Portobello Book Festival 2021 – Friday 1st October event details

Below are the details for events on Friday 1st October.
Please remember that all events are ticketed apart from those online.
Tickets available from the library.


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.


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.

Portobello Book Festival 2021 – important information about this year’s festival

We are delighted that the first weekend of October will see the return of Portobello Book Festival to our wonderful Portobello Library in Rosefield Avenue. Events will be on Friday 1st October, Saturday 2nd October and Sunday 3rd October. We are grateful to Edinburgh Council and Portobello Library staff for their guidance and support which has made it possible for the festival to take place.

As you would expect, things will look a little different this year. Entry in and out of the building will be carefully managed, numbers attending events will be more restricted than normal, face coverings must be worn (unless exempt) and contact details will be required for NHS Test and Protect. Following on from the successful online festival last year, some of our events will be online. Details of how to watch them will be on the website nearer the time.

Tickets can only be collected from Portobello Library in person in advance and you will be able to collect a printed programme from there soon. Tickets will be available from Monday 13th September. Due to 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.

Look out over the course of today for full details of all the events, featuring local writers and readers and internationally renowned authors. As always, we feel there is a great mix of books featured and that there is something for everyone.

Entry to events is free to all, although we are always very grateful for donations to cover expenses. We are also very grateful to all our participants who give their time freely.

If there are any updates to Covid regulations which mean we need to change or cancel any events, details will be posted on the website and our social media. We’re on Facebook (Portobello Book Festival) and Twitter (@portybookfest).

Unfortunately this year, we are unable to host book signings after the events in the library. However, books by all our participating authors will be available to buy or order from our local independent bookshop The Portobello Bookshop.

You will find the bookshop at 46 Portobello High Street. Opening hours are 10am – 6pm, seven days a week. You can order books in person or by phone or online either to Click and Collect or for delivery. The phone number is 0131 629 6756.

We hope you enjoy the 2021 Portobello Book Festival!

Pandemic Portobello – shout out for local writers

The Portobello Book Festival organising team have been busy over the last few months putting together what is shaping up to be an exciting programme for the next Festival over the first weekend in October. We are crossing our fingers that it will be able to go ahead in Portobello Library this year which, as you may know, is reopening on Monday 21st June.

Portobello Book Festival is planning a new publication – Pandemic Portobello – to mark our 13th Festival.  Unlucky for some!  This past year has been like no other, and we want to invite local people to submit a response to it.  These will be included in either a digital or paper publication.  

Contributors are encouraged to interpret the title as freely as they wish: fact or fiction; imagined or real; gothic or mythic; funny or sad; past, present or future; poetry or prose.  Anything goes!

The word length for contributions is 500 words, and the deadline for entries is 15 July 2021.  Please contact us at portobellobookfestival@gmail.com including ‘Pandemic Portobello’ in the subject line.

Thank you from the organising team!

The organising team would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part in our online festival this year – the authors, the chairs, those who filmed for us and Portobello Library for their online support. It was a challenge to change to a completely online festival but we are very pleased that this is something we managed to do, meaning our Festival was still able to take place. We hope that we have had our usual eclectic mix of events and that there is something for everyone to enjoy.

We are grateful too to The Portobello Bookshop who have supported us by having a dedicated page on their website featuring our authors and a display of books in the shop. There’s a link below to the PBF page on the bookshop website.

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

Being online has brought some advantages. Many more people have watched or listened to events than we would usually have been able to accommodate in our venues. We have had visitors from all over the world from including America, Canada, China, Russia, all over Europe, India, Thailand, New Zealand, Ecuador and Australia. Portobello Book Festival has gone international! And perhaps best of all, you are able to catch up with any events you may have missed. You’ll find details of all the events on the link below.

Click here for links to watch/listen again

Lastly, thank you to everyone who has watched or listened to our events, shared on social media, commented on the website or YouTube. We hope you have enjoyed the 2020 festival and are always pleased to hear your comments about the events. We do hope to be back in the library next year but we know that we are able to provide events online and may consider a blended approach if needed. See you next year, first weekend in October, put it in your diaries now!

