Communities at the Book Festival

Communities Programme activities are an integral part of the Book Festival. From showcase events featuring local people, community meals in the Storytime Yurt, an eccentric tour of a new 'Forbidden Planet', and 10 special 'Our City, Our Stories' events to celebrate the Book Festival’s 40th anniversary, the Communities Programme really shone this year. Read on to find out more about who we worked with, their experiences of the Book Festival, and how to catch up with any events you missed this summer. 

Stories and Scran  

With Stories and Scran returning to the Festival for its fourth year, we were delighted to welcome back Scran Academy to cater our community meal. Scran Academy is a social enterprise that works with young people to teach them catering skills. The Scran team cooked up a three-course feast which our Communities participants enjoyed in the Storytime Yurt. 

Afterwards, our Citizen writers presented a jam-packed programme of readings and videos sharing their creative work from the last year. We heard a huge range of exciting new writing, including a video written and performed by the North Edinburgh Over 50s Drama Group, stories about life in Wester Hailes from the WHALE Arts writing group, poetry from the Tollcross Aye Write group, and several thought-provoking reflections from our online Writers’ Group and The Citizen Collective. 

Return to Planet Citizen 

Following the huge success of our Planet Citizen installation in the 2022 Book Festival, Ryan Van Winkle once again worked with Edinburgh school pupils to imagine what a new planet could look like if it was designed from scratch. From these discussions, Planet Citizen emerged: an imaginative world complete with detailed explanations of the terrain, the wildlife, and even the belief systems and customs of the fictional inhabitants. Ryan and the young people then worked with professional artists to create a physical planet that landed at the Book Festival for the final weekend of the festival. We are really grateful to visual artists Emma Brierly, Natalie Doyle, Faith Eliott, Lotte Fisher, Seamus Killick, Mikel Krumins, Stephen Paterson, and Emily Randall for bringing the young people’s writing and ideas to life in such a mind-blowing way. 

It was especially fun to welcome the classes from Tynecastle High School and St Thomas’s to explore the installation and see their imaginative worlds materialise. One of the pupils from St.Thomas’s commented: “The book festival with Ryan was a one of a kind experience! I loved having Ryan explain everything and I loved the monster at the front which led into other places. I also loved seeing other schools’ work and even some of my class’s work. The art they made showed off their talent. My favourite part, though, was at the end when receiving post cards, seeing that some of my friends wrote the text in the cards! It was so cool!” 

Letters of Hope 

As part of our long-term partnership with The Alternative School at the Spartans Community Foundation (SCF), this year we held our first event showcasing the incredible creative work of the young people involved. Our writer-in-residence Chris Barkley (who has been working with the pupils since August 2022) hosted a special evening of film, poetry and stories. The young people, their families, and representatives from SCF, alongside the wider Book Festival audiences, came together to celebrate the young people and what they have achieved with Chris’ support. The event included to films written by and starring the young people as well as a poem read live by Ashton.  

Thanks to an anonymous donation, we will continue our work at The Alternative School for another year. Keep your eyes posted for more updates from Chris as the year progresses. 

Our City, Our Stories 

Over the three weekends of the festival, we brought together poets, artists, musicians, and writers from across the city to share their stories and build a collective love letter to Edinburgh in our Story Time Yurt. The performances were multi-artform featuring music, poetry, illustration, rap, and stories. The events included both professional and non-professional artists and contributors ranged in age from 16-85 years old. The Our City, Our Stories events were free to attend and gave packed-out audiences an insight into local people’s view of the city. 

We worked with a range of partners to put together the Our City, Our Stories programme – our thanks to Open Book, the Scottish BPOC Writers Network, the Tollcross Aye Write Group, Intercultural Youth Scotland, and the 12 Collective. 

And more…

It was fantastic to be able to welcome several other groups and community partners to the site for a host of different events. Open Book hosted two days of activity with their members attending events including Karine Polwart and Amy Liptrot: Creative (with) a Sense of Place and Leyla Josephine and Michael Mullen: Poetry formed and performed. For the first time members of The Ripple’s Friday Club attended the festival to hear Claire Askew speak (you can read more about our work with The Ripple here) and we also offered free tickets to members of Gig Buddies too, who attended events including Sara Pascoe: Why Be Normal When You Can Be Funny. We were also delighted that our own groups were able to attend events this year with The Citizen Collective particularly enjoying Max Porter: Boyhood  

Citizen is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and through the PLACE Programme (funded by the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council, and the Edinburgh Festivals, and supported and administered by Creative Scotland). 

You can read more about the Book Festival's activities in Edinburgh and around Scotland HERE - and the next Edinburgh International Book Festival wil take place on 10 to 26 August 2024 in its new home at the Edinburgh Futures Institute.

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