Book Festival challenges fans to Imagine Better

Nick Barley and Janet Smyth of the Edinburgh International Book Festival pose with decorated mannequin heads at the launch of the Festival programme

Edinburgh International Book Festival has launched its full programme for 2016, with more than 800 writers, poets, illustrators, politicians, journalists, historians, scientists, philosophers and playwrights bringing illumination, debate and inspiration to Charlotte Square Gardens this summer. 

The 2016 Festival (13-29 August) is themed Imagine Better, and will welcome participants from 55 countries, in a programme which considers the conflicts and troubles of today's world, and explores the capacity of the human mind to find solutions for the future. 

Nick Barley (pictured), Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, said: 

You could say that the theme of this year’s Festival is ‘Project No Fear’. It’s about encouraging and celebrating the sort of courageous, positive, creative thinking that we desperately need in order to make the world a better place for everyone, rather than just for a privileged few. Novelists, journalists, scientists and poets – writers are the people we always turn to at a time when we need to imagine better. 

Big names

A montage of four photos, showing Jonathan Safran Foer, Han Kang, Philippa Gregory and Eimear McBride

Big names appearing at this year's Festival include American author Jonathan Safran Foer, launching his first novel in more than ten years, winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, Han Kang, Philippa Gregory, Eimear McBride, Alan Cumming, Gordon Brown, Stewart Lee and Ray Mears

Nick Barley added: 

We welcome legendary novelists, prize-winning journalists and life-changing poets, as well as emerging talents whose unforgettable stories will revolutionise our future thinking. All in all, it’s a Festival bursting at the seams with big ideas. 

Guest Selectors

A series of events created by the Book Festival's three Guest Selectors will look at issues including: 

  • the refugee crisis - author and journalist Bidisha speaks with journalists, former refugees, human rights workers and novelists on a range of topics surrounding the issue both in the past and at present.
  • the importance of poetry in everyday life - new Scots Makar, Jackie Kay, discusses the form with novelist Zaffar Kunial, Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, and her own son Matthew. Ms Kay will also be interviewed herself, by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
  • the intersections between medicine and literature - GP and author Gavin Francis, discussing poetry made for new doctors, motherhood with Chitra Ramaswamy and Eula Biss and mental health with Ruby Wax 


Drama is a prominent part of this year's programme with the world premiere of The View from Castle Rock, adapted by multi award-winning playwright Linda McLean from Nobel Laureate Alice Munro's short stories on the experiences of her ancestors who sailed for a new life in Canada. 

Alpha from French graphic artist Barroux also receives its world premiere, with a dramatic realisation and live drawing, of his graphic novel of the same name. 

And David Greig's 1994 play Europe is revived by Philip Howard in a rehearsed reading featuring a cast of nine. 

A View from the Rock, Alpha and Europe are all supported by the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund and Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said:  

The Scottish Government is proud to support the Festival via the Expo Fund and have provided £100,000 this year to support the creation of a series of performances exploring the migrant experience, written and adapted by notable authors and playwrights from Scotland and overseas. 

Other themes for the Book Festival this year include war, music, literary legends and the spoken word.

Children and Young People

As well as the launch of the main programme, Janet Smyth (pictured), Director of the Book Festival Children's Programme, announced a huge selection of material for children and families, with appearances from Julia Donaldson, Debi Gliori, David Melling, Rebecca Cobb, Sophie Kinsella, Julian Clary and many more, plus a special debate on the nature and merits of Young Adult fiction. 

Booking Information

Edinburgh International Book Festival runs from 13-29 August 2016. Find out more about the Festival, including links to programme and ticketing details.

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