Organised by Edinburgh’s radical independent bookshop, Word Power Books, the Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair 2015 is, for all its anti-establishmentism, in danger of becoming an institution. This year it is taking place at Out of the Blue Drill Hall and celebrating its nineteenth year with a lively programme of book launches, screenings, discussions, theatre and of course, the inevitable ceilidh.
Events are free and the title indicates the general attitude of the programme. The launch on the 28th October presents Scottish political stalwarts, journalist Iain MacWhirter and politician Jim Sillars discussing their publications, Tsunami: Scotland’s Democratic Revolution and In Place of Failure: Yes Next Time … Soon. The discussion promises to be radical, knowledgeable and pragmatic, to dissect Better Together’s claims, examine the strengths and the weaknesses of the last Yes campaign, and consider how the future for Scotland may be forged.
For me, there are a number of events in the programme which intrigue. These include the screening of Imogen Sutton’s Daughters of de Beauvoir; this prize-winning documentary interweaves Simone de Beauvoir’s life with those of the women she influenced through her life and work. As well as archive footage of de Beauvoir with Jean-Paul Sartre, the film includes exclusive interviews with writers Kate Millett and Marge Piercy. These were all writers who were in different ways glamorous, mind-altering and charged with excitement for me and I am curious about how they will feel now.
I am also planning to drop by poet Kathleen Jamie’s launch of The Bonniest Companie; this is a new collection examining her native Scotland – ‘a country at once wild and contained, rural and urban’ – and considering her place within it. The collection is described as a ‘personal and visionary response to 2014, a time when Scotland was gripped by an energy shaped and charged by both local and global forces’, in response to which Jamie wrote a poem a week, following the cycle of the year. As a twenty year visitor to Scotland I am interested in what this profound writer has to say. I expect both exquisite use of language and the kind of rooted intuitive insights which have characterised her previous work. The launch is followed by a ceilidh.
The short film, These Dangerous Women also sounds irresistible. I know no more than the brief description telling us it is about the Congress of Women in April 1915, which involved 1300 women from Europe and North America, from neutral countries as well as those at war, who came together to protest the killing and destruction.
I am also attracted by a theatre piece, The Bridge. Written by Annie George, the play was originally commissioned as part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, and is described as ‘a poetic, poignant solo play about personal and political independence’. The writer is also a director, performer and award-winning filmmaker based in Edinburgh; her work is new to me, but I think well worth a look. The blurb describes it as ‘the first tour by a Scotland based Asian theatre artist to be funded by the national funding agency Creative Scotland’.
I have a weakness for titles and Greta Garbo’s Feet & Other Stories is pretty irresistible. This collection by Meaghan Delahunt launches Word Power Women, a new imprint dedicated to the short story and non-fiction form, presumably by women. The evening will include a performed reading of one of the stories, ‘Ten Days That Shook the Walk’ by Tam Dean Burn, actor, cultural activist and singer in the Bum-Clocks. Described by writer Kirsty Gunn as ‘not stories so much as performances’ where ‘something is being enacted for us in a tiny space and there are no doors or windows’ – encountering these stories could certainly provide a great Halloween experience.
I also plan to drop by Detoxing Childhood in the 21st Century, a discussion on 1st November. As an ex-child myself, or trying to be, I am interested in hearing Sue Palmer (Toxic Childhood, 21st Century Boys and 21st Century Girls) speak on the pressures of early schoolification and the Upstart Campaign. The discussion also involves Jay Griffiths (Kith) who explores understandings of childhood from communities in West Papua and the Arctic, to the ostracised young people of contemporary Britain.
I plan to report on these events and any others I may find myself enjoying at the fair. The Independent Radical Book Fair 2015 will run from the 28th October to the 1st November 2015.