Track down a good show? That's elementary ...

6th August 2004 at 01:00
No matter what you fancy - drama, dance, musicals, films, concerts, choirs, books - there is sure to be something at one of the Edinburgh festivals to delight you. Our reporters highlight a feast for your eyes and ears

At this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival not only do primary children have the chance to go on a journey of the imagination, they will receive a passport to prove it.

On arrival at Charlotte Square Gardens, children aged up to 11 will be given a free 16-page colour passport with details of everything on offer, from storytelling sessions to author events, to help them make the most of what is going on and a map to help them navigate the site. They will also be given stickers to stamp the places they have visited.

"The idea is that it will help them to plan their day at the book festival and give them more details about what there is to do," says Karen Mountney, the children's programme director. "It will also encourage them to see their day as an adventure or journey of the imagination."

Inside the passport there are things to do, such as a quiz and a treasure hunt, and blank pages where children can draw pictures or write something inspired by their day. Giving them this space to express their experiences highlights the message that the book festival is not just about reading, it is also about listening, learning, writing, illustrating; in short, it is an all round creative experience.

There are workshops to fuel the imagination, including bookmaking with Edinburgh book artist Rachel Hazell, making soundtracks with Pam Wardell and creating stories with Vivian French, the festival's writer-in-residence.

The schools programme includes six days packed with events for primary and secondary pupils (August 23-30, not including August 28, 29) and a gala day for primary pupils on August 31. Teachers are not forgotten either, with after-school events on August 19, 23 and 25.

The programme (sponsored by The TES Scotland) kicks off with authors Anthony Horowitz, Jennifer Donnelly - visiting from New York - and Vivian French talking about writing and, after a host of authors to learn from, culminates with Elizabeth Laird, whose novel The Garbage King recently won the Scottish Arts Council's children's book of the year award.

As well as plenty of familiar faces, such as children's laureate Michael Morpurgo, Jacqueline Wilson and David Almond, there are writers new to the festival, among them Nicola Morgan, who will talk about her teenage novel Fleshmarket and divulge gruesome details of life and medicine in old Edinburgh.

Popular writers for secondary pupils to meet include Malorie Blackman, Catherine Forde, Marcus Sedgwick, Paul Magrs, and Bernard Ashley, while Teenage Kicks events (which are part of the public programme) offer teenagers the chance to tell authors what they really think of fiction for them.

The primary schools' gala day, now in its third year, has 16 events on offer. Highlights include regular favourite Joan Lingard, who will be talking about conflict and displacement, Aileen Paterson with Maisie the Cat, and Julia Donaldson, who will invite children to help her act out her rhyming picture book The Magic Paintbrush. Children can draw kung fu cats with S. F. Said, learn about the Alaskan gold rush with Stephen Potts, enjoy a whirlwind hour of poetry fun with Paul Cookson, or see Itchy Coo actors perform King O The Midden, which is described as "a mad, mental rammy of poetry, drama and song".

Children are not limited to the schools events: the children's programme spans the whole festival. There are more than 250 events on offer, including workshops, daily storytelling and poetry readings and an activity corner with free hands-on activities for children aged up to 11. Among the many other authors on site, Anne Fine, Eoin Colfer and Roger McCough, to name a few, will interest them and you might catch sight of Dr Seuss's Cat in the Hat.

21st Edinburgh International Book Festival, August 14-30; schools events August 23-31. Tickets for some events (including for teachers) are still available, tel 0131 624

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