Referendum reading and writing

Don’t worry if you weren’t one of the lucky people who managed to snap up a ticket for last night’s Independence Debate at Central Library.

We’ll be posting video of the event on our YouTube channel very soon.

You might also be interested in Write around our referendum, a free six week course exploring articles, poems, stories and media coverage relating to the referendum and independence debate.

Or if you can’t commit the time we’re hosting a half day session considering the background issues, hard facts and statistics surrounding the independence question.

Other useful links:

BBC Scottish Independence referendum library

Scotland’s Future (white paper)

What Scotland thinks

Referendum reading from the library

The Arts and Crafts Movement in Scotland

In our latest Edinburgh Reads video Annette Carruthers talks to Hil Williamson about her book The Arts and Crafts Movement in Scotland.

Annette discusses the history of the arts and crafts movement in Scotland from its early appearance in the 1860s to its heyday from 1890 to 1914, a time when Scotland’s art schools promoted new design and the Scottish Home Industries Association campaigned to revive rural crafts, shaping the look of domestic and ecclesiastical buildings, stained glass, furnishings, metalwork, and textiles.

In this interesting discussion Annette talks about her research and conception of the book, the social and political aspects of the movement in Scotland and the influence of art schools.

Read what The Scotsman had to say about the book and reserve a copy from the library.

Top authors head up “Edinburgh Reads” spring programme

cross and burnCrime fiction superstar Val McDermid, “Maggie and Me” author Damian Barr and a debate on the independence referendum are among the highlights of the Edinburgh Reads spring programme.

McDermid, who has sold over 10 million copies of her books, will be in town to discuss her latest, Cross and Burn.

Damian Barr’s Maggie and Me is a funny, tender and heartbreaking memoir of deprivation and survival in 1980s Lanarkshire. Damian will discuss his book, and the issues it raises, with Richard Holloway.

maggie and meKaren Campbell, author of “This is where I am” appears alongside Korean writers Kim Insuk and Han Kang for a special event in partnership with the British Council as part of the Korea Market Focus Cultural Programme at the London Book Fair 2014. Kim is rare among Korean writers in that her works often centre on Koreans who live outside Korea. Han Kang’s writing explores how individuals and relationships respond to Korea’s rapidly developing modern society.

Before that Craig Smith, author of The Mile, Andrew Ferguson (Scots who enlightened the world) former Labour MP Maria Fyfe and Scottish Poetry Library founder Tessa Ransford make up the panel for what should be a fascinating discussion on the question of Scottish independence. In the chair will be Alistair McCleery, Professor of Literature at Edinburgh Napier University.

As ever, all our events are free. See the calendar below for times, dates and booking information.

Look who’s coming to libraries

Graeme Simsion, author of “The Rosie Project” is among the authors we’re looking forward to a visit from this month.

Herald literary editor Rosemary Goring will also join us to discuss her historical novel “After Flodden” and winner of the Dundee International Book Prize Nicola White will be in town to talk about her crime thriller “In the Rosary Garden“.

Caro Ramsay, Bethany Ruth Anderson, Robert Glancy and Ryan Van Winkle are among the other writers you’ll have a chance to meet during a very busy February.

As ever, all these events are free but you’ll have to be quick to reserve your place – view the calendar below for locations, times and booking details.

Kirsty Gunn on “The Big Music”

The Big Music, Kirsty Gunn’s stunning work of fiction, has been deservedly hailed by critics as a masterpiece.

In this extended film Kirsty talks eloquently on the process and thinking behind her writing, and why “novel” is an inadequate description of her work.

Kirsty was speaking at an Edinburgh Reads event at Central Library.

Look out for some exciting news about this year’s programme of author events – coming very soon!

Kirsty Gunn and The Big Music

We’re not going to tell you how good a book Kirsty Gunn’s “The Big Music” is. We’ll leave that to the pros.

One of the finest novels of the past decade“. That’s the verdict of the Times Literary Supplement.

The Independent goes further. “I cannot think of a more entirely original, enchanting and enchanted book. The result is a masterpiece.

What we will tell you, and we’re delighted to do so, is that Kirsty will be joining us for a special Book Week Scotland event at Central Library on the evening of Thursday 28th  November.

Reserve your ticket right now to see a rising literary star in action. Free. As ever.

