Tag Archives: Ehsan Abdollahi

Launching the 2018 EIBF programme

I may have to love Baillie Gifford forever, but more about that later.

For the first time I wasn’t on holiday when the Edinburgh International Book Festival launched last night, which meant both that I was able to attend the presentation in Edinburgh, and to provide really nice weather for people. Theresa Breslin, for one, was most appreciative of my efforts with the sunshine.

But it had been uphill. You sort of forget that even a slight incline in Edinburgh makes a difference, and as two people whom I don’t know very well, but who were still recognisable from their backs, swiftly overtook me, I realised I might be slow, but on the right track, but that I was under-dressed. The beautiful red dress that also passed me on the pavement, was going the same way too.

To begin with I only noticed a few people I ‘knew’ plus the EIBF staff I see every year in Charlotte Square, from the director to the tech man I call Costner. But before I left, I realised the whole world was there, more or less. On the other hand, after the talks, people talked, and it got far too noisy for me.

I turned down the offer of a cooling gin & tonic at the door, for a more lukewarm glass of tap water, because we can’t all be cool. The pink fizz looked nice too. When people talked too much and sat down too little, [General] Frances Sutton put us in order so the speeches could begin.

I am now a wee bit in love with Allan Little, who spoke so very beautifully about books and the book festival. He thanked the sponsors and talked about the library when he was a child, and about poetry. And then he cried, and we cried a bit too.

It was everything a speech should be.

The EIBF programme 2018

Director Nick Barley, Associate Director Roland Gulliver and Children and Education Programme Director Janet Smyth continued the show, taking turns telling us what we needed to know about this year’s festival. They did it really well, and they had so much to say that I can’t possibly list all the interesting news here. Get a programme!

In fact, they were nearly as entertaining as the members of Codename F, the group of children from Craigmillar aged between eight and 14, who have been helping put together the children’s programme. Before inviting them onto the stage, we heard them discussing what mattered to them in a video recording, complete with very determined smiling. We all loved the young man who ‘as a fellow artist’ had much understanding for one of the festival’s professional artists. Perhaps with young people like him, the future of the world isn’t quite as bleak as I’d thought?

2018 will be a Muriel Spark year, as well as letting us meet Nelson Mandela’s great grandchildren, and Chelsea Clinton. And it’s been fifty years since that tiger came to tea with Judith Kerr. So it’s probably good that the Main Theatre is bigger this year. And Ehsan Abdollahi will be back, as Illustrator in Residence.

After the speeches, Penelope who isn’t Penelope came up to say hello, before I joined the queue in the Ladies where it became obvious I’ve been doing this for too long, when I recognise librarians everywhere.

On my way out I picked up my party bag, containing this year’s programme, which has a new design that I rather like. There was a choice between red and purple bags, and all I will say is I’m sure there will have been a purple shortage towards the end. Had I known that there would be quite such loveliness inside the bag, I’d have unpacked it there and then.

Purple party bag - EIBF 2018

Downhill was definitely easier and Haymarket was reached without too much difficulty. I was joined there by Theresa Breslin, and saw her safely onto her train before getting on mine.

And after two days of train travel I have been in and out of several stations and forgotten to pick up the new timetable every single time…

But at least I have my book festival programme, and I know how to use it. And the lovely purple pen and pad.

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A Bottle of Happiness

This is, well, it’s a story that will go round and round. I’m not sure how else to describe it.

Pippa Goodhart and Ehsan Abdollahi, A Bottle of Happiness

Pippa Goodhart’s story tells of the happy but poor people on one side of the mountain, and also the much more commercially minded people on the other side. There they buy things, but does it make them happy?

Maybe not.

The question is what happens when the two sides meet. Also, can you really bottle happiness?

Ehsan Abdollahi’s illustrations would not have surprised me fifty years ago. And still they are not retro as such, but the colourful and angular people in this book take me back to my childhood in some way.

Happiness is contagious. Maybe that’s it.

Schools for Charlotte Square

It’s short and sweet, the schools programme at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. ‘Making books more affordable’ is a good motto, I feel. May it be successful and reach the children who need it the most.

I know I shouldn’t read the programme and plan, but I can read it and think. Some of the authors on the schools list will be doing ‘normal’ events too. And there is always the perfecting my school appearance. One of these days it will work.

Last year someone I’d just met talked very enthusiastically about Jason Reynolds, whom I’d never heard of. Well, this American is coming over, for an event with Chris Priestley who has illustrated his book. That should be pretty special.

Clémentine Beauvais is someone else I’ve not seen before, and she will be appearing with Sarah Crossan, which will be good. James Mayhew I have always managed to miss, so I could perhaps undo that, and Melvin Burgess, whom I’ve seen a lot, is coming back after a break of a few years. Or did I merely miss him?

Ehsan Abdollahi and Delaram Ghanimifard

Ehsan Abdollahi will return, which pleases me, and he’s appearing with Eloise Greenfield. I’ve not seen Beverley Naidoo for years, and I don’t know her events partner Marjan Vafaeian at all, which I hope can be remedied.

I will quickly tiptoe past the ‘star attraction’ on the Thursday morning, to mention that the last day will be special as always, with people like Theresa Breslin and Philip Ardagh and lots of other fun.

As you can tell, many school children will have some great events to look forward to. I’m always in awe of the school groups who get up before dawn cracks, to travel across Scotland to come to one of the events. Hopefully it will be a memory for life, and be the beginning of a bookish future for some.

The last of the festival

I’ve been following the daily updates of the book festival in the Scotsman. Generally they pick out a few events and/or people for each day to write about, and generally names their readers will recognise. I really enjoyed what their David Robinson had to say about Karl-Ove Knausgaard: ‘He concluded by describing a toilet and how it works. And no, you didn’t have to be there.’ 😁

Even though I wasn’t there just then, I am tempted to agree. But mostly you’d quite like to have been there.

