Edinburgh International Book Festival

BEFS suggestions, from early history to high rise, urban landscapes to bogs, there’s something for everyone.

Sat 11 Aug 17:45 – 18:45   Garden Theatre   £12.00, £10.00
Roma Agrawal & Anna Yudina


Meet two women with big ideas about the future of our cities. Roma Agrawal is a structural engineer who helped design The Shard. She’s passionate about the power of engineering to improve lives and shares her enthusiasm in Built. Curator and author Anna Yudina has a different perspective: in Garden City she argues that our urban spaces must incorporate more nature, more greenery, more biodiversity. Chaired by Andrew Franklin.


Sun 12 Aug 15:45 – 16:45   Spark Theatre on George Street   £12.00, £10.00
Barry Cunliffe


In On the Ocean, Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology Barry Cunliffe turns his attention to the history of man and the sea, asking what inspired early man to voyage out into the great blue unknown. From the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, from the simple first vessels to the sailors of the 16th century, he documents our restless quest that has been a driving force of human history. Chaired by Andrew Franklin.


Sun 12 Aug 19:30 – 21:00   Garden Theatre   £12.00, £10.00
ReimagiNation Debate: Housing


Scotland’s 5 New Towns were built to alleviate urban overcrowding and poverty. Just over 70 years later, we have similarly pressing problems: housing shortages, a privately-owned rental market, and widely unaffordable house prices. Examine the future of housing with our panel: Roma Agrawal, structural engineer and author of Built, and John Boughton, author of Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing. Chaired by architectural historian Diane Watters.


Mon 13 Aug 10:00 – 11:00   Baillie Gifford Main Theatre   £12.00, £10.00
Roger Billcliffe


Best known for his architecture and furniture design, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was also an accomplished artist who along with three friends from the Glasgow School of Art were ‘The Four’ at the centre of the Glasgow Style of the late 19th century. In his beautifully illustrated new book Roger Billcliffe maps the graphic language of this illustrious group. Chaired by Susan Mansfield.


Mon 13 Aug 11:00 – 12:00   Garden Theatre   £12.00, £10.00
John Boughton


The Grenfell Tower disaster brought home to many how dire our housing has become, fuelling the the housing crisis debate. The rise and fall of council accommodation is the theme of John Boughton’s book Municipal Dreams. The author and housing campaigner has closely examined council estates across the UK and is certain that regeneration and Right to Buy have created more problems than solutions.


Mon 13 Aug 14:00 – 15:00   Spark Theatre on George Street   £12.00, £10.00
Dan Cruickshank


Colourful architectural historian Dan Cruickshank returns with his book about a building form, Skyscraper, that in fact originated in Edinburgh. Cruickshank’s focus is on the innovative 1890s, the era not only of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Otto Wagner but of Gilded Age Chicago. He charts the development of the high-rise; a symbol of modernity that’s now tainted by controversy and tragedy. Chaired by Sheena McDonald.


Mon 13 Aug 17:45 – 18:45   Garden Theatre   £12.00, £10.00
Kirsten Carter McKee & E Patricia Dennison


The development of Scotland’s urban landscapes links the latest works from historians Kirsten Carter McKee and E Patricia Dennison. Edinburgh’s ‘Third New Town’ (aka Calton Hill and the surrounding area) is the focus for Carter McKee who finds that the architecture and design on the hill is a vivid demonstration of Scotland’s cultural identity. Dennison’s The Evolution of Scotland’s Towns considers urban heritage over 1,000 years, asking what we have lost and may continue to lose through neglect and fragmentation. Chaired by Sheena McDonald.


Tue 14 Aug 18:30 – 19:30   The Bookshop on George Street   FREE: Book in advance

Music Room Favourites

From Jane Austen to P G Wodehouse, music rooms have been the setting for the blossoming of partnerships and the thickening of plots. But in the memoirs of William Fiennes and Namita Devidayal the music room is a place of calm. Join Ruthanne Baxter, Museums Services Manager at the University of Edinburgh for an exploration of music rooms between book covers and across centuries.


Wed 15 Aug 17:00 – 18:00   Baillie Gifford Main Theatre   £12.00, £10.00
Brian May & Roger Taylor


In the 19th century, Scotland was a pioneer of photography. A leading practitioner was George Washington Wilson, whose innovations in stereoscopic photography created some of the most captivating 3D images. Join photographic historians Dr Brian May (also the lead guitarist of Queen) and Professor Roger Taylor as they trace Wilson’s career, show key examples of his work using a stunning new 3D projection system and present their accompanying book, George Washington Wilson, Artist and Photographer, published by the London Stereoscopic Company.


