This August, in an ambitious programming partnership between the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the British Council, a series of discussions will take place in Scotland’s capital city stimulating a debate which will reverberate around the world. The Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference 2012-2013, inspired by the seminal 1962 Writers' Conference in Edinburgh, will bring fifty leading Scottish and international writers together over five afternoons to discuss how writing and the imagination are an essential component of society.
Each afternoon from 17 to 21 August, a keynote speech will be delivered by an author on a subject that mirrors the notorious event that took place in the city 50 years ago. Topics include A National Literature? delivered by Scotland’s Irvine Welsh, Censorship Today will be explored by Patrick Ness and the conference will open with Ahdaf Soueif, the Egyptian novelist and commentator, who will ask Should Literature be Political? Every session will be chaired by an internationally renowned writer who will open the debate up to the fifty delegates and the audience – those sitting in the RBS Main Theatre in Charlotte Square Gardens and those around the world who are watching the debate live online. Audiences and participants alike will be encouraged to join, and indeed continue, the conversation online and via Twitter.
Starting at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference will travel over the next twelve months to events around the world. Across thirteen countries, from Egypt to Australia, via Russia, India and Canada, the ensuing global discussion will represent the greatest gathering of writers’ voices ever staged. The event will return to the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August 2013, after which the highlights of the global discussion will be assembled in a landmark book about writing today edited by author and former Director of the Edinburgh Film Festival, Hannah McGill.
Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, said “We believe that writers have a role to play in stimulating our imaginative health and thereby engendering mutual respect amongst individuals and nations. The Conference represents an opportunity for all of us to rethink how writers, and their writing, can play a part in understanding and improving our world. Together the Book Festival and the British Council will make this Conference a genuinely worldwide discussion, and we look forward to the debate which will start here, in Edinburgh, rolling around the globe over the next 12 months before returning to Charlotte Square Gardens next August.”
Susie Nicklin, British Council Director of Literature, said “Long before literary festivals were established as places for writers to meet each other and their readers, the Edinburgh Writers' Conference led the way in creating a forum for international literary dialogue and debate. These remain at the heart of the British Council's literature work worldwide and we are delighted to be part of the global network that is facilitating and encouraging the discussion around the role of the writer and of literature in our times.”
The Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference is a major programming partnership between the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the British Council and is supported by The Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund, Creative Scotland, the City of Edinburgh Council and Event Scotland. The Conference is part of the London 2012 Festival.
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs said: “I am delighted to support the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference through the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund in 2012, our Year of Creative Scotland.
“Scotland is a creative nation and the Edinburgh International Book Festival is the world's largest celebration of the written word. By bringing together so many leading Scottish and international writers, this ambitious project will showcase the best of our contemporary creative talent and raise Scotland’s cultural profile on the international stage.”
Andrew Dixon, Chief Executive, Creative Scotland, said “Writers sit at the heart of international conversations about identity, politics and censorship and, in this Year of Creative Scotland, the Edinburgh International Book Festival is the perfect forum to reflect on, and respond to, the incredible 50-year journey of books and reading since the first writers’ conference in 1962. Technology now allows instant connections with writers around the world, bringing welcome new voices to debates with global relevance.”
Councillor Steve Cardownie, Festivals and Events Champion for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: "As the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature, Scotland’s capital city is a genuine global hub for all things book-related and the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference will reinforce the city’s literary status and significance still further. Edinburgh has an enviable international reputation as a festival city and supporting the cultural ambitions of the Festivals in this unique year makes perfect sense given the proven positive impact they have on the people and economy of the city. The Scottish Government should also be commended for initiating the Expo Fund around which the other partners have worked to supplement."
Paul Bush OBE, Chief Operating Officer for EventScotland said: “The Edinburgh International Book Festival is renowned worldwide, and the return of the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference will ensure the festival remains at the forefront of the literary sector. Scotland is the perfect stage for events, and the global nature of this conference will highlight Scotland’s standing in the international cultural community as it travels to a number of countries around the world over the next 12 months. The 2012 Olympics presents a fantastic opportunity for Scotland, and through the London 2012 Festival the country is hosting a number of significant events, which will contribute to the UK-wide cultural celebrations.”The Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference will take place at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in Charlotte Square Gardens from 3.00pm – 5.00pm each afternoon from 17 to 21 August 2012. A special event looking at the Legacy of the 1962 Conference will take place at 10.30am on Friday 17 August. John Calder and Jim Haynes, who organised the 1962 Conference, will discuss their memories of the event while Eleanor Bell and Angela Bartie, who head up a Strathclyde University research project on the Conference, explain their efforts to disentangle the myths from the realities fifty years on.
Full details of the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference can be found at www.edinburghworldwritersconference.org. Tickets for all Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival cost £10 (£8) and are available from the Box Office on 0845 373 5888 or www.edbookfest.co.uk from 8.30am on Friday 29 June 2012. On the opening day of sales, tickets can be purchased in person from the temporary Box Office at the Roxburghe Hotel, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh from 8.30am to 5.00pm. Maximum four tickets per event per booking on the first day of sales only.