Inside Edinburgh Reads

AlexanderMcCallSmithOver the last few years Edinburgh Libraries have played host to a number of great author events under the banner of Edinburgh Reads.  We caught up with Edinburgh Reads supremo Annie Bell to find out more:

Could you describe Edinburgh Reads?
Put simply Edinburgh Reads is our brand name for author events in Edinburgh Libraries.  They take place in Central Library and in community libraries across the city. We attract well-known authors and debut writers.  Our events have been well attended with crowds of up to 150 on some occasions.

What would someone expect from an Edinburgh Reads event?
It’s a great way to meet like-minded people, to get together as a group and listen to great authors read and talk about their work.  People can ask their own questions and it’s a very sociable occasion too giving people a chance to enjoy a glass of wine and generally share their love of books and reading.  It also has a great impact on the library in terms of getting more people through the door and as a way to remind people of the important role libraries play in their community.

Does Edinburgh Reads have an online presence?
We have filmed most of our events and also have an in-house photographer to take photos and the resulting media can be accessed through our social media channels. We’ve built up an amazing collection of authors that have visited over the last few years. As well as providing a great archive it also helps us reach a much wider audience. Who knew someone from Venezuela would be interested in our videos?

What have been the highlights so far?
There’s been so many highlights. It’s the best part of my job, I love hosting these events, meeting authors and hearing what they have to say.  Particular favourites have been Jane Harris who was here recently, she wrote Gillespie and I which is a favourite among our book-groups.  She was a marvellous speaker. She’d studied drama previously so she was able to put on different voices as she read and really brought her novels alive.  She was funny, lively and great at answering the audiences questions.

Another author who was excellent was John Cairney.  We had him last year as part of our Previously history festival.  John talked about the life of Robert Louis Stevenson and he had the audience in the palm of his hand. They were spellbound.

Which author, alive or dead, would you most like to invite to an Edinburgh Reads event and why?
I’d love to get Hilary Mantell. She wrote Wolf Hall and Bringing up the Bodies both of which were awarded The Man Booker Prize.  She’s a marvellous writer and does fantastic research. She’s quite hard to get hold of as well so that’s another reason. I think it’d create quite a stir among our reading community in Edinburgh.

Up coming events include Christopher Brookmyre (tonight!) and then again at South Queensferry on Mon Nov 11th. Then we have Donald Smith and Kirsty Gunn in November with Edinburgh’s Makar Ron Butlin following in December. Damien Barr, Andrew O’Hagan and Val McDiarmid are due to appear in the new year.

Tickets and a list of forthcoming events in libraries are available by visiting our Eventbrite page.  Videos from previous events can be viewed on our You Tube channel.

“Gillespie and I” and The Glasgow Boys

Gillespie and IJane Harris will be talking about her novel `Gillespie and I’ at a sold-out Edinburgh Reads event on Thursday 12 September.  

For those who like their art history fictionalized `Gillespie and I’ provides a well researched and accurate representation of Glasgow’s artistic revolution during the late 1880s.

Although the main character Ned Gillespie is a feature of author Jane Harris’s imagination the setting of novel is firmly rooted in Glasgow’s art history, portraying a loosely affiliated group of young artists, later to become known as The Glasgow Boys, who sought to represent the world in new ways, experimenting with technique, painting outside, and portraying  the contemporary world around.

A number of real artists are mentioned in the book.  Take the Irish artist Sir John Lavery who trained in Glasgow and competes alongside our character Ned to win a commission to paint the portrait of Queen Victoria for the 1888 Glasgow International Exhibition.  Guess who wins? Other artists referred to in the novel include Joseph Crawhall, James Guthrie and WM MacGregor.

Here’s a selection of books on The Glasgow Boys and other subjects mentioned in the book including the Kelvingrove art collection and the Glasgow International Exhibition 1888, all available from the Fine Art Library.

Find more information on the Glasgow Boys from Oxford Art Online (use your library card number to access the site for free)

We love Persian Poets

Our recent Persian Poets evening was a real crowd pleaser, as these comments from audience members show:

“Sad that we couldn’t spend longer and hear them again”

“The whole evening was just magical. I would gladly sit through the same event again and again!”

Well now you can! Our short film shows acclaimed Persian poets Shakila Azizzada, Azita Ghahreman and Reza Mohammadi, together with their translators, the contemporary English poets Mimi Khalvati, Maura Dooley and Nick Laird.

