Page last updated at 21:11 GMT, Friday, 8 August 2008 22:11 UK

A celebration of words

The director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the woman in charge of the festival's children's programme describe their tasks.


Creating our 25th anniversary programme has been a mind-bending, forehead-clutching joy.

Overall, there are 800 authors coming from more than 45 different countries - an extraordinary logistical challenge - each one chosen for their unique contribution to the over-arching vision and coherence of this, the biggest public celebration of words in the world.

Catherine Lockerbie - director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival
Catherine Lockerbie said the event was a "logistical challenge"
A fiendishly complex grid, in at least five dimensions, tugs at the known limits of time, space and my brainpower.

Themes are constructed - East and West, the future of nations, medicine and ethics, environment, media and spin, and more.

Wonderful things happen late in the day.

Our festival is predicated on intimate, close encounters, eyeballing authors, the frisson in the live exchange - but we want to expand access to that, let as many people as possible into our magic space.

So this year we have a live satellite link-up with the Melbourne Writers' Festival - audiences on the other side of the planet joining in our events and vice versa.

The startlingly brilliant debut author Nam Le, Vietnamese-born, will launch his magnificent collection of stories The Boat, live on screen - a special free event at 10am on Sunday 24 August.

We, in happy reciprocation, will beam Salman Rushdie to Australia.

Then, just when I have sworn we cannot take ONE more author, someone too good to resist comes along.

So somehow we squeeze them in - such as the mesmerising Aleksandar Hemon, exiled from Sarajevo by the Bosnian war and hailed as a genius.

Check the website ( to keep up to date with all these enticing plot twists in the intricately planned yet still suspense-filled narrative of our festival.


Edinburgh's festival season is more than dates on the calendar.

I know some performers who would even argue it's a state of mind.

Feeling the city buzzing with anticipation, hearing the tell-tale sounds of the first Tattoo pounding through the city.

Sarah Grady said the children's programme was her "baby"
Sarah Grady described the children's programme was her "baby"
Seeing Charlotte Square slowly transform into the garden of delights that will hold our year's work.

Festival season is a feeling, a vibe, and more than anything - a celebration.

For me it's also the first children's programme at the Edinburgh International Book Festival I've overseen beginning to end - it's my baby.

For the past 11 months I've sat at a desk in a basement office.

I have been planning and designing a world of imagination for children and families from the first event to the last (number 284 at last count). I live and breathe August, 365 days a year.

It's a fantastic thing; working so hard through the depths of winter and the damp of spring, then seeing it come to fruition.

Designing a children's programme is huge territory representing all childhood, the transition from adolescence to adulthood - and I'm proud this year's programme reflects that diversity.

Especially our new series of events exploring everything and anything but literature.

Science, maths, magic, history, archaeology - you name it, and children can explore it this summer.

It's a feat, and a testament to the variety and versatility of children's tastes and the wealth of children's publishing today.

But the real test comes this weekend.

A book festival event without an audience is nothing - it's the intimate exchange between author and audience that is the driving cause behind our work - and until a racket of children tumbles through our gates, I'll be holding my breath in excitement.

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