In 2016, Story Shop, the emerging writers showcase strand at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, celebrates its 10-year anniversary.

We asked Ali Bowden, Director of Edinburgh City of Literature Trust, the people who are behind this programme strand at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, to tell us a bit about the way that Story Shop came about.

 


 

So how did Story Shop start?

The idea for Story Shop was a simple one: present a taster of our great Edinburgh writers for free at the world’s biggest book festival.

We were very keen that we have free events at the Book Festival as that’s at the heart of what the City of Literature Trust is about, helping people discover and enjoy great writing by Edinburgh authors, without money being a barrier. It felt like a smart way to celebrate and showcase the very writers who were one of the reasons the city had been awarded the UNESCO City of Literature title just a few years earlier.

The Book Festival were very supportive of the idea as they viewed themselves as an international platform for local authors; Catherine Lockerbie was the director at that time and the Trust was based in the Book Festival offices in Charlotte Square so we had a good relationship.

Was it always held in the Spiegeltent?

Story Shop began its life in the Book Shop at the Festival where we took over the back corner of the shop, put cushions on the floor, powered up the microphone and rallied a crowd each day at 4pm for ten minutes. The writers then were many of Edinburgh’s established names including Sophie Cooke, Lin Anderson and Ron Butlin and slowly the crowds grew larger and we needed more cushions.

People in the cafe would listen in, people browsing the shelves would stop and then shuffle a bit closer and people would come specifically for the readings, making sure they grabbed their space early.

When it started off, Story Shop only had a 10-day line-up. These days it takes place at 3pm in the Spiegeltent on all 17 days of the Book Festival.

Has Story Shop evolved over the years?

After the first few years we moved Story Shop away from published authors to focus purely on emerging talent, as we felt these were writers who weren’t yet making it into book festival programmes, but who had incredible talent and who could really benefit from experiencing festivals as performers. We also challenged writers to create flash fiction or short fiction which is an artform in itself and perfect for a ten minute slot.

What do you like most about Story Shop?

We love Story Shop and are immensely proud of all the writers who’ve taken part over the years. The Book Festival puts a lot of time and energy into supporting the writers because we all realise, we wouldn’t be a City of Literature without the new writers breaking through.

It’s always amazing to hear the writers read their work, to see the audience enjoying the stories. To be honest though, the moment I love most about Story Shop is when we hand the writer their lanyard for the Authors’ Yurt, that hallowed ground, and on their laminated pass from the world’s biggest book festival of its kind it says ‘Author’.

You can’t argue with that. That’s a very good moment
 

 

 


 

Jonatha Kottler reads A Stranger’s Four Seasons of Edinburgh on 14 August 2016 at Story Shop during the Edinburgh International Book Festival.