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Thoughts from the Edinburgh Festival

on Mon, 09/08/2014 - 16:41

The Edinburgh Festival is world-famous for a reason. Whether the wind and rain are so heavy as to make it impossible to hear or the bright sun is bouncing off the Spiegeltent, you just can’t help but be struck by the convergence of cultures and great minds in one of the world’s greatest literary festivals. The air of wisdom, the sharing of knowledge and opinions, permeates the atmosphere and authors and readers become equal, simply as appreciators of great literature.

This year, topics under discussion included the situation in the Middle East, Scottish Independence and the commemorations of the First World War, all of which were hotly debated by speakers and attendees alike. Veteran author Alasdair Gray, the supposed Anglophobe who this year told us that he “doesn’t hate anybody”, spoke about Scottish Independence with his usual vehemence, surprising his audience with the statement that, even if Scotland decides to remain in the Union, there is some comfort in the coalition promising greater devolution and a certain degree of Scottish “independence” (with which Alistair Darling, leader of the "Better Together" campaign, would appear to agree).

Our author Dilys Rose read beautifully from her new book, Pelmanism. The novel, a realistic portrayal of an man driven to madness by the culture of apprising middle-class Glasgow, was published by Luath Press this past June, and its antagonist has been described by the Glasgow Herald as a “true Scottish monster”. The particular passage being read included a musical number, for which Dilys transitioned the medium of her performance from reading to singing. You can see her reading another passage from Pelmanism here.

But the highlight of the festival for us had to be the groundbreaking and immersive experience provided by the Book Festival's Letters Home event. Short stories written by four writers, including Christos Tsiolkas – author of the best-selling 2008 novel The Slap – and "Best of Young British Novelist" Kamila Shamsie – were realised in reality by The Grid Iron Theatre Company and given life in the form of three stunning and enveloping theatrical pieces and one innovatively-presented film. We weren't surprised to find our own opinion on the matter confirmed – the production has won a Fringe First. Quite right, too!