I’m glad Ehsan Abdollahi was permitted to enter the country. And I do hope he felt it was worth the struggle once he got here.

Ehsan Abdollahi by Chris Close

It was also a pleasure to find Nick Green’s Cat’s Paw among the books on Strident’s shelves. It comes heavily recommended.

Nick Green, Cat's Paw

On my last day I met Danny Scott, whose first football book I read a couple of years ago, and which was both fun and enjoyable. I like being able to put a face to a name.

Danny Scott

A face I know well, even in cartoon form, is Chris Riddell’s, and he appears to have been let loose near Chris Close’s props. Some people just have to draw on every available surface.

Chris Riddell

And speaking of the latter Chris, he seems to have made mashed Swede (aka rotmos), which is a traditional food, often served with bacon. Or, you could consider it an artful way to present crime writer Arne Dahl.

Arne Dahl

The two pictures below pretty much embody the book festival for me. One is a trio of happy authors, two of them paired up for an event, with the third to keep them in order as chair; Cathy MacPhail and Nicci Cloke with Alex Nye. And the second is another trio – Pamela Butchart and Kirkland Ciccone and Sharon Gosling – from two different events, lined up side by side, with their chair, Ann Landmann.

Nicci Cloke, Alex Nye and Cathy MacPhail

Pamela Butchart, Kirkland Ciccone, Sharon Gosling and Ann Landmann

Then there are the more practical aspects to running a book festival, such as duck pins for the noticeboard, a resting flag pole, the new design press pass, and the thing that puzzled me the most, a folding stool in the photocall area. I wondered how they could get away with standing an author on something like that, until it dawned on me that it was for photographers to stand on, to reach over the heads of others…

Duck

Flag pole

Press pass

Photo stool

And in the children’s bookshop; where would any of us be were it not for enthusiastic young readers?

Barry Hutchison

Or simply all the hard-working authors and illustrators who travel the length of the country to dress up and perform in front of young fans.

Sarah McIntyre

And those who kill with their keyboards:

Thomas Enger and James Oswald

Day 1

What a day! Now all I need is for the rest of the Edinburgh International Book Festival to be as good. And if the sunshine could continue shining? As I might have mentioned yesterday, I had a good line-up for Tuesday, and it did not disappoint. Nor did any of the day’s little bonuses.

After collecting my press pass, which is a new, edgier design this year, I picked up my events tickets from a boiling entrance tent. I reckon they were expecting rain with that ‘glass’ ceiling in there. I nearly expired, and was grateful I wasn’t queueing up for returns for Peter May.

I ate my M&S salad and ran for Barry Hutchison’s event, where I found Lari Don, busy checking out the competition. Well, she said she was enjoying seeing her colleagues, but… In the bookshop, after I’d taken hundreds of pictures of Barry, I encountered Keith Charters standing next to the Strident shelves, surreptitiously checking they looked all right. They did. He’d been expecting to rearrange them.

Strident books

While we were talking about running, and stargazing, Theresa Breslin arrived on her off-day, and the conversation turned to Kirkland Ciccone, as conversations sometimes do. Then Keith and I went over to bother Barry for a bit, and to find out how he writes quite so many books quite so fast. He was mostly – I think – pondering the groceries he had to buy on his way home, and how appearing at the book festival wasn’t quite as glamorous as it was the first time.

Barry Hutchison

Glamorous would be the word to describe Judy Murray, whom I saw as I returned to the yurt area. Onesies never looked classier.

Stephen Baxter

I did another turn round the bookshops, and found Stephen Baxter signing for adults, and in the children’s bookshop a signing table for, well, I’m not sure who it was for. But after some googling I’d say that the people in this photo are Ehsan Abdollahi – who was originally refused a visa to enter the country – and I think Delaram Ghanimifard from his publisher. And I only wish I’d stopped to talk to them. (I didn’t, because the books on the table confused me.)

Ehsan Abdollahi and Delaram Ghanimafard

Begged some tea in the yurt before walking over to Julie Bertagna’s event with William Sutcliffe. I noticed a man in the queue behind me and my witchy senses told me this was Mr Bertagna, which was confirmed later. And I couldn’t help noticing that ‘my’ photo tree either has moved, or the Corner theatre has, or the theatre has grown fatter over the winter.

Tree

Was introduced to Mr B and also to Miss B in the bookshop, after Julie and I had covered Brexit and Meg Rosoff and lunches in our conversation. And then I needed to go and queue for Meg’s event, which seemed to draw a similar crowd, with much of the audience being the same as at Julie’s and William’s talk.

Julie Bertagna and William Sutcliffe

Miss Rosoff had come along, as had Elspeth Graham, who has been involved a lot with Meg’s work on Mal Peet’s last book, which Meg was here to talk about. Spoke to Louise Cole in the signing queue, before Meg persuaded me to miss my train in favour of having a drink with her.

Meg Rosoff

So she and I and Elspeth chatted over wine and water on the deck outside the yurt, and many people were discussed, but my memory has been disabled on that front. Sorry. They had a French restaurant to go to and I had another train to catch.

I hobbled along Princes Street as best I could, and hobbling fast is never a good look, which is why I paid little heed to being hailed by someone who insisted on being noticed, and who turned out to be fellow ex-Stopfordians Philip Caveney and Lady Caveney. They had been to a church half-filled with water. Apparently this was very good.

My train was caught, and the Resident IT Consultant and I ended up at our destination almost simultaneously. I believe we both thought that our day had been the best.