My first event was Susie Orbach who talked about her work and her latest book and explained how they had been able to write the book without impacting on client confidentiality. The book was originally broadcast on radio 4 so people may already be familiar with it but even if you are it sounds like there is a lot to be learned in the reading, and possible re-reading of the book. They set up fake clients with fake, but genuine issues such as failed IVF treatements, impending retirement, etc and then the fake clients had a session with Susie. This is the closest you’ll get to understanding how counselling works eithout actually experiencing it yourself. There were a few people in the audience in a similar line of work who asked questions about how Susie manages her own mental health if she has had a particularly difficult or upsetting client and the state of mental health services for young people at the moment.
Having volunteered in mental health myself for a few years I understood the issues that were raised but it was interesting to get someone else’s perspective on them. It was an enlightening discussion and a good way to start the day.
My next event was Alison Weir, who I’d not heard of prior to this but who writes historical fiction and is, herself, a historian. She’s currently writing a series of fiction books about the six queens and wives of Henry the Eighth and the book currently out is about Jane Seymour, wife number three. This talk was spellbinding, Alison showed us pictures of the main charaters and talked us through the life of Jane Seymour from when she came to court to when she died, punctuated with a few readings from her book. It was alive with colour and character and the audience appeared captivated, as was I. I knew little of Jane Seymour before this event but as I enjoy historical fiction I thought it would be interesting and I was not disappointed. If history classes in school had been like this I would have learned so much more than I did. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction should try these books and if you ever have the chance to see Alison Weir at an event talking about her work, go, you won’t regret it!
My last event of the day, and the only one I could get a picture of due to the lighting and my camera not being good in dark conditions, was New Passages: Scotland and India. It wasn’t what I exeptect at all but was fascinating and informative. An Lanntair, on Stornoway held Purvai, a celebration of South Asian arts and culture. It might seem an odd connection but as it turns out the first Surveyor General of India was Colin Mackenzie, from Stornoway. With this connection between Scotland and India and the 70th anniversary of Indian independence, Abir Mukherjee, Nalini Paul, Sandip Roy and Sampurna Chattarji studied items from the collection that Mackenzie created while in India and then created works of poetry or fiction from what they learned about Mackenzie and from the items they studied. This event was the culmination of a year of work which also included a visit to the Kolkata book festival earlier this year. At Edinburgh they read the works they had created from this year long exploration and discussed the experiences they have had on this journey. It was a very interesting event which was rich in colour and informative. The works that have been created from this project were all quite different and diverse. There was poetry as well as short stories and it was a lovely and educational way to spend an hour.
This year was the first I have been to the book festival in approximately 10 years and it lived up to my expectations. Although it’s a busy festival it’s also peaceful and calm. The loudest noises are of people talking and when they are likely be talking about books, that’s not really noise at all. The covered walkways were ideal for when it rained, which it did a lot, my only criticism regarding those would be that they didn’t cover enough of the seating areas or access to toilets meaning some people couldn’t sit in dry areas or would get wet on the dash from the covered area to the toilets themselves so maybe a bit more covering is required for future years. Considering the small space in which the festival is held (not withstanding the expansion into George Street) there is a lot in the space but it doesn’t feel cramped which is a testament to whoever designed the layout. It’s a lovely experience to go to a festival that is in the city centre and fairly easy to access regardless of how you travel there. I don’t yet know what my plans for next year are but I hope they will involve at least one day back here.