Portobello Book Festival 2021 – Full Programme Details

Portobello Book Festival1st – 3rd October 2021

All events are free, but ticketed.
Tickets in person, in advance from Portobello Library
No tickets available at the door this year.


Twitter @portybookfest



10.30-11.30am                                                   LIBRARY UPSTAIRS

This year’s writing event is on the fun of writing limericks. Jim has recently found pleasure in expressing and reflecting life in limericks. He hopes to show how versatile they can be with topics including balancing rhyme with content, beauty with sadness, politics with humour, local scenes with global issues and so on. This will be a hands-on fun workshop for writers of all experience and inclination. Bring paper, pen and ideas.

HANNAH McCOOKE: CAPABLE HANDS                                      

12.00noon-1.00pm                                                  LIBRARY UPSTAIRS

Portobello poet Hannah McCooke has been published in

Dear Damsels, The Selkie, Bloodbath Literary Zine, The Last Anthology and Umbrellas of Edinburgh. She recently released her debut pamphlet, Mortal Magic, and will be discussing her love of DIY publishing, collaboration and the role of queer community in her creativity, as well as her current project – Capable Hands – a collection of love poems for her LGBT+ heroes. Hannah will read from both collections.

Chair: Paul Hudson


2.00-3.00pm                                                           LIBRARY UPSTAIRS

Local readers including Ian Pryde, children’s literature specialist at Portobello Library and Joanne Baird, Portobello Book Blog, talk about their most memorable reading from the time when reading was one of the few things we were actually allowed to do. 

Chair: Bill Jameson



Due to covid restrictions, this event is for contributors to the publication only.

This evening of words and music celebrates local writing and launches the Festival’s publication Pandemic Portobello. Portobello actor Cal MacAninch will read a selection of stories from this unique collection and the event will be hosted by David Francis.

Free copies of the book will be available from Portobello Library.

This event will be online: details will be available via the library and website nearer the time.



11.00am-12.00 noon                                              LIBRARY UPSTAIRS                                                 

Author, poet and essayist Anne Pia has published two poetry collections, Transitory and The Sweetness of Demons, and is perhaps best known for her stunning creative memoir Language of My Choosing which was shortlisted for the Saltire Award. Here, Anne speaks about her work, specifically her recently published book Keeping Away The Spiders: Essays on Breaching Barriers, a series of illuminating reflections on life as a writer and a woman.

Chair: Paul Hudson


12.00 noon                                                                      ONLINE EVENT

Join the Caledonia Crime Collective (CCC) as they discuss the thrills, spills and sometimes chills of everything Tartan Noir and all its facets. From gritty police procedurals to psychological thrillers – and even a splash of the supernatural – the panel will discuss and debate the diversity of modern Scottish crime fiction. 

Hosted by Portobello author and CCC founder Emma Christie (The Silent Daughter).

This event will be online: details will be available via the library and website nearer the time.


12.45-1.45pm                                                          LIBRARY UPSTAIRS

Flora Johnston is the author of What You Call Free. Set in 17th Century Edinburgh, it follows the story of two women who don’t conform to society’s expectations.  Caroline Dunford’s novels include historical mysteries featuring Euphemia Martins at the time of The Great War and her daughter Hope Stapleford in WW2. Join them as they discuss researching and writing historical fiction set in very different eras and giving voice to women from those times.

Chair: Janis Mackay


2.30-3.30pm                                                                  LIBRARY UPSTAIRS

Join Lesley Kelly and William McIntyre in conversation, as they discuss their entertaining and often humorous crime thriller series. Lesley Kelly’s The Health of Strangers books are set in the aftermath of a global pandemic, though the series began well before recent events. William McIntyre is a criminal defence solicitor who draws on his own courtroom experiences to turn fact into fiction with a string of legal thrillers all featuring Linlithgow-based lawyer, Robbie Munro. 


4.00-5.00pm                                                             LIBRARY UPSTAIRS

Love and humour are often present in the work of Portobello author Grahame Howard.  Here he talks about his two books published during lockdown.  Coda, Fantaisie and an Intermezzo, three love stories with a musical theme and The Norris Sanction, a light hearted humorous tale featuring a terminal loser.

