The Blagger's Guide To... Edinburgh Book Festival

All you need to know about the hottest literary topic of the week

Beginning on Saturday in Charlotte Square Gardens and going on until 29 August, the Edinburgh International Book Festival is officially the biggest book festival in the world. It started in 1983 with just 30 "meet the author" events, and is now an annual celebration of literature with more than 700 events and visitor numbers exceeding 200,000. This year, the festival boasts five Man Booker longlisters (Alan Hollinghurst, Sebastian Barry, Carol Birch, Stephen Kelman and A D Miller) along with Alasdair Gray, Alexander McCall Smith, Alexei Sayle, Ali Smith ... and they're just the As from the first weekend.

The Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, admires the festival because it never resorts to roping in pop stars to boost its audience, and as such "has got total integrity", she says. "That's what makes it so special. It's a shining light for language."

When Duffy (inset) was asked to write a poem for the outgoing festival director, Catherine Lockerbie, in 2009, she focused on the famous green room in Charlotte Square, better known as the authors' yurt. She wrote: "Inside the yurt was a pond where goldfish swam and the poets fished for haiku ... the politicians took off their masks at the door and lay down with the truth ... a scientist checked his notes on the next tsunami. A polemicist helped himself to a large red wine and salami ...." Last year, the former hostage Brian Keenan spoke at the festival about his childhood memoir, I'll Tell Me Ma. He wrote in the yurt's visitors' book: "Second time in the yurt. Why didn't they kidnap and keep me here?"

A festival is not a festival unless it has a fringe, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival has two: the Edinburgh Book Fringe, based at the Word Power bookshop, and the West Port Book Festival, at various second-hand bookshops in the Old Town.

Edinburgh was made the first Unesco City of Literature in 2004.

Among the famous residents of Edinburgh's famous Writers' Row have been Ian Rankin, JK Rowling (inset) and Alexander McCall Smith (Sandy, to his friends). Rankin says that they occasionally do pop round to each others' houses for a cup of coffee and a chat about writing. So if you ever find Harry Potter working as a bent cop in Botswana, you'll know why.

McCall Smith says that politicians love appearing at the festival because "it provides an opportunity to harangue an audience that has actually paid to be harangued. It is a very satisfactory arrangement from all points of view."

In 2007, a brewer launched a real ale called Rebus Beer to celebrate 20 years of detective books from Ian Rankin (inset), Norman Mailer tried out Margaret Atwood's LongPen invention, and an early-morning fire alarm at the festival's main hotel saw prominent authors out on the street in their jim-jams. "Ben Okri looked cross but rather handsome in a fluffy hotel dressing gown," revealed the Honey-Dew and Whatever You Love author Louise Doughty.

For further details and to buy tickets to events for adults and children, go to or call the box office on 0845 373 5888.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine