Edinburgh International Book Festival to drop one-off visits from overseas authors over environmental concerns

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is to dramatically scale back the number of authors it flies in for the event in future as part of a drive to slash its carbon footprint.

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Organisers have pledged to “phase out” bringing in guest writers for exclusive one-off appearances in the city.

Instead the festival will prioritise booking authors who are touring elsewhere in the UK or Europe, or beam in overseas authors for virtual appearances.

The event will is expected to work with other festivals to help spread the carbon footprint of an international author’s visit. Exceptions are also expected to be made if an author is taking part in a writing residency or teaching in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK.

The festival is also expected to maintain its international profile by ensuring that its events are made available to watch around the world.

The festival’s rethink has emerged in the wake of its relocation from Charlotte Square due to concerns over its impact on its historic garden.

Last month the Edinburgh International Festival revealed it had set a series of targets to try to cut the event’s carbon footprint by 70 per cent by 2030.

Around half of the speakers at this year’s book festival, which gets underway on Saturday, will join the event virtually.

Director Nick Barley said: “There has obviously been the immediate practical issue of quarantine for international authors this year.

“But it’s also been an opportunity for us to reduce our carbon footprint this year.

“We’re not saying that we will never again bring international authors to the festival, but we’ll be doing it in a way which allows us to spread the carbon footprint better.

“We’ll make sure that every overseas author has a tour to other venues and events around Scotland or elsewhere in the UK, or we will make sure that they have some kind of writing residency or will be doing some kind of teaching work.

“Whichever way we do it, we’ll be doing our best to make sure they are doing other activities to ensure that their carbon footprint is spread.

“Even if someone was doing several events in our festival, we’d still expect them to do events at other festivals. We’re talking to other European festivals to look at how to spread the carbon load.

“One of the benefits of having enormous screens on stage at the art school is we can have an author on stage in conversation with someone on the other side of the world. The technology allows us to make these really interesting events.”

Mr Barley said the festival had heard “loud and clear” the criticism over the impact of the city’s major cultural events as they attracted increasing audience numbers.

However, he added: “I think there are a balancing set voices coming through now saying that the city needs the festivals to work – not just financially, but for the mental heath and wellbeing of the citizens of Edinburgh.

“People do want them to happen and all these things popping up around the city this month are evidence of that.

“The reason that the festivals grew so much in recent years was because there was a huge demand for tickets. A lot of that was from people in Edinburgh and that’s not gone away.”

Source – The Scotsman

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