author’s tent—the Yurt. This, for any up-and-coming writer who has spent time at the book festival will know, is the absolute Mecca of the literary world in August. If Charlotte Square is the bright centre to the universe, then the Yurt is where all the Gods congregate to drink and chat before going out to spread their magic. It is where all authors want to be—one day.

Edinburgh Bookshop
Once I’d come down off of that excitement, I thought I’d grab some lunch then pop into the Spiegeltent to see what was happening. Not much as it turned out, but as I was turning to leave I heard my name being shouted. It was the lovely Vanessa from The Edinburgh Bookshop!

We sat down and had coffee and a chat about a lot of things—not as long a chat as I would have liked though, as I had to run off to my next event—but a remarkable amount given we were only together for about half an hour!

Julie Hill
After coffee with Vanessa, I popped off to Peppers Theatre to listen to Julie Hill talk about her book, The Secret Life of Stuff. This was very much a discussion in environmentalism but from an angle I hadn’t considered.

Julie spoke about how we all love stuff. We buy things for whatever reason and it accumulates over time before we get rid of it—then what? Renewables are only renewable if companies allow them to be made from materials that can be recycled. Is sustainability limitless or does consumerism has limits, after all, if economic growth cannot continue in its present form what will happen? It was a fascinating hour.

Story Shop
While waiting for my sister to show up, I popped back into the Spiegeltent to catch the Story Shop reader, Sarah Stewart. She read two excellent short stories but it was a shame the audience wasn’t larger for her. I think the sunny weather may have played its part there. Binny arrived and we joined the next event queue.

Pamela Stephenson-Connolly
As if the temperature wasn’t high enough in the RBS Main tent, Pamela Stephenson-Connolly raised temperatures even further while talking about her new book, Sex Life: How Our Sexual Encounters and Experiences Define Who We Are.

The Edinburgh audience was remarkably forthcoming as she talked about her opinions on sex, sex education and the barriers we place between our partners. Whether the revelation that there is a surprisingly high amount of people in the world that perform oral sex on their pets was too much for the audience, I’m not sure, but she nearly blew the lid off the place when she pulled Leroy, her planted dance partner out of the audience to partake in a sexy Argentinean tango.

Dinner with Binny
After that I needed to cool down and Binny and I headed out of the square for some food. We went to TGI Fridays, which is an American style restaurant on Castle Street, where I enjoyed a thick juicy steak in Jack Daniels sauce, and my sister a towering spicy burger.

I saw Binny off to the station then headed back to Charlotte Square—to the Press Pod no less, to enjoy some free coffee, catch up on Twitter and take some notes on the day’s events.

John Hartson
This was an event that caught me right off guard. I knew John Hartson had been through a cancer scare, quite how that had occurred and what he’d been through I was unaware. Hartson is an ex-Celtic player (as well as various other clubs) who played for them during a particularly fruitful time in their history. He is also a proud Welshman having played for his country over 50 times. When cancer hit him, it him hard.

He told the audience beforehand how hard he was going to find the hour, and indeed, when it came to reading from a passage of the book, Please Don’t Go, he was unable to. Pat Nevin read the passage instead and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Following on from my father-in-law’s death in February, this was a particularly emotional and poignant event to end my Monday.

Christopher Brookmyre
Despite the rain chucking it down for several hours last night, Chris Brookmyre got an almost full house for his appearance in the main tent. I’d already seen him being interviewed in the Press Pod before the event, which was fascinating to be able to compare his non-public media friendly persona to the public performance he is famed for delivering.

He read from his new book, Where the Bodies are Buried and revealed he had already written the follow-up—“like a man possessed after the idea came”—and that it would be called When the Devil Drives.

Closing up, he read a hilarious passage from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, which he’d written as though it had been Irvine Welsh writing it. Full of Edinburgh slang and edgy humour, the audience was in stitches by the time he’d concluded.

The Rest
So that was my first four days at the book festival, rounding off what was an absolutely magnificent first weekend and start to the week. It’s been tiring stuff so far and although I’m back at the day job today, I’ll be back up there tomorrow for several events in the afternoon and evening. With my media credentials, I can start to think about packing out my lunchtimes and early evening events too – the press tickets have been requested!

UPS were at the door on Monday. They tried to deliver my iMac even earlier than Apple said it would be after it was shipped early. Unbelievably good service but it meant my schedule prevented me from collecting it. I’ve re-arranged delivery for Thursday when I know someone will be there to sign for it.

It’s been quite an August so far!

If you want to see photographs from all of these events, please click over and check out my image feed at

Ciao for now!

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About Colin Galbraith

Keen runner, thriller author, Madness fan, Mets fan, St Mirren fan/owner, rabbit tamer, outstanding fake faller. Loves cannolis & espressos. #LFGM
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1 Response to Monday and Tuesday Review of the Edinburgh Book Festival

  1. What a fantastic time! I love living it vicariously through you.

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