An August Without the Edinburgh Book Festival

Posted on August 10, 2020 in Scotland

As lockdown continues, most cities are eerily quiet, but none are so haunting as Edinburgh city centre in August. After years of grumbling about the festival, a lot of people from Edinburgh have suddenly seen what it’s like without a month-long party and it’s… not quite right. So, for book lovers UK-wide, here are some ways that you can fill that Edinburgh-International-Book-Festival-shaped hole in your August.


First and foremost, the book festival is still up and running, just in a slightly different way. Although there will be no big tent, the Edinburgh International Book Festival website currently boasts thirteen pages of free online events running from the 15th August, including BSL and captioned programmes. While it won’t be the same, their digital chatrooms might help to provide the feeling of a busy room (remember those?) and the fact that they’re hosted online means that they’re more accessible, and there’s the opportunity to catch up on an event in your lunch break or evening. The EIBF has also been uploading audio of its events as podcasts for the last few years, so if there’s anything you missed before, or you can’t wait until the 15th, searching ‘Edinburgh International Book Festival’ in your podcast app should bring up all the series from years past.


If you’re looking for more of that book-discussion feeling, you can also take to YouTube, where the book festival posts as Edbookfest, but for shorter snippets you could also try searching for Scottish Book Trust, particularly Book Week Scotland, where they post author interviews and Q&As with a general running time of around three minutes. The SYP has a podcast, search ‘The SYP Oxford Podcast’ for all things publishing, while SYP Scotland’s own Molly can be found on ‘The Pod Around the Corner’ with book discussions and recommendations. As well as the numerous other book-related podcasts we could recommend, if you want that feeling of people talking specifically about the book you’re loving, or the author whose back catalogue you’re working your way through, try searching their name in your podcast app and seeing where they’ve featured as a guest – from the comfort of your own headphones, you can follow them round on a mini podcast tour.


Everyone knows that the third best thing about the book festival (the events and the tent bookshop being one and two) is the Square in the sun with an ice cream. In our (possibly rose-tinted) memories, every day was sunny and slow and included those book festival deckchairs, or at least a comfortable patch of grass. Rain isn’t allowed in memories. So, for August, where you can and as far as is safe, you can always try to fill that EIBF-shaped hole in your life by taking your book outside to a similarly comfortable patch of grass and trying to find some of that peacefulness. If you can’t get out to do so, a chair by a sunny window works – the only rule is that there must be ice cream, or something ice cream adjacent.


If it’s Edinburgh that you’re missing, unfortunately we can’t bring that to you, but we can try. Edinburgh is home to a few different publishers, so discovering new books through them might be a connection, or buying from one of our independent bookshops online and having a little bit of Edinburgh posted to you. Maybe your August TBR can be Edinburgh themed (if it’s not already pre-determined and piled high), or you can work your way through some of the films set here, as long as you don’t know the city well enough to become preoccupied with the streets not linking up properly – last ten minutes of Sunshine on Leith, I’m talking to you here.


Lastly, however, the best thing about the festival is the community. There’s something lovely about knowing that when you’re in Charlotte Square in August, you’re surrounded by book lovers and only ever minutes away from engaging in conversation about something you’ve been reading. This month, we’re trying to continue that community feeling with our new SYP Scotland book club, and #SYPChat on twitter. #SYPChat will be running on Sunday 30th August at 7pm and we’ll be discussing book events and how our August feels without the festival – we’d love to see you there.

Keira O’Sullivan