Book Festival Line-Up Announced

10 June 2015, 10:59 | Updated: 10 June 2015, 11:02

American civil-rights activist the Rev Jesse Jackson, former prime minister Gordon Brown and award-winning author Ali Smith are among the big names rubbing shoulders in this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival programme.

This summer's festival - the biggest of its kind in the world - is promising to take readers on a literary journey "around the world in 18 days''.

Organisers are hailing the programme as their most international to date, including more than 900 participants from 55 countries writing in a multitude of languages.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop praised the "fantastic line-up of top writers''.

Jackson, described as one of the most formidable civil-rights activists of the 20th century, is making his first visit to the festival's Charlotte Square Gardens venue.

Other international newcomers to the line-up include Marilynne Robinson, regarded as one of America's greatest living writers, French "rock star'' mathematician Cedric Villani, renowned playwright David Hare and street artist Stik.

Some literary stars in their own countries are making the trip to Edinburgh this August, including Spain's Jaume Cabre, whose Confessions has sold more than a million copies, Germany's Jenny Erpenbeck, who has just won the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and the multi-award-winning Helle Helle from Denmark.

Closer to home, Edinburgh crime writer Ian Rankin will be chatting to some of his favourite authors and musicians, with guests including Hollywood actor Alan Cumming and musician Edwyn Collins.

Politics - a prominent theme in 2014, the year of the Scottish independence referendum - is expected to prove a popular topic again this year, with a number of big hitters making a return to Edinburgh's New Town.

Former first minister Alex Salmond will discuss capitalism and a route to a "fairer society'', Green Party MP Caroline Lucas will explore the Westminster system, and former prime minister Gordon Brown will look at Scotland's future.

Festival audiences will also be able to hear personal stories from the likes of North Korean exile Hyeonseo Lee; comedian Paul Merton; Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, who founded the charity Mary's Meals; and Ronnie Browne from The Corries.

Former Beirut hostage Terry Waite will deliver the Frederick Hood Memorial Lecture while the recent winner of the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction, Ali Smith, will give the PEN/HG Wells Lecture.

The EIBF will also focus on a range of new writing this year.

Philippa Gregory will unveil her new novel on Henry VIII's last queen, Val McDermid will discuss her new crime novel with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and children's author Cressida Cowell will launch the last in her How To Train Your Dragon series.

Festival director Nick Barley said: "Scotland has always been an outward-looking nation and this year the book festival is more international than ever before.

"Charlotte Square Gardens will reflect the idea of the global village as we welcome authors from across the planet.

"Whether they are from Nigeria or North Korea, Colombia or China, these are writers whose stories shed light not only on the big changes in world power, but on the shifting nature of local cultures - changes that are also taking place in Scotland.''

Ms Hyslop said: "As well as another fantastic line-up of top writers, this year the Edinburgh International Book Festival is highlighting one of today's most important subjects, internationalism.

"For centuries, great writers have opened our minds to novel worlds and lands. Through understanding others, we embrace new ideas and expand our imagination. Both are vital for a country looking to succeed on the world stage.

"Scots have always embraced internationalism. Our intangible cultural heritage of storytelling, poetry and music transcends boundaries, and we are proud to support Trading Stories, a key strand of the international theme, through the Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund.''

The festival runs from Saturday August 15 to Monday August 31, with an extra schools day to reach out to younger readers.

Tickets to all events go on sale on Tuesday June 23, online at, by phone on 0845 373 5888 or in person that Tuesday at the box office at the Roxburghe Hotel on George Street.