The next Portobello Book Festival will run from 29th September to 2nd October 2022

The organising team has been busy planning a brilliant Portobello Book Festival for 2022. This year it will begin with an event at The Portobello Bookshop on Thursday 29th September then run over the weekend until Sunday 2nd October. Full details will be revealed early September so watch this space.

We start to plan our October Festival in January so if you’re interested in being considered for inclusion contacting us in the first half of January is a good idea. There are always limited spots and after our early planning sessions most of these are already accounted for. 

We’re volunteers so can’t always keep track of requests carrying over year on year so making our job easier and getting in touch in early January makes it easier for us to consider you. 

How to watch our online events

Photo by Anna Shvets on

This year you will be able to watch two of our events online. The Caledonia Crime Collective will be chatting about the diversity of Scottish crime writing from 12 noon on Saturday 2nd October and Peter Geoghegan discusses his book Democracy for Sale from 3.30pm on Sunday 3rd October.

To view these events, simply visit this website at those times and you will find a link to watch. They will also be available to watch again later.

We know a lot of people enjoyed the online events last year and we did consider trying to do some more online this year. However, as a small, free, volunteer-run festival, regrettably we simply don’t have enough people to be able to comply with the Covid regulations while also trying to stream or film for later. The number of people allowed to attend each event is strictly limited and include the contributors, staff and volunteers. We are sure you will understand that we have had to prioritise everything we need to put in place to ensure the Festival can go ahead in person this year.

Tickets for this year’s festival are now available from Portobello Library @portylibrary

If you have been having a look through the programme for this year’s Portobello Book Festival and noting down the events you would like to see, then NOW is the time to get yourself down to the library! Tickets and printed programmes are available from today, exclusively from the library in Rosefield Avenue. You don’t need to book a time to pick up tickets.

Tickets can only be collected from Portobello Library in person, in advance. Due to covid restrictions, unlike in previous years, tickets will not be available on the door on the day. When collecting tickets, you are restricted to two per event per person. Library opening hours are Monday and Wednesday 1-5pm, Tuesday and Thursday 10-5pm, Friday and Saturday 10am-2pm.

Click here to see the full programme

Watch now – Dark Humour – An interview with Doug Johnstone @doug_johnstone

Saturday 3rd October – 1pm
Click Youtube link below to watch the interview

Doug Johnstone is the author of twelve novels. Several of his books have been bestsellers and three, A Dark Matter (2020), Breakers (2019) and The Jump (2015), were shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions over the last decade, and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three solo EPs released, and he currently plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

The Big Chill is the second in a trilogy of books about the Skelfs, three generations of women who have to take over the running of a funeral directors and a private investigators when the patriarch of the family dies.

Doug’s website is

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

Watch now – A Sense of Place and Imagination with Janis Mackay – @janismackay

Saturday 3rd October – 12noon
Click the Youtube link to watch interview with Janis

Janis Mackay is an author, storyteller and creative writing tutor, living in her native Portobello. Janis had her first novel for children published by winning the Kelpies prize in 2009. Since then she has had nine novels published, and won the Scottish Children’s Book Awards in 2013 for her novel for children – The Accidental Time Traveller. As a storyteller Janis is often inspired by folk and fairy lore, drawing on themes and imagery in myth to create new stories. Janis has just brought out her first novel for adults, The Watchmaker’s Wife, which is based on the life of her grandmother. Often finding inspiration at intersections, with this novel she merges family story with fiction. Janis is currently doing a PhD, fusing life story, landscape and mythology. She teaches creative writing at Edinburgh University, and spends a lot of time gazing out the window to the sea!

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

Watch now – The Secret Life of Books with Professor Tom Mole @ProfTomMole

Saturday 3rd October – 11am
Click Youtube link below to watch the event

Join Tom Mole in conversation with Paul Hudson of Portobello Library as they discuss The Secret Life of Books.

We love books.  We take them to bed with us.  We display them on our bookshelves.  We write our names in them.  They weigh down our suitcases when we go on holiday.  We take them for granted.  But there’s much more to them than meets the eye.  From how books feel and smell, to burned books, banned books, and books that create nations, The Secret Life of Book is about everything beyond the words on the page.  It’s about how books – and readers – have evolved over time.  And it’s about how books still have the power to change our lives.