Thanks to our friends at the Poetry Translation Centre for their help with this event.

Library news: artists, authors and athletes

Let the ticket booking frenzy begin! The programme for the Edinburgh International Book Festival is out, and as ever it’s looking good. The ‘Stripped’ strand on comics and graphic novels looks particularly exciting.

Remember though, we’ve got our own author visits programme in libraries which

a) runs all year long and

b) is free

Pru Irvine and Mary ContiniOur latest Edinburgh Reads event featured Volvona and Crolla director Mary Contini and food writer Pru Irvine. As the above picture proves both ladies – and our audience – had an absolute blast. Take a look at our events programme to see what else we’ve got lined up.

Moredun runnersMore happy ladies here. Moredun Library staff and Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre joined forces to put together this team of girls who bravely completed the Race for Life in Holyrood Park, raising lots of money for charity in the process. Not content with this, the group are now planning their next big challenge which will be the Twilight walk round Dalkeith country Estate on 31st August. Good luck girls!

Returning to the Book Festival, as usual we’ll be there to entertain the younger troops with our Bookbug sessions and the ever popular Dr Book – and we’re delighted to say that some of the authors will be leaving their Charlotte Square base to visit children in libraries across the city.

John Fardell for instance. John is author of some terrific books including The Seven Professors of the Far North, The flight of the silver turtle and the wonderful Manfred the Baddie.

Mums and dads might also be familiar with John’s work for The List, The Independent and Viz (The Modern Parents and The Critics) but John’s visit to Central Library on 24th July is most definitely one for his younger fans.

John will show us his picture books and adventure novels, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at his notebooks, rough drafts, artwork and models. He’ll be giving us tips and answering any questions, and there will be an opportunity to join in and draw our own characters, inventions and stories.

We recommend you book online asap.

Finally, anyone coming to Central Library for this event – or any other reason – over the next couple of months is in for an extra bonus treat as the building is currently hosting the Central Inspiration art exhibition.

Central Library is not only the venue for the exhibition, the building and its collections are in fact the inspiration for artworks created by students from Edinburgh College of Art. And believe us these are well worth seeing.

We’ll be blogging more about this over the coming weeks, but in the meantime do try and get along – and see the library in a whole new light.

How libraries help learners

This week is Adult Learners’ Week. What’s it all about?

Adult Learners’ Week is a national celebration of the benefits of lifelong learning. We’re getting involved with writing workshops, singing, cooking, and facebook sessions – for details see our events calendar.

But why are libraries getting involved?

Public libraries have always been a source of information, knowledge and culture for all. They are spaces where anyone can go without feeling pressure to buy anything, and without feeling judged for what items they want to read.

Library services are crucial to adults who wish learn at whatever level, be it to improve their literacy or embark on a research project, through formal schemes or simply for the pleasure of learning something new.

Any individual can borrow any item they need, at no (or very little) immediate cost – especially relevant at a time when many people have less disposable income.

Also, for many adult learners, schools are associated with negative learning experiences whereas libraries are often viewed as more neutral spaces and therefore perhaps more conducive to adults wanting to learn.

So what do libraries do to support adult learners?

Lots! Here are just a few examples:

Our fantastic  Edinburgh Reads programme of events offers opportunities for adults to interact with authors and topics in an informal and stimulating way.

Some authors have engaged specifically with adults discovering reading for the first time. For example, crime writer Lin Anderson’s short novel Blood Red Roses, published specifically with emergent readers in mind, was read by several adult literacy groups in central Edinburgh who met the author for a chat over coffee and cake. This provided a real opportunity for personal growth in confidence and enjoyment of reading.

The annual ‘Six Book Challenge’ provides another way of supporting and encouraging emergent readers to discover the joy and satisfaction of reading for pleasure.

Since doing the  Challenge I have seen my reading get better. I am on my fourth book and did not read much before.’ (Sue)

I like to read to my children now, we help each other.‘(Chris)

Perhaps one of  the most popular ways Edinburgh  Libraries support adult learners is through our LearnIT Project. For complete beginners, we provide free informal and very supportive support in using computers. Adults can attend classes, pop into a drop- in LearnIT Lab, or meet with a volunteer IT Buddy for one to one tuition.

