Book Festival Outriders return to recount their journeys

Book Outriders 5 authors 975x400

Five Scottish writers took five different journeys across the Americas in May and June, collecting stories and experiences as part of Outriders, a new project from Edinburgh International Book Festival. Now they're back to tell Festival audiences what they discovered.

The five, Harry Giles, Jenni Fagan, Malachy Tallack, Stef Smith and Kevin MacNeil (pictured in order above), each travelled with a local writer on predetermined routes through Canada, the USA, Mexico and Argentina, meeting people and gaining insights along the way.

All ten writers documented their travels through blogs, podcasts and social media, and are now coming together for a series of events at the Book Festival itself (12-28 August 2017) to discuss their travels, reflect on what they experienced and explore new work inspired by their journeys. 

Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival said: 

Outriders is one of our most ambitious EXPO initiatives to date. It offers five Scottish writers priceless experiences and material for their writing, and it will give Scottish audiences new perspectives on America at a time of great political change across the continent.

The first of the writers to embark was Harry Giles, a performer and writer from Orkney, now based in Edinburgh. Harry's journey across northern Canada saw him explore the languages and cultures of minority peoples, as well as the legacy of Scotland's role in the colonisation of the region.

Book Outriders Harry Katherena 975x400

Harry travelled with Metis writer, and winner of the Governor General’s Award, Katherena Vermette.

The other journeys in Outriders were: 

  • Travelling west across the USA from the Rust Belt to Silicon Valley, novelist, poet and screenwriter, Jenni Fagan, was joined by fiction writer Bonnie Jo Campbell as they asked about the nature of truth. 
  • Writer, editor and singer-songwriter Malachy Tallack also tackled the States, heading south and east from North Dakota to Louisiana with American novelist and short story writer Jennifer Haigh.  The pair visited disenfranchised communities to discover how change is happening. 
  • Starting at the US border, Olivier Award-winning theatre writer Stef Smith crossed Mexico en route to the border with Guatemala. She was joined by leading Mexican playwright Ximena Escalante, to challenge the narrative of Mexico as simply a land from which the population wishes to escape to the north. 
  • And finally, award-winning author, poet, screenwriter and playwright Kevin MacNeil followed in the footsteps, or more accurately cycle tracks, of Jorge Luis Borges. MacNeil, accompanied by Argentinian journalist, writer and editor Mariana Enriquez, cycled around Buenos Aires looking into the shared literary heritage of Scotland and Argentina. 

In addition to individual discussion events at the Book Festival, there is also a special Gala reunion performance, with all ten authors taking part to unveil and explore new work inspired by the Outriders project.

The Outriders events at Edinburgh International Book Festival are as follows:

  • 13 Aug, 15:30 - Harry Giles & Katherena Vermette, Canada: Montreal to Hudson Bay
  • 13 Aug, 20:45 - The Reunion, Chronicles of the New World
  • 14 Aug, 18:30 - Ximena Escalante & Stef Smith, Mexico: From the US Border to Guatemala
  • 14 Aug, 20:30 - Outriders: Bonnie Jo Campbell & Jenni Fagan, USA: From the Rust Belt to Silicon Valley
  • 15 Aug, 14:30 - Outriders: Mariana Enriquez & Kevin MacNeil, Argentina: In Search of UFOs
  • 15 Aug, 19:00 - Outriders: Jennifer Haigh & Malachy Tallack, USA: From North Dakota to New Orleans

At the launch of the project, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

Outriders is great opportunity for our writers to explore pertinent and thought-provoking themes as they journey across the two continents. It will be particularly interesting to compare their insights and experiences with those of the local writers accompanying them. 
We’re proud to support this initiative through £100,000 from the Scottish Government’s EXPO fund, and look forward to hearing about their series of talks and events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Nick BArley director of the Festival added: 

The Scottish Government’s EXPO fund has given the Book Festival extraordinary opportunities to try out new ways of working with writers, and to forge new partnerships.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival runs from 12-28 August 2017. More information about the Festival

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