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Last Updated: Friday, 8 August, 2003, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
Festival welcomes world writers
Candance Bushnell
Candace Bushnell will appear with authors from all over the world
Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell, American novelist John Irving and Booker-prize winner Ben Okri are among those appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The event is celebrating its 20th year with a star-studded cast of speakers from across the literary spectrum.

The festival, which coincides with the Fringe, International and Film Festivals being held in the city during August, features more than 550 authors appearing at 650 events.

It begins on Saturday, with a reading by poet laureates Andrew Motion and Edwin Morgan, the first of a series of morning readings which will continue throughout the festival.

The public are hungry to talk about books and subjects of every kind
Catherine Lockerbie
Events later in the calendar include an assessment of the legacy of George Orwell - who would have been 100 this year - and a debate on the relationship between Christianity and Islam.

Talks by Tony Benn, Ian Rankin and Lord Winston also look set to prove popular with audiences, which last year topped 169,000 for the festival.

Other authors appearing include Paulo Coelho, Iain Banks, Joanne Harris, and Generation X author, Douglas Coupland.

'Heads buzzing'

Festival director Catherine Lockerbie said: "We've seen over the last few years an incredible growth in demand for what the book festival offers: excitement, discovery, the chance for a really good argument.

"The public are hungry to talk about books and subjects of every kind, to swap ideas with the world's leading thinkers, to feel their heads buzzing with new thoughts.

"For 2003, we've aimed to create a programme with some of the greatest names in world writing, which will wet and feed that appetite even further."

The festival is being held in Charlotte Square Gardens and runs until 25 August.

BBC Scotland Arts correspondent Pauline Maclean
"160,000 people attended last year's book festival"

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