For the past decade or so, I’ve been counting down my years in Edinburgh Book Festivals rather than birthdays. It’s a much less painful system, it means over two weeks of celebration, and the real birthday is in there somewhere for traditionalists.
While the Fringe rages all around it, this festival is an oasis of bookish bonhomie populated by like-minded folk, all obsessed with the written word. The festival team know they have a formula which works, so don’t overly tinker with it. The secret of that success? Invite the best writers available and get them to talk about their books all in the one place. What could be better?
This year it all happens between the 15th – 31st August, and, as usual, there’s far too much of the good stuff to mention it all here. I suggest reading the whole programme at edbookfest.co.uk, but not before you’ve read Scots Whay Hae’s preview of this year’s festival.
Scotland’s greatest writers are out in force, with Ali Smith and John Burnside leading the way on the opening weekend. If you have to beg, borrow and steal to see those two (and you may have to) then no jury in the land would convict you. Janice Galloway has a new collection of short stories, Jellyfish, which I highly recommend and she is always worth listening to. Others include previous SWH! podcast guests Louise Welsh, James Robertson, and Karen Campbell whose latest novel Rise is one of the best of the year so far. Michel Faber appears on the 29th, the author of Under the Skin and last year’s unforgettable The Book of Strange New Things. The day before, the equally charismatic Andrew O’Hagan will be talking about the inspiration behind his latest novel The Illuminations.
For the latest podcast, Ali and Ian took a trip to the edge of Edinburgh to talk to one of Scottish music’s great voices and characters, Ronnie Browne. By his own admission Ronnie is best known as one half of The Corries, but there other tales to tell, and he kindly agreed to talk us about his recently published autobiography, Ronnie Browne: That Guy Fae The Corries.
As you’ll hear, there’s far more to Ronnie’s life than that, and what unfolds is 40 minutes of conversation which is thoughtful, at times moving, at others uproarious, and always entertaining. Ronnie talks about his young life in Edinburgh, his career as an artist, the strength he has gained from his family life, as well as his time as one of Scotland’s most iconic musicians. It is a life well lived, and spending time in the man’s company you realise it always would have been no matter what as he has a spirit that could never be denied.
If you asked most people in the street, “Who is Ronnie Browne?”, I doubt they would be able to tell you without you dropping a strong hint. If you said, “..that guy fae The Corries”, or showed them a picture (see left), the majority would know immediately. Beside Roy Williamson, he was one half of Scotland’s most iconic musical duo, and as a result both were best known collectively rather than as individual musicians. That’s obviously something that Browne is well aware of as That Guy Fae The Corries is the name of his autobiography, and it shows a modesty and self-deprecating sense of humour that runs through the book.
It is written with a warmth and humility which won’t surprise those who are aware of The Corries’ body of work, but it may surprise those who have preconceived ideas what a ‘Corrie’ autobiography is going to be like.