I was thrilled to be able to buy a washing machine online for nearly  £70 less than in the shops!’ Joan, LearnIT student.

And of course, our growing library of online learning resources provide support to adults learning at home or on the move.

Happy Adult Learners’ Week!

‘Surviving’ by Allan Massie

A group of British expatriates meet for their weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Rome. At first the drama is low-key, little more than the nervous chatter of dry-drunks and their less disciplined colleagues. Literary spirits weigh heavily on the characters’ sodden efforts to hold together lives that have cracked like old plates. Kate, a former bestselling author, invites a young Englishman wrongly acquitted of murder to stay with her so that she can write a book about him. Her recklessness ends in a fresh killing that the AA members must collude in covering up. But the lurid plot is mostly just a balance for much softer, sadder apprehensions of common disappointment and ageing. Alcoholism, like writing, is a lonely business.

Author Allan Massie is truly a man of letters in a way few others are. Primarily noted for his historical fiction he is an equally accomplished biographer, anthologist, book reviewer and columnist, and has written on everything from rugby to health care.

So we’re delighted that he will be joining us for an Edinburgh Reads event in Central Library on Thursday 30th May, where he will be discussing “Surviving” with “Redlegs” author Chris Dolan. As ever, you can book a free ticket online but you will have to be quick!

In pictures: Louise Welsh and Regi Claire

Huge thanks to Louise Welsh and Regi Claire for entertaining another bumper Edinburgh Reads audience at Central Library last week.

Our pictures show two authors clearly enjoying themselves as they discussed their novels “The girls on the stairs” and “The waiting” as well as their other work.

Having two authors with such a good rapport, combined with chair Jackie McGlone’s thoughtful questions, made for an excellent evening.

As Louise herself said “”Great chair and fab audience”, while Regi also described the evening as “fab”. Thanks again to both!

You can view more images from this and other Edinburgh Reads events on flickr

Edinburgh Reads: J. David Simons

Our latest Edinburgh Reads event features author J. David Simons:

“J David Simons’ latest novel, set in Scotland, London and Japan, is that rare thing, a genuine tour-de-force, a beautifully written love story that combines political impetus, questions about art and truth, and an exotic setting once almost blown to extinction in an act of war. It is the kind of sophisticated, grown-up writing that properly intrigues, and calls to mind the best of William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks.” Lesley McDowell (author and reviewer for the Independent on Sunday, Herald and Scottish Review of Books)

“An exquisite sense of what is beautiful” tells the story of an eminent British writer’s return to the hotel in the Japanese mountains where he once spent a beautiful snowed-in winter. It was there he fell in love and wrote his best-selling novel, The Waterwheel, accusing America of being in denial about the horrific aftermath of the Tokyo firebombings and the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As we learn more about his earlier life, however – as a student in Bloomsbury, involved with a famous American painter – we realise that he too is in denial, trying to escape past events that are now rapidly catching up with him.

J David Simons will at Edinburgh Central Library on Tuesday 26th February at 6.30pm to discuss the novel. Book your free ticket online or phone 0131 242 8100

Edinburgh Reads spring programme: with Iain Banks, Kate Atkinson and many more

Iain Banks, Kate Atkinson and Louise Welsh are among the highlights of our spring 2013 programme of free “Edinburgh Reads” author events.

We are really looking forward to welcoming Case Histories author (and Edinburgh book group favourite) Kate Atkinson who will discuss her new novel, Life after Life, in March.

Iain Banks

Iain Banks

The amazing Iain Banks will be here in April to tell us about his latest book Hydrogen Sonata. We greatly enjoyed Iain’s last visit back in 2009  – and judging by our picture so did he!

A lively evening is in store on 28th February as Professors David Purdie and Alan Riach discuss the writing and legacy of Walter Scott, and address the thorny issue of whether his writings should be abridged for the modern reader. In the chair will be “Scott-land” author Stuart Kelly.

A lesser known but equally fascinating character from Scotland’s past will be under the microscope in March when award-winning journalist and TV presenter Julie Davidson tells the story of Mary Livingstone.

Panda and penguin fans are in for a treat as we’ll be hosting two talks to celebrate 100 years of Edinburgh Zoo and animals will also be the topic of discussion as our popular series of “Edinburgh’s War” talks continues with a look at their involvement in World War One.

