A cloud of war sits over festival launch

Sunday Herald, UK
Aug 14 2004

A cloud of war sits over festival launch

By Senay Boztas

THERE was much talk of war in the almost Middle Eastern sunshine of
Charlotte Square yesterday; the Edinburgh International Book Festival
launched its 650 events and found eminent authors concerned with
global conflict.
Scottish poet and playwright Liz Lochhead opened the festival with a
sell-out discussion of her latest work, Thebans. She set a tone for
the day, comparing the struggles in her Greek drama with the
complexities of the war between Israel and the Palestinians.

Louis de Bernières, the award-winning author of Captain Corelli’s
Mandolin, took up the gauntlet, discussing the Turko-Armenian war and
the horrors that were inflicted. In researching his latest book,
Birds Without Wings, he studied a history that is not widely known in
the West .

But the most anticipated event of the festival will be JK Rowling’s
first public reading in four years at 9am today. Just over 500 fans
were the lucky winners of a ballot for tickets, with the remaining
few spaces given away in a competition by the Sunday Herald.

Other speakers included Lord Melvyn Bragg taking part in an Amnesty
International debate, Tony Parsons – who revealed that his next book
would be about punk rockers of the 1970s – writer and broadcaster
Joan Bakewell and Scottish success Alexander McCall Smith.

Yesterday, the festival reported over 8000 people through the doors
by 4pm and organisers were relieved that the rains held off for a
perfect day.

Festival director Catherine Lockerbie said: ` So far this has been
fantastically successful. Audience numbers and feedback have been
great, after a long, hard year of planning.’