Book Festival director bows out with a smile
After three years in the job, FAITH LIDDELL says she’s just starting to enjoy herself.
It's a terrible thing to admit to but, after a couple of pre-Festival days counting, checking and heaving boxes around our warehouse, I was feeling seriously jaded about a couple of authors that I had been seriously excited about just a few days before. My feelings shift according to the weight of their muvre. I am particularly fickle with those with books coming out in hardback. I am particularly adoring of those with paperback novellas. Thank God, I know this shameful superficiality will pass. Thank God, the Festival begins and I can adore and admire for the right reasons again. I can care according to content not kilograms.
This is my last year as director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival and I am astonished to find that for the first time I am
thoroughly enjoying myself. I find myself wandering around Charlotte Square Gardens with a beneficent smile which I beam at authors, audiences and staff, till I remember I've still got this one to get through - events to co-ordinate, authors to meet and greet, technicians to brief - and realise that my beneficent smile is actually a crazed grin in the eyes to some of the unfortunate strangers I direct it at. That’s certainly how my colleagues interpret it!
In the three years I have been director, I have seen one whole event, ten minutes of Grace Paley and five minutes of Candia McWilliam. I have seen 70 minutes of the 1200 hours of words, images, discussion, ideas and entertainment the Book Festival has created. Sometimes it has broken my heart to bring someone whose work I have relished
. . . and in with a grin
Incoming Book Festival director CATHERINE LOCKERBIE can’t wait for contact and exchange
‘Book tours kill authors,’ declared Margaret Drabble, in the middle of just such a tour to the Edrnburgh International Book Festival. 'Publishers expect authors to do far too much traipsing around the country as travelling salesmen,’ she continued sternly.
Bad news for book festivals then: will they soon be piled hrgh wrth deceased travelling salespersons? Drabble has a point, a powerful one. The phenomenon of the author publicity circuit, readings and signings, is strange and recent. Only a couple of decades ago, writers might lurk in therr garrets
8 THE lIST FESTIVAL GUIDE 24 Aug—2 Sep 20.
unseen and unheard. But they do now emerge blrnkrng rnto the lrght, they do come to book festrvals and they do, mostly, enJOy rt hugely. Contact rs the key: contact Wrth readers and contact wrth peers. The Edinburgh Internatronal Book Festrval may grow brgger (though rt rs already the brggest rn the world), rt may grow better (th0ugh rt already attracts some of the "‘- 1 starrrest
Faith Liddell retires after programming 1200 hours of entertainment
and admired, whose ideas have affected my life or shifted my consciousness, to walk them into their event, wish them luck and leave them to cast their spell on others.
But I have breathed a more intimate magic. I get to touch them and sit with them, reassure and take care of them. I get to share the laughter in the eyes of Norman Mailer, to savour the gentle gratitude of Andrea Dworkin, to hear the ideas sparked in the minds of authors in the creative overflow after an event, the ‘more' that every audience at the Book Festival should be left
Crazed or beneficent, I have every reason to smile. I! The Edinburgh International Book Festival runs until
names rn the lrterary world), but above all rt has to grow yet further rn openness and rnclusrveness.
Thrs rs what a book festrval, unrquely, can offer rn the rnternet age. Farth erdell has created a space, a forum, rn whrch wrrter talks unto wrrter, readers share perceptrons freely, frrendshrps are forged, the publrc rs lead gently through the famrlrar towards the new
Ideas race through my head for the festrvals of 2001 and beyond and erl be revealed rn due course « but at every stage contact and exchange remarn uppermost: democratrc, human, the essence of what a book festrval rs for.
a Catherine Lockerbre takes over as director of the Edinburgh International Book Fest/va/ next month.
Catherine Lockerbie making plans for 2001
Council cuts bar licences
Edinburgh City Council has come under fire for its tough line on bar licensing. It’s a position threatening the future of the Pleasance, which historically had a licence until 3am until last year when it was cut back to 1am. This year, the lrcence allows the Pleasance to serve drrnks outside, in its IOOO-capacity courtyard, only until 11pm during the week and midnight at the weekend. Recently council licensing officers cleared the courtyard by 12.30am, despite all the bars having closed on time. This kind of regulating eats into the Pleasance’s bar revenue, which supplements the venue’s box office takings; rf festival goers can’t have a post-show drink and chat, the prospect of attending late shows becomes less enticing.
The council announced its licensing decision after the Fringe programme had been booked: ’5pm on the day the Pleasance opened, though our application was filed on 2 May,’ according to Pleasance drrector Christopher chhardson. The ruling has caused other problems: what to do with the staff already hired? How to fit IOOO courtyard drinkers into the single ZSO-capacity interror bar with a later licence?
Of course, the local residents
must also be considered. But why
are bars and clubs on the nearby Cowgate given licences until 3am and not the Pleasance? ’We bring our portion of people into Edinburgh with us,’ says Richardson. ’Thrs is the world’s biggest festrval, the council will kill rt if it’s not careful.’
A spokesperson for the chensrng Board commented: ’The late opening at the Pleasance was restricted due to sustained complarnts by residents over the noise coming from an outdoor location. The board has to balance the needs of people vrsitrng venues as well as resrdents.’
But councillor Steve Cardownre drsagrees: 'There are pubs in the area of the Pleasance that create as much norse. To curtail lrcences at thrs busrest time will have a detrrmental effect on business plans. I'm inclined to support the promoter during the biggest arts festrval rn the world.’ (Mrles Frelder)