This year the Edinburgh International Book Festival has introduced a new strand to its programme. Unbound will see the Highland Park Spiegeltent taken over every evening by authors, poets and musicians for a series of free, live literature events. Nick Barley, the Book Festival director explained at a recent City of Lit Salon that Unbound would appeal to those people who love books and reading but who don’t like to plan or book tickets in advance. It’s for people who get up in the morning and say: Right, what am I going to do this evening?
Spoken word events such as DIScOmBoBulAte, The Golden Hour and Irregular will relocate to the Spiegeltent for evenings of literary, musical mash up. There will be events hosted by literary magazines such as McSweeney’s and Five Dials, and sessions where authors and poets show a different side of themselves, away from the printed page. The Unbound programme has deliberately been left slightly vague to allow an element of spontaneity: as well as the scheduled performers, the organisers of each event are free to wander around the Book Festival, talk to visiting authors and maybe pick up some new acts.
The first event last night was hosted by Scotland’s newest literary magazine, Gutter. It was enticingly named A Night in the Gutter: McSex and featured new and established authors reading erotic fiction from their own work and from the work of others. The Spiegeltent (mirror tent), looking like a glammed up circus arena, was the perfect location for this night of literary debauchary. In between readings, a burlesque model strutted across the stage bearing signs introducing the next segment of the show.
Who knew Robert Burns was so filthy? Cheryl Follon read from some of his X-rated poems, emphasising the good bits with a deliciously dirty laugh. Zoë Strachan’s reading from her own novel Spin Cycle, was beautifully sensual. Hats off to all the performers who not only managed to hold the audience’s attention with confident and witty readings, but sailed through all the smutty vocabulary without so much as a blush or a bead of sweat.