Fri 17 Aug 10:30 – 11:30   Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre   £8.00, £6.00
Gilbert Márkus


The period between 0 and 900AD is often dismissed as the Dark Ages but Gilbert Márkus has another view, and uses what he calls ‘luminous debris’ – bits and pieces of literary and material culture from the period – to shed light on the reality. In Conceiving a Nation, the Glasgow University researcher provides an entertaining introduction to Pictish kings, Norse settlements and Scotland’s early days. Chaired by Sheena McDonald.


Fri 17 Aug 12:15 – 13:15   Spark Theatre on George Street   £12.00, £10.00
James Crawford


Few of us experience Scotland’s majesty from above. In his book Scotland from the Sky, based on the BBC Scotland series, aerial photography buff James Crawford gives us a bird’s eye view of our nation in both space and time, starting with what an early aviator saw from the cockpit and building up to the present day. What he finds is a story of conflict, countryside, innovation and people.


Sun 19 Aug 11:00 – 12:00   Garden Theatre   £12.00, £10.00
Robin Crawford & Donald S Murray


The moorlands of Scotland and beyond fascinate art historian Robin Crawford and playwright-poet Donald S Murray. Crawford discusses what he found after evaluating the peat areas of the Outer Hebrides for a year, documented in Into the Peatlands, while Murray extends his reach from Lewis and the Highlands to the Netherlands and Australia in The Dark Stuff, unpicking why these landscapes have been represented unfairly in folklore.


Sun 19 Aug 19:30 – 21:00   Garden Theatre   £12.00, £10.00
Freedom Debate: Collective Care


In today’s world of individual freedoms and polarising beliefs, can we conceive of a structure of shared social responsibility and be sure it will work for the most vulnerable, those who find themselves at the edges of society? Using our prison and healthcare systems as models, the social activist and author of Radical Help, Hilary Cottam, examines the question with philosopher Edith Hall, designer Alice Rawsthorn, New Zealand artist and Professor Nancy Loucks, Chief Executive of the charity Families Outside.


Tue 21 Aug 19:15 – 20:15   Spark Theatre on George Street   £12.00, £10.00
Richard Sennett


Richard Sennett has spent his career thinking about how to create environments in which people can live good lives. Building and Dwelling is the distillation of a lifetime’s work on a topic which has taken Sennett from New York and London to Medellin and Mumbai. Should urbanism represent society as it is or should it seek to change it? Have your say as Sennett discusses his ideas with Glasgow-based architect Jude Barber.


Wed 22 Aug 16:15 – 17:45   The Spiegeltent   £12.00, £10.00
ReimagiNation: Scotland’s New Towns


For the last two years, social historian Daniel Gray has been searching for utopia. Appointed by the Book Festival as lead writer on our ReimagiNation project, Gray has gathered the stories of communities across Scotland’s five New Towns. Join him and a cast of local residents from Cumbernauld, Irvine, East Kilbride, Glenrothes and Livingston as they tell Scotland’s New Town story, 70 years after they were created.


Wed 22 Aug 19:30 – 21:00   Garden Theatre   £12.00, £10.00
ReimagiNation Debate: Environment


How does our environment impact on our everyday lives? Just over 70 years ago, Scotland’s New Towns were designed to incorporate green space. Today, novelist and architect David F Ross joins author and nature writer Karen Lloyd whose latest book is The Blackbird Diaries, to discuss the interaction of nature and the built environment with social historian Daniel Gray, who has been chronicling the voices of Scotland’s New Town residents throughout the Book Festival’s ReimagiNation touring programme.


Mon 27 Aug 14:00 – 15:00   Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre   £8.00, £6.00
Piers Dixon & Fiona Watson


Archaeologist Piers Dixon and medieval historian Fiona Watson have teamed up to produce A History of Scotland’s Landscapes. In this stunning book they present maps and photographs showing patterns and markings in fields, forests, mountains and roads. In doing so, they reveal the myriad ways that land use has changed over the centuries, from the passing of the Romans to the decline of heavy industry. Chaired by Rosemary Burnet.