And there’s more, lots more, including Richard Holloway, Jane Harris, Louise Welsh, Regi Claire and Mary Contini.

Impressive huh? And did we mention – all these events are free.

This is why you need to reserve your place sharpish. Head over to the Edinburgh Reads events page to see the full programme and book your tickets.

Book now: Andrea Gillies

When her mother-in-law, Nancy, was diagnosed with Alzheimers, Andrea Gillies made the decision to care for her full time. She also decided to write about the experience.

The result was “Keeper“, a frank, moving and utterly gripping account of Alzheimers and its effect on one family. The impact of the book was remarkable. It was awarded the inaugural Wellcome Book Prize and followed this up with the Orwell Prize in 2010.

Since then Andrea has turned to fiction, and produced “The white lie“, a tense, beautifully crafted novel about the poisonous ripple effect of unaddressed guilt.

This Saturday (24th November, 11am) Andrea is coming to Central Library to discuss both books, as part of the West Port Book Festival. If you would like to reserve a place at this event book online now.


Book now: Liz Lochhead at Edinburgh Central Library

Here’s some great news for National Poetry Day: on 15th November Edinburgh Central Library will be hosting a free event with Scotland’s Makar Liz Lochhead.

The Motherwell born writer’s contribution to the development of Scottish literature since the 1970s has been immeasurable.

She was a major figure in the Scottish literary renaissance centred in Glasgow in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Her body of work, from her earliest poems to more recent translations and adaptations of classic European dramas, demonstrates a singular talent for melding past with present.

Liz’s ability to explore themes of feminism, language and self through so many genres and forms have made her an internationally important voice.

We’re thrilled, therefore, that she’ll be joining us for a special ‘Edinburgh Reads’ event on Thursday 15th November where she’ll be discussing  her latest collection ‘A choosing‘ and discussing some of her favourite poems with Robyn Marsack, Director of the Scottish Poetry Library.

Book online to reserve your place at what is sure to be a memorable evening.

But before that Lochhead aficionados can join our Reader in Residence Ryan Van Winkle and Chatter and Verse – our regular poetry book group – for a session discussing Liz Lochhead’s work. This will take place on Wednesday 17th October, 6.30 – 7.45pm, at Central Library. Call 0131 242 8046 or email if you’d like to come along.

The summer so far, in words and pictures

Time for a wee pictorial round-up of what’s been happening in libraries over the past few weeks.

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Looking forward to the Olympics, Sighthill’s scarily talented Knit and Knatter Group have been busy knitting some famous Olympians. We’re loving this Cathy Freeman.

Olympic fever took hold over at Granton as well, which hosted its very own torch relay for some Olympians of the future.

Staying on the sporty theme, the advent of Wimbledon fortnight, coupled with the The Queen’s visit to Edinburgh, was all the excuse Moredun’s Library Linkers needed for a special high tea celebration, a wee variation on their usual fortnightly brew and blether.

The ‘summer’ weather has left lots of kids looking for indoor activities during the holiday and younger visitors to Fountainbridge Library have been writing stories based on a strange ‘thing’ housed in a secret room in the library. There will be prizes…

Finally, ‘The Secret Mandarin’ author Sara Sheridan joined us to celebrate National Reading Group Day in a special ‘Edinburgh Reads’ event at Central Library. Sara told us how her love of history was inspired by her father, an antique collector, who shared stories of London and Brighton which helped her to form her leading character Mirabelle Bevan, the protagonist of her new novel Brighton Belle.

Marvellously entertaining, funny, warm, humane…

Just some of the audience feedback from Thursday’s jam-packed Edinburgh Reads event with Janice Galloway.

And the feeling was mutual, as a delighted Janice told us she hugely appreciated such a lovely audience.

If you weren’t lucky enough to attend, fear not, as we’ll be posting some video from on our You Tube channel very soon, adding to previous events featuring the likes of Ian Rankin, Maggie O’Farrell and Alistair Darling.

Finally, while we’re on the subject of Janice Galloway we should mention that ‘All made up‘ is one of the books nominated for the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards. The other finalists are:

There but for the by Ali Smith

Aibisidh by Angus Peter Campbell

Let not the waves of the sea by Simon Stephenson

The great thing about these awards is that YOU pick the winner – and seeing as voting doesn’t close till 6th August there’s plenty of time to borrow the shortlisted books and pick your favourite.