Raymond Ross looks forward to the Edinburgh Book Festival
The 1997 Edinburgh Book Festival (August 9-25), which from this year becomes an annual event, is already setting new records and breaking new ground.
For the first time, a copy of its schools pack (sponsored by The TES Scotland) has reached every primary, secondary and special school in central Scotland, from East Lothian and the Borders to Stirling, Clackmannan and Lanarkshire, and this has resulted in some 6,400 seats already sold for school events and a marked increase in the number of secondary schools attending the Charlotte Square Gardens 17-day festival.
"The response has been absolutely tremendous," says Rosalind Holland, the children's education officer at the EBF. "We have more events and a wider range of activities and children's authors than ever before."
Schools' authors this year include Theresa Breslin (Death or Glory Boys), Melvin Burgess (Junk), Mairi Hedderwick (Katie Morag), Janni Howker (Walk with a Wolf), Alison Prince (Sherwood Hero) and Lisa Tuttle (Panther in Argyll). Among the big international names are Margaret Atwood from Canada, Amos Oz from Israel and Mario Vargas Llosa from Peru.
More than 8,000 titles will be displayed throughout the three different browsing tents including the Bank of Scotland's Children's Book Tent, and events range from the well established meet-the-author sessions, workshops and children's tea parties to new storytelling and puppet shows.
A special teepee will house story-tellers from around the world, including those from Ireland, Africa, Australia and the USA. Made for the EBF at Traquair in Peebles-shire from lodge pole pine and canvas, the Sioux-style tent will also host poetry readings. Storytelling is to become an annual part of the book festival.
An Anne Frank event is to be held on Saturday, August 16, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Diary of a Young Girl. Those taking part will include former hostages and members of Anne Frank's family.
There will be specially created musical performances built around readings by Helen Cowcher, Mairi Hedderwick, Aileen Paterson and Berlie Doherty, and performing poets will include Dilys Rose, Roger McGough and Brian Patten.
A musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhyme Goldilocks will receive its premi re by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in a special schools performance at the Glasgow Concert Hall on December 18 and, as part of the build-up, the EBF has organised Revolting Rhyme Workshops (August 14), which will be led by award-winning writer Chris Dolan.
EBF 97 has also nominated three poets - Emily Dickinson, Pablo Neruda and George Mackay Brown - to be the "Absent Poets" of the festival. Although the triumvirate form a "Dead Poets Society", their writings and lives will be celebrated through exhibitions and daily readings by other writers.
Absence through imprisonment is another theme. Each day, authors will read from the work of a writer imprisoned somewhere in the world. These events are organised in association with Pen International, Amnesty International and Index on Censorship.
Highlights of the adult programme will feature writers as varied as Iain Banks, Iain Crichton Smith, Janice Galloway, Ben Okri, Fergal Keane, Blake Morrison and A L Kennedy (all of whom would be appropriate for Higher reviews of personal reading and Certificate of Sixth Year Studies projects). August 17 will see a special celebration of the 50th anniversary of Indian independence; and from August 23-24 there will be a celebration of the Scotland Africa 97 Campaign with authors including Gillian Slovo and Doris Lessing.
Two new EBF tents are also being established this year. The BT Electronic Publishing Tent will give visitors the chance to experience the latest in multimedia publishing, from CD-Roms to the Internet, with special activities for teachers and parents; and the Lifestyles Tent is offering hands-on sessions from aromatherapy and homeopathy to feung shui and gardening, exploring books that inspire lifestyles.
Ancient Writing Workshops will be run by the Scottish Council for Archaeology, at which young archaeologists can try their hand at deciphering Pictish Ogham, making a wax tablet or writing a letter in Roman script.
The last Edinburgh Book Festival attracted 79,000 people. Organisers are hopeful they will set yet another record this year.
EBF can be contacted at the Scottish Book Centre, 137 Dundee Street, Edinburgh EH11 1BG, tel: 0131 228 5444 uStar Turns will return on August 22. Philip Spellacy Puppets, who were featured on June 6, can be contacted on 0973 488978 and not the number given