Edinburgh Book Festival

Posted by Carolyn on August 31, 2008 at 4:23 pm

Just back from Edinburgh, where I took part in my first ever literary festival – and very jolly it was too, apart from the fact that the deluge in which it took place rather dented the tented appeal of the site, which photographs reveal to be a laid-back place on more clement days, with people lazing about on the lawn reading, or chatting to one another in a casual literary manner, rather than dashing across slithery paths to shelter shivering in their yurts as we were forced to do.

Nevertheless, the howling gale provided a cosy atmosphere for my debate on the ‘Politics of Food’ in the Highland Spiegeltent, where I was slated to appear with Graham Harvey, the agricultural editor of the Archers, and Harriet Lamb, director of the Fairtrade Foundation. The Spiegeltent is an odd beast, circular in plan and internally styled like a Victorian boozer, replete with timbered alcoves, stained glass partitions and a deep wine-red decor. Whether it was a keenness to hear what we had to say or just the fact that the tent provided a handy place to shelter from the storm, the space was packed to the rafters (guide-ropes?) with beady-eyed pensioners and a few intense-looking young men and women, all highly attentive and articulate when it came to asking questions. One man in particular, an ex-sheep farmer, regaled us for ten minutes with his theories on life, farming, and why the country in general is going to the dogs. Harriet suggested, quite sincerely, that he might like to write his own book, which I thought was a splendid idea.

Afterwards we retired to the Authors’ Yurt – an extraordinary structure like something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark (shaped like a canvas hobbit-hole) furnished with low sofas with patterned cushions to lounge on, exotic carpets and freely flowing food and drink. The fact that several paparazzi were shooting enthusiastically just outside the entrance suggested that there were probably rather a lot of famous authors there, but since I am about as good at recognising famous authors as I am at spotting architects, I didn’t have even 0.1 of a J.K.Rowling moment. And apparently Sean Connery pitched up the next day too. Oh well – maybe next time.

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