Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Day 18

A 9-year-old boy planning out his career as a novelist with help from a Book Festival author; a trio of girls squealing at writer Jacqueline Wilson as if she were Justin Beiber; a group of school kids sitting on the grass with their noses buried in freshly-bought books.

Those were just some of the scenes from this month in Charlotte Square Gardens. We have nothing to fear from the future of literature – the youngest generation of book fans will make sure no page goes unturned. Or indeed unwritten.

By the way, I'm not just venting randomly. Today was the Schools Gala day at the Book Festival, which meant a full day of events just for schoolkids. We had Julia Donaldson and Tom Pow, Theresa Breslin and Joan Lingard, many other talented and good-spirited contributors, and loads of bunting and balloons (which of course meant a number of helium-voices over the radios). All of it added a great party atmosphere to the sun-filled Gardens.

Oh, and there were about a zillion Where's Wallys.

Where's Wa- THERE HE IS.

I'll post one last time here on the blog tomorrow with m'final thoughts on this year's record-breaking Book Festival, but, for now, it's time to fold up the deckchairs, take down the tents, pull up the walkways, pack up the books, and sweep up all the sleeping authors.

Day 17

Okay so I didn't go to eight events at the Book Festival today. I went to nine. Oho that's right. I've spent hours (sleepily) boasting about it and have been reliably informed that it's a Book Festival record. Allow me to boast some more by telling you about my day.

10:00 Ten at Ten. These have been consistently good-quality little events every morning at the Book Festival, and they ended this year on a high. Samkela Stamper read from her poetry and diary with contagious gusto.

10:15 Deborah Levy & Gwendoline Riley. Two powerful authors with a captivating way with words. There's something exciting about an author reading from their own works, and this event was a perfect example of that. Author readings have been among my favourite moments this August.

11:30 Kathy Lette. Kathy began her event with a mini highland fling! And it only got better from there. Full of outrageous true stories (from keeping Julian Assange in her attic to kissing Prince Harry on the lips), Kathy fused moving insights into her character's (and son's) autism, with laugh-out-loud humour.

14:00 Tom Bullough & Jane Sullivan. It's inspiring when speakers can work a small venue to great effect. Tom gripped the audience with tales of the deaf protagonist in his latest novel, and Jane shared the thinking and history behind her remarkable book about little people.

15:30 Harriet Walter. “We never tell older people that they're beautiful”, said Harriet. “So I went up to her and told her”. Harriet earned the adoration of a large audience as she shared her photography project celebrating the beauty of the older woman.

17:00 Robert Macfarlane. This was a motivating event about walking through landscape, and thinking as you do so. Robert is possibly the most instinctively articulate author I've heard at the Book Festival this year; and that's really, really saying something.

18:30 James Meek. This novelist writes about love as few others can; meticulously and without restraint. In his event this evening he gave us an insight into how, and why.

20:00 John McCarthy. Famously, John McCarthy is the BBC journalist who spent five years as a captive in Lebanon. He spent that whole time without a glimpse of sunlight. Tonight he gave a personal, fascinating account of his experience. It wasn't a surprise that the event was moving – but it was a surprise that it was hilarious. An absolutely extraordinary hour. Furthermore, it was the inaugural Frederick Hood Memorial Lecture at the Book Festival, celebrating the life of the late Frederick Hood, a young Charlotte Square-based investment manager who had a profound impact on those around him. Tonight, Hood's father presented John McCarthy with a Frederick-inspired fedora hat as a thank you and a memento.

21:00 Unbound. The Book Festival's late-night series of events has been a joy and – as ever – a phenomenal success. Sending it out on a high for another year was comedian Sian Bevan and the talented winners of Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award. Lots of interaction, lots of brilliant readings, and LOTS of laughs.

The 2012 Edinburgh International Book Festival has come to an end for another year. But let us not mourn! Let us look back and sigh with great – and happily smug – contentment. And, of course, let us look forward. The Book Festival is getting better every year – so imagine what 2013 is going to be like.

Incidentally, it's not really the end of the Book Festival for this year...

Tomorrow is School Gala Day; a whole day in Charlotte Square Gardens open only to schools. So I'll report back to you tomorrow, and then – maybe – we can start thinking about closure...