Freedom to Think: Edinburgh International Book Festival 2018

Freedom to Think: Edinburgh International Book Festival 2018

June 12, 2018

In the 2018 Programme announced on 7 Jun 2018, the Edinburgh International Book Festival calls upon its authors, participants and audiences to consider the importance of freedom, inviting almost 1000 authors, illustrators and performers from across the world to the Book Festival village in the heart of Edinburgh.

Set in Charlotte Square Gardens between 11-27 August, the topics such as free speech, freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of identity will all be discussed in a diverse and wide-ranging programme of talks, debates, workshops and readings.

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

The Book Festival in Edinburgh is an unbeatable place for meeting inspiring people and sharing big ideas. This year’s programme brings together writers whose experiences will truly change our way of looking at the world: from the emerging Rwandan-Burundian superstar Gaël Faye to the legend of Kenyan writing Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, this is the most international of festival programmes – but one that also proudly celebrates its Scottish history and context.

In a major initiative supported by the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund through Creative Scotland, the Festival has commissioned 52 authors from 25 countries (including 13 from Scotland) to write essays exploring ideas about freedom. These essays have aptly been titled, The Freedom Papers, and examine race, religion, immigration, sexuality, disability, education and technology. A number of the commissioned authors will be appearing at the Book Festival this summer, including H J Golakai from Liberia, Iraqi writer Shahad Al Rawi, Australian Bruce PascoeYaba Badoe from Ghana and Scotland’s own Aminatta Forna.

Kenyan novelist and playwright Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o returns to Edinburgh for the first time in 12 years to discuss the release of a new edition of his prison memoir Wrestling with the Devil. Grandfather of Norwegian Literature Dag Solstad returns after a six-year absence, Karl Ove Knausgaard launches the final element of his My Struggle series, The End, and comedian Susan Calman previews her brand-new book The Kindness Quest: Dancing for Joy. Continuing the Mind and Body strand, actor Greg Wise tells the moving and thought-provoking story of his relationship with his sister as she dies of cancer, Susie Orbach discusses the growing popularity of therapy, Matt Haig is in conversation with Richard Holloway on anxiety and Ruby Wax returns with How to be Human: The Manual.

Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, added:

Every summer, the Edinburgh International Book Festival brings an incredible buzz to the city. It is a place where people from all over the world – 900 participants from 55 nations at the last count – can gather together in Charlotte Square Gardens to share ideas, tell stories and celebrate literature in all its forms. This year’s programme looks set to be another great success, building on the Capital’s reputation as the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature and the Festival’s 35 incredible years. The Council is pleased to be such a longstanding funding partner, and to support the event once again this summer. I’m looking forward to being there.

2018 also marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela and the Festival welcomes his daughter Zindzi and great-grandchildren Zazi and Ziwelene to talk about his life and legacy. This year also sees the 100th anniversary of the birth of Muriel Spark and in celebration the Book Festival’s expansion onto the west end of George Street will this year include the new Spark Theatre. Doctors of Philosophy, Spark’s only work written specifically for the stage, will be presented in its entirety as a one-off rehearsed reading, edited by the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh’s Artistic Director David Greig and directed by Marilyn Imrie.

In a regular feature of the Book Festival, a series of Guest Selectors are invited to curate events around a subject of their choosing.  Adele Patrick, the Lifelong Learning and Creative Development Manager at Glasgow Women’s Library, is a passionate and active advocate for creating a more inclusive society. For her selected series Revolting Women, Patrick will welcome Helen PankhurstSara WajidHeidi Mirza, Brazilian human rights activist Djamilia Ribiero and Nigerian authors Olumide Popoola and Chitra Nagarajan in events exploring the militant and maverick female writers of the last 100 years.

As part of Year of Young People, the Edinburgh International Book Festival has been working with a group of ten pupils aged 8-14 from schools in Craigmillar in Edinburgh to co-design a strand of events in the 2018 Book Festival programme exploring the concept of Freedom.  The project, titled Codename F, covers topics chosen by the young Co-Programmers including gender, religion, women’s rights, the environment and free speech. Codename F is supported by the Year of Young People 2018 event fund, managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.

  • The Edinburgh International Book Festival receives funding from Creative Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council and this year welcomes over 900 participants from 55 different countries to its tented village in the heart of Edinburgh and runs from Saturday 11 to Monday 27 August 2018. Entrance to the Gardens is FREE and the gardens, cafes, bookshops and all venues are fully accessible. 
  • Full details of the programme can be found here. Tickets to all events go on sale at 8.30am on Tuesday 26 June 2018, online at, by phone on 0345 373 5888 or in person at the Box Office at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (on Tuesday 26 June only, thereafter at The Hub, Castlehill).