Tom Mole is Professor of English Literature and Book History at the University of Edinburgh, where he runs the Centre for the History of the Book.  He is the author of What the Victorians Made of Romanticism, which won the Saltire Prize for best research book in 2018.  He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and lives in Edinburgh with his wife and daughter.

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

Links to PBF20 events – available to watch or listen again

All our events this year are available to watch or listen to again at your leisure. To make it easy for you to find them, we’ve posted all the links on this page. Just click to go to the event page and enjoy!

Archie Foley – More Footprints in the Sand

Anne Stormont – Finding Fulfilment

Tom Mole – The Secret Life of Books

Janis Mackay – A Sense of Place and Imagination

Doug Johnstone – Dark Humour

Edward Ross – Gamish: A graphic History of Gaming

John D Burns – Mountaineer, writer, storyteller, talks to Portobello Book Festival

Captivating Crime with Jackie Baldwin and Olga Wojtas

Gavin Francis – Island Dreams

Sheila Averbuch – Social and Anti-social Media

Peter Ross – A Tomb with a View

Leonie Charlton discusses Marram with Peter E Ross

Letters from Lockdown

“Resolving the climate emergency: Why societal and environmental sustainability are interdependent” with Dr Keith Skene 

Donald Bloxham – History: Why Bother?

Through Travellers’ Eyes

Letters from Lockdown

Sunday 4th October – 2pm – online

Six go scripting through creative writing

Letters from Lockdown has been written by a group of people in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. The group came together through an online creative writing course facilitated by ERA during the great pandemic of 2020. Through the Making Connections course the group quickly made connections with each other and the wider world as well as on paper.

You can read the stories featured by downloading from the link below.

ERA – Edinburgh Recovery Activities is a community project which provides activities, groups and social events for people in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.

Please note, the views expressed in each of these written pieces is that of the author and not of ERA.

If you would like to contact the group, please do so via 

Social and Anti-Social Media with Sheila M Averbuch @sheilamaverbuch

Sunday 4th October – 11am – online

Social and Anti-Social Media

Sheila M. Averbuch is a former journalist who’s interviewed billionaires, hackers and would-be Mars colonists. She holds a 2019 New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust and lives with her family near Edinburgh. Her first novel, Friend Me, is a middle-grade thriller about cyberbullying, revenge, and social media: Roisin, an Irish transplant to America, is mercilessly bullied at school and pours her heart out to her online BFF Haley. But when the bully suffers a gruesome accident, Roisin begins to wonder if Haley is responsible…or hiding even darker secrets.  Find out more at 

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

Captivating Crime: a conversation with Jackie Baldwin and Olga Wojtas @JackieMBaldwin1 @olgawojtas

Saturday 3rd October – 4pm – online

Jackie Baldwin practiced criminal and family law for twenty years before retraining as a hypnotherapist. She has recently moved to East Lothian from Dumfries where her first three books are set.

Her latest novel, Avenge the Dead, was published on 28th February 2020 and features former RC priest, DI Frank Farrell, who is tasked with investigating the brutal murder of a defence solicitor’s wife. It’s been over a year since he left the town after an investigation robbed him of a dear friend and he has struggled to move on. When the son of another solicitor is murdered, a strange tattoo etched on his body, the case takes them into darker, more disturbing territory. It leads them back into the past to a horrific fire that took a young woman’s life, to four friends harbouring dark secrets, and to a killer waiting patiently for revenge.

Olga Wojtas was born and bred in Edinburgh, where she attended James Gillespie’s, the school that inspired Muriel Spark’s best-known work, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” Spark renamed Gillespie’s as the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, and her book in turn inspired Olga to write her first novel, “Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Golden Samovar.” Olga’s heroine is Shona McMonagle, a former Marcia Blaine pupil, now a fifty-something time-travelling librarian from Morningside Library. Olga’s second book in the series, “Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Vampire Menace,” was published this year by Contraband.  Olga also writes a series of cosy crime e-novellas under the name Helena Marchmont. The series is set in the idyllic Cotswolds village of Bunburry which, just like Midsomer, has an alarming murder rate. 

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