The talk has been talked for a few years now. The damage done to Charlotte Square every year as the Edinburgh International Book Festival sets up its tents and invites thousands of visitors, can no longer be ignored.
I’ve been torn between agreeing with the square’s owners that you can’t go on and cause more damage every year, while also agreeing with director Nick Barley that the festival would lose its personality if it had to move indoors, somewhere else in Edinburgh. When both parties are right, it’s hard to say what should be done.
The news in the Scotsman this week is that the book festival has to ‘scale back’ its use of the gardens, and that they will have to move out onto George Street. I’m not sure whether it is ‘only’ the orders that are new. Reading the whole article it seems as if the move will be gradual and might not happen this year. Or I could be wrong.
I like the gardens. It’s lovely with all the trees and it’s good to be able to sit out on the grass when the weather is nice. It’s also a comfortable size; big enough, but still quite small and contained behind the metal railings. On the other hand, when I walk through George St on my way home in the evenings, I do like the feel of the street, with the people and the bars and the lights.
You always feel like you’re sitting on a traffic roundabout, with the buses and taxis just the other side of the tent walls, so perhaps it’s not too different to be moving out into the street itself. Although to be doing that, the book festival would be taking space from other festival businesses. George St is busy these days.
Well, I don’t know what will happen. We will have to wait and see. But the festival needs to stay in central Edinburgh; both to catch any casual visitors walking past, and to make it feasible for some of us to get there without extra travelling once we’ve got to Edinburgh.