Showing posts with label talk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label talk. Show all posts

Thursday 30 September 2021

Edinburgh festivals Review 2021

Times of Change: “A year of Transition”

Its as if this year the festival is taking baby steps after our year of traumas and the set backs of the pandemic, and at its new location at the Edinburgh Art college at the heart of Edinburgh historic old town. 

I don’t know what to say about the new location, its very different, and also with the festival only running at a third of its normal scale because of Covid. This book festival is iconic and has taken place at Charlotte Square since 1983, for nearly 40  years now, so it’s a big change. There are many things I loved about the Charlotte Sq location, at the heart of Edinburgh’s famous Georgian new town. A concern might be that this new location is more out of the way, then again its close to Edina’s historic auld town – the Grassmarket, castle, university, Meadows and the High street.


**The festival is now hybrid with many events only online and authors on zoom. Some events have author and interviewers in person – Tom Devine and Alan Little; Douglas Stewart and Nicola Sturgeon; Jackie Kay and Susan Bonar; David Keenan, Tracy Thorn. 


TALKS – this year I attended talks by Satham Sangheri, Empireland; Jackie Kay, Bessie Smith, Gavin Esler, How Britain Ends; Samir PuriThe Great Imperial Hangover, Legacies of Empire; Ali Smith, Art in a time of Lies; 

AND ONLINE Tom Devine, Douglas Stuart, (Booker prize winner for Shuggie Bain).

David Keenan

Tracy Thorn


After Jackie Kay’s talk I have a great chat at the bar with two lady patrons of the festival. One lady had attended the book festival for decades and had met many famous authors from Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’s Muriel Spark, to William MciLvanney. I speak of the famous faces I’ve met – Seamus Heaney, John Byrne, Brian Cox, Alan Cummings, Iain Banks, Ian Rankin, Edna O’Brien. 

**On entering the courtyard there’s a big screen showing the talks, with places to sit among several small tented marquees and fairy lights hung on the mature trees. Its not immediately obvious where the Press tents or cafes are, but I do pick up a plan. There’s no ticket offices or rows of pamphlets or EIBF books this festivals year, all on a smaller scale and after all everything is online. Covid has affected everything, from music concert bubbles, to sporting events with no audience at all. 

There are no crowds of school children either, although there is a play area. There are only a handful of photo shoots. So the usual buzz is a much more subdued one. 


The  Book festival is close to the Edinburgh’s auld town and the next day I have an interesting walk around Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, which is pretty busy with many outdoor cafes. The High street has performers and some crowds. George IV bridge has been closed to all buses and pedestrians all week, there has been a major fire at the Elephant house restaurant, where JK Rowling wrote her Harry Potter books, which has caused major disruption and no access for pedestrians or buses.  


**Edinburgh is a perfect city to walk around the back alleys and closes with their incredible views. I spent my student days around the Meadows and University union and Forest Road, and it’s busy with a buzz of life returning. On the Saturday I walk around historic George Sq and find young, eager and expectant graduates at their delayed graduations (so many memories) thronging around in front of Edinburgh university.

This is where I graduated too and had a photo taken for the papers! I visit the Pear Tree, which is where the blind poet Blacklock entertained the great and good of Edinburgh in 1780s, including one Robert Burns. Now its the hip and happening place for young people with large outdoor gardens and a large screen showing football, to my surprise. 


I go the Biblos restaurant for a meal as usual to find the menu changed! I order a chicken burger and wine and remember how much I enjoy Indy cafes and restaurants that play their own music playlists. Long live indy shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, to me that’s the future of the High Street. Local and greener and individually creative. (Good example is Castle Douglas high street which has no chains and not even a Greggs). Global homogenization is so BORINGly dull!


On the Tuesday I attend an excellent live concert with rock singing legend Chrissie Hynde.

at the Queens hall Edinburgh, the ideal venue with high ceilings and space. She sang Bob Dylan, Ray Davies and other songs, backed by an excellent top class band. 


After I think of all the young artists, writers and musicians trying to establish their careers. I hope all those grassroots artists get supported, because without them there is no creative future. They’ve been doubly hurt by both Covid and Brexi   the arts are crucial.  **Festivals offer something out of the everyday, a place to discover, interact, refresh, be inspired, take time out, break down barriers.  Every year I often have at least one great chat with people I meet there! Thanks to all those who organise the festival.  EDINBURGH FESTIVAL -

Friday 28 September 2018

Paris Riots of '68: talk Edinburgh book festival 2018

James McNaughtie interviewed highly respected Scottish author Neal Ascherson, at Edinburgh international book festival 2018,Iwho was BBC European correspondent in the 60s. The Cold War was halfway through; Vietnam war was raging; there was American imperialism to protect us from Russia.; there was Prague spring; Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated in America.

It was a time to the old ideas…. 
The student unrest in Paris began when male students were not allowed to visit female dorms! Old France was not changing and France has retained the idea of revolution as a possibility, an unconscious idea. In 1789 to take to the streets and make everything different.  The establishment in Uk were terrified it would come to Britain. Late 18thcentury, instead we suffered the suppression after Culloden and later there was imperial suppression on a global scale (slavery, exploitation)

Revolution – Marche On!
Students were jailed and large marches took place. They hoped to reframe communism with a human face. The university closed down, and the idea of self-management and independence took hold. 

In Berlin, there was the revival of late Marxism, to rediscover yourself, and create revolution. 
The Prague Spring - Eastern block, not Marxism. Polish revolutions, demonstrations and democracy at the level of the workplace. The communication of ideas was so important.
Riot police were used to smash communism/ republicanism to protect the state and there was intense tension
De Gaullewas an authoritarian general and highly presidential, his aim was to defend old France. Are you red or white? There was a frozen France.

The Sorbonne was a centre of revolution and barricade. 
The noise and sight of revolution was scary, with huge crowds gathering. Revolution ‘morphed’ and everything changes, institutions collapse, anything is possible. It is all intoxicating, all brothers in arms. Tear gas was used and violence and the French public were unaware. In Munich a student was killed by a brick. Neal believed, considering the level of violence more students were killed. 

It doesn’t last long though and leads to a new situation. Things began to subside and some scenes of dissolution and the beginning of a general strike. Germany was deeply against communism. 


The Legacy of the Paris Riots:  In France, the communists were divided. De Gaulle was protected by the French army in Germany. But the riots eventually defeated De Gaulle, who resigned a few months later.

There were changes in the Soviet system to stop this ever happening again. There were a  change in the social institutions with younger people in positions of power. It scared the established orders, that they could be overthrown; both America and Russia were both shaken. There was 67,000 killed in Vietnam. There were aspirations In Northern Ireland for democracy, and peoples marches. The media was extreme .

It all forced reforms in Germany, not suffocated by bureaucracy and institutions. It was a revelation and changed how people related to each other. Many of the rioters fled – and asked, where is the next barricade? Others concentrated on change in more humane and different ways, such as educating children. 

There was no time to chat over the unstable, leaderless and corrupt situation today. A very illuminating and highly interesting chat. 
This talk was part of EIBF Freedom and Equality series of events.  Vote for The Death of the Fronsac by Neal Ascherson in the First Book award.