Chair:  Paul Hudson


5.30-6.30pm                                                    LIBRARY DOWNSTAIRS

Andrew’s latest novel Mayflies is an elegy to a teenage friend.  Set in Scotland, it is a poignant story of lost youth, music, and male friendship. Andrew has been nominated for the Booker Prize three times, is Visiting Professor of Writing at King’s College London and Editor-at-Large of The London Review of Books. Andrew will be joined in this special event by Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland, who also hails from Ayrshire.



11.00am-12.00 noon                                        LIBRARY DOWNSTAIRS

Award-winning author Dr Gavin Francis’s latest book Intensive Care is written from the perspective of a GP working in both urban and rural communities during the Pandemic. Gavin will be in conversation with Dr John Budd, GP at the Edinburgh Access Practice, which provides care for patients who are homeless. They will discuss how Covid has changed lives, the amazing work of Edinburgh’s Inclusion Health outreach teams and the city’s response in terms of housing people who would otherwise have been rough sleeping.


11.15am-12.15pm                                                   LIBRARY UPSTAIRS

Angela’s latest novel The Darlings is a compelling exploration of the power of unconditional love. Set in Edinburgh, it is a fast-paced, funny and unflinching story of infidelity. Angela, a former psychology lecturer, won Edinburgh International Book Festival’s First Book Award with her debut novel The Emergence of Judy Taylor. She is a Tutor in Creative Writing for Open College of the Arts. She will be joined in this special event by Louise Kelly.


12.45-1.45pm                                                          LIBRARY UPSTAIRS

A conversation between Rona Gray and Patrick Baker, author of The Unremembered Places: Exploring Scotland’s Wild Histories.  ‘There are wild landscapes which transcend our modern notions of utility and purpose whose importance may never be fully understood yet which continue to resound with mystery and meaning.’


2.00-3.00pm                                                         LIBRARY DOWNSTAIRS

Chris Brookmyre, one of Britain’s most acclaimed authors and winner of the UK’s top crime awards, is joined by his wife Marisa Haetzman, a consultant anaesthetist, to discuss their co-authored crime series, set in the medical world of 1840s Edinburgh, under the pseudonym Ambrose Parry.

Chair: Doug Johnstone


2.15-3.15pm                                                                LIBRARY UPSTAIRS

Photographer Anna Deacon and journalist and author Vicky Allan’s books For the Love of Trees and Taking the Plunge: The Healing Power of Wild Swimming for Mind, Body and Soul show how time spent outdoors can help physical and mental wellbeing. They are in conversation with local GP, allotment enthusiast and wild swimmer Dr Rachel Harrison who is an advocate of the RSPB’s and Edinburgh GPs’ joint pilot scheme Nature Prescriptions. This initiative is giving GPs in five Edinburgh practices the opportunity to prescribe nature, where appropriate, as part of a patient’s treatment plan, connecting them with nature in ways that are personal, emotional and meaningful.


3.30-4.30pm                                                                     ONLINE EVENT

Peter Geoghegan, the well-known writer, journalist and broadcaster, talks about his recent, highly acclaimed book Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics.  According to the Observer, ‘This should be the most discussed political book of the year.  The subject could not be more urgent.’ 

Chair: Peter McColl

This event will be online: details will be available via the library and website nearer the time.


4.00-5.00pm                                                         LIBRARY UPSTAIRS

In 2002, still in her teens, Gemma Bromley was in a serious car accident in which she suffered a traumatic brain injury. Half a Head recounts her long journey of recovery. Gemma is in conversation with Edwin Jesudson, Consultant Rehabilitation Physician at Astley Ainslie Hospital, Edinburgh.


5.00-6.00pm                                                       LIBRARY DOWNSTAIRS

The queen of crime talks about her latest thriller, the first in her new series.  In the winter of discontent, Allie Burns and her fellow journalist Danny Sullivan, at the risk of making powerful enemies, are exposing the criminal underbelly of respectable Scotland.

Chair: Louise Fairbairn

Books by all our participating authors are available to order from The Portobello Bookshop.
Click here to visit the PBF page

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