Bookfest Moves

Jan 27 2021 | By More
Bookfest to move to College of Art

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is to make a permanent move to the Edinburgh College of Art on Lauriston Place from this year’s event, running Sat 14 to Mon 30 August 2021.

The Festival has been under increasing pressure at its site on Charlotte Square Gardens, where it started as a biennial event in 1983, and then running annually from 1997.

Busy Charlotte Square Gardens at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2019. Pic: Edinburgh International Book Festival

In recent years there have been serious concerns about the level of degradation of the site itself and damage to the root structures of the trees which make it such an attractive proposition in the first place.

Book Festival director Nick Barley has explained that the move is partly pragmatic to cope with the contingency plans he will have to make for this year’s festival, which has to be prepared to be almost wholly online.

It will also allow the festival to continue as a hybrid event with a combination of in-person events, an open “oasis of calm” for festival attendees, and online events available around the world.

The full programme and event details will be announced at the end of June, but the Book Festival team has revealed that they are planning a range of live online author talks, workshops and readings.

Some events for in-person, albeit socially distanced, audiences will take place, but only if circumstances permit.

extremely challenging

Nick Barley said: “While 2020 proved extremely challenging for the Book Festival it also opened up some extraordinarily exciting opportunities.

“With in-person ticket sales impossible to forecast this August, we simply can’t justify incurring the costs of the tents and infrastructure we’d normally put into Charlotte Square Gardens. It is highly probable that most events will take place online, and the need for broadcast studios is more likely than large venues for an audience.

Charlotte Square in 2020 on the opening day of the virtual book festival. Taken during Thom and Peter Dibdin’s #NothingToReviewHere project. Pic: Peter Dibdin

“In the grassy courtyard of Edinburgh College of Art we will, if rules allow, recreate the elements of the Book Festival that our audiences love – bookshops, cafes and open spaces in which to come together safely offering the ‘oasis of calm’ for which the Book Festival is renowned.

“The College offers excellent studio and theatre facilities for both online broadcasting and potential events with a socially distanced audience.”

He added that the book festival intends for this partnership with the University to be a long-term arrangement. It will continue to occupy their spaces when a Covid-free festival can be staged, with audiences able to enjoy live events in person.

global audiences

He said: “However digital events will continue to be a key part of future Book Festivals, enabling us to reach truly global audiences as well as those closer to home who face barriers to attending the event.

“We are excited that our hybrid festivals of the future will engage with authors and audiences around the world in a more environmentally responsible way.”

Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, Professor Peter Mathieson, said, “We were delighted to be asked by the Edinburgh International Book Festival to support future events through this mutually beneficial arrangement. Building on our existing partnership this new deeper relationship will help to ensure that people in Edinburgh, and all over the world, can continue to come together to explore the power of ideas through their love of literature.”


The new partnership gives the Edinburgh International Book Festival licence to occupy spaces within the University of Edinburgh’s Edinburgh College of Art in August. The University will operate catering and bar provisions, if permitted by the Government’s Covid19 guidelines, while the Book Festival is on.

In the Edinburgh festivals fallow year of 2020 the book festival presented 146 online events ranging from daily draw-alongs to conversations with Bernardine Evaristo, Douglas Stuart, Samantha Power, Matt Haig, Hilary Mantel and Marian Keyes. Audiences watched and engaged with events from around the world and have continued to watch on demand over the winter months.

The full programme for the 2021 Edinburgh International Book Festival will be announced at the end of June. Author conversations from the 2020 Book Festival, and all other information, can be found at


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Comments (2)

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  1. Patricia Rodger says:

    hello. can someone give an outline of accessibility for disabled people, remembering that not all disabilities are physical and that online events can also exclude disabled people for a number of reasons. thanks

  2. Tom says:

    just for clarity, does this mean no return to Charlotte Square, even post covid and a return to ‘normal’ (ha, ha)? So there’s no possibility of a twin-location Festival over both the College of Art and Charlotte Square? I think that’s what’s meant, but not absolutely certain ..