Listen now – Through Travellers’ Eyes

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is through-travellers-eyes.jpg

Sunday 4th October – 5pm

Click here to listen to the podcast

Through Travellers’ Eyes is the product of two years of collecting stories, poems and snippets of conversation shared by people from Scotland’s Gypsy/Traveller communities. A series of workshops and personal interactions in Perth & Kinross, Edinburgh and the Lothians and North & Mid Argyll organised by MECOPP Gypsy/Traveller Carers’ Project led to the publication of this book.

Some of the contributors are regular writers of poems and stories whilst others had never considered that their storytelling skills could be of any interest outside of their own community. Katrina, who has been writing poems for many years, says: “I feel proud that I’ve had some of my poems published. I’ve not achieved much in life but this is one thing I’ve really achieved and I’m proud of. It’s something that my grandkids can look at when I’m no longer here and hopefully they’ll be proud to say that their granny had poems published.”

The book is full of personal stories and reflections of times gone by and of life in contemporary Scotland in an ever changing landscape of social and economic change. 

In its pages you will find gems that will touch you, make you laugh and give you a greater understanding of the traditions, lives and rich culture of Gypsy/Traveller communities in Scotland.

Books by all our participating authors are available to order from our local bookshop. Click the link to visit the page.
The Portobello Bookshop

Listen now – History: Why Bother? With Donald Bloxham

Sunday 4th October – 4pm

Click here to listen to the podcast

History matters, we know that. Evidence of its importance is all around us, in our films, bookshops, days of remembrance, political discourse and, as has recently been underlined, statues. But why does it matter? Why do people write it and read it? Here there is less consensus. My talk, like my book Why History? A History, begins at the earliest days of the western historical tradition, in ancient Greece, and charts the range of justifications that existed at that time for studying the past. It then considers changes and important continuities in these justifications across time, up to the present. Not only do many different rationales for history exist alongside each other today, some of these rationales are in tension with one another, and some of the most important tensions are considered in the conclusion of the talk.

Donald Bloxham is Richard Pares Professor of History at the University of Edinburgh

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

Watch now – “Resolving the climate emergency: Why societal and environmental sustainability are interdependent” with Dr Keith Skene @keith_skene

Sunday 4th October – 3pm
Click the Youtube link below to watch this event

Dr Keith Skene is an ecologist and the author of five books and over  forty scientific papers, focused on sustainability and our place on  the planet. Born in the historic city of Armagh in Ireland, Keith  spent thirteen years as a principal investigator and lecturer at the University of Dundee before becoming director of the Biosphere Research Institute (www.biosri.org). The Biosphere Research Institute produces cutting-edge research on environmental, economic and societal sustainability, focusing on a fundamental dialogue around our place in the Earth system. Keith has carried out field research across the planet, from Kenya to the Carpathian mountains, from the Scottish Highlands to Southwest Australia and from Vietnam to Trinidad. His latest book, Artificial Intelligence and the Environmental Crisis: Can technology Really Save the World (Routledge), sets out a radical new approach, addressing the existential crisis facing humanity, beginning with a social revolution, where societal and environmental  sustainability are approached as inseparable issues.

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

Listen now – Letters from Lockdown

Sunday 4th October – 2pm

Click here to listen to the podcast

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 jemma.eveleigh@evoc.org.uk 

Watch now – Leonie Charlton discusses Marram with Peter E Ross – @charltonleonie

Sunday 4th October – 1pm
Click the Youtube link below to watch the event

Leonie Charlton lives on the west coast of Scotland in Glen Lonan, Argyll. She writes creative non-fiction, poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared widely in publications such as Causeway, Northwords Now and The Blue Nib. Her prizewinning poetry pamphlet ‘Ten Minutes of Weather Away’ will be published by Cinnamon Press early 2021. Her first full-length book was published by Sandstone Press in March 2020. Marram is the story of her journey through the Outer Hebrides with Highland ponies; the travelogue is intercut with intimate memoir as she leaves behind beads in memory of her mother. Marram has been described as ‘a love letter to the natural world and a clear appraisal of complicated relationships – gentle, raw and honest.’ Much of her writing is based on a sense of place and our relationship with other species and the natural world. http://www.leoniecharlton.co.uk.

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