Thanks to a dear pal I had a lovely day in Edinburgh while in full swing of Edinburgh festival madness. It was wonderful, so refreshing to see so much life and vitality oozing out of a city. We are both bibliophiles, she much worse than me but I can give her a run for her money so of course we had to visit the Book Festival. WE had booked for two events a reading from Jackie Kay and a full day of workshop about the narrative voice. We are both budding writers so we were in Elysium.It is a wonderful place. Lots of tents set up as a temporary theatre space, deckchairs with literary slogans on the lawn full of people sipping wine and reading books. Before I go on please let me explain I do not have a chip on my shoulder so please don’t dismiss my point of view and read on.
When we arrived on the first night we were eight minutes late and were refused access to hear the wonderful Jackie Kay read some of her short story. The young (kindle reading) attendant quietly but firmly told us there was no admission so sorry. My friend had spent 3 and a half hours on a bus to get there and I had an hour and a half journey. It like the print of the books was black and white. We wandered over to the book shop. It was amazing so many books so little time, I tucked myself away in a corner and read some Dundonian poetry. It just struck me though that this was literature as a consumer product. The nice lights the deckchairs were just there to encourage us to consume.Buy Buy Buy. Luckily me I am fairly impecuniary at the moment and had no chance but to suppress the urges.
So book festivals are really just another form of consumerism now. A gated holiday environment which only a few can attend. Please don’t get me wrong their were several free events but the majority were ticketed. It was encouraging to hear of so many authors I hadn’t heard about and see so many people queuing to hear them.After Jackie’s show we queued to get our books signed. When my friend told her of her journey and what had happened she apologised, and said she had told the ushers to let latecomers in.
So latecomers weren’t allowed but my friend and I were also worried about the missing people here. There were a wide range of ages represented, people from a myrriad of backgrounds but it was the children. They were obviously mostly privilged, dressed in Bodin and behaving as only bodin clad children can. Charming and curious there eyes full of wonder. Lovely. Our thoughts were for the children who couldn’t be there for a number of reasons but most importantly it raised the question for me how can we change it? A friend Kate Higgins, the burdz from a burdzeye view started a fund last Christmas called Xmas for kids. The aim was to give the gift of a book to a child who might not get one.
I came from a poor background but loved books. I ate them whole at one sitting. I would have loved to go the book festival and here some of my favourite speak. What might have stopped me, the cost, the having to book ahead for tickets and the feeling of not belonging.Some children don’t take to books so easily but hearing the words come alive brings power and magic to the written word. it’s a gift we all should have.,
My friend and I looked and felt sad. She said, “We should just bring a busload of bairns and unleash them.” That was a good word, “Unleash”, children given free rein to their imaginations. With it’s present structure I don’t think the book festival would manage but how wonderful would it be?
I am an affecionado of the book festival. I said to my friend it was like a marrowbone of culture and vibrancy but I want it to be more accessible to all not to only those who have the money and resources to be there. So how about next year a bairns day out where all can feel invited and that this is something for them too. I laud the people’s festival for all it does perhaps we need a people’s book festival too?