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Festival Recommendations and Reviews - Part 1

Here is a quick listing of events that we, at Edinburgh Literary Salon, recommend to our friends attending the Edinburgh Book Festival… and some of the other festivals too.

For example, let’s not forget the PBH Free Festival, where one of our good friends, Fiona Scott-Barrett is performing TODAY in a spoken word show titled SEEING SQUINT: TALES FROM A PARTIALLY-SIGHTED AUTHOR. Teacher, author and former globetrotter, Fiona doesn't let partial-sightedness define her (except when it suits her!)

At the Book Festival over the coming days we’ll be going to see Olga Wojtas talk about Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Weird Sisters, her latest time-travelling crime novel.

This week there are two chances to see poet Samuel Tongue. First, looking at the poetry of Ocean Vuong in Nothing but the Poem.

Second, on Friday join Jason Allen-Paisant and Samuel Tongue for a discussion of what is lost and found in nature, with Sam’s debut poetry collection, Sacrifice Zones and Thinking with Trees by Jason Allen-Paisant.

Before this, Graeme Macrae Burnet speaks to Jenny Niven about his new novel Case Study, set in mid-60s London, which plays with ideas about truth and reality.

And before this, Clive Stafford Smith is joined by his friend, comedian Frankie Boyle to discuss his taboo-breaking, profoundly personal book, The Far Side of the Moon.

To end the week, why not listen to former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway. He has spoken at the Book Festival every August for the past 23 years, and will be talking about life, inspiration and mortality with his friend, the artist Alison Watt.

Speaking of things spiritual, for our first mini-review we went to the Edinburgh Festival of the Arts to see our friend and former Salon Guest, Lizzie Smith, in a show called John the Baptist and the Bees.

This was an ambitious piece combining the work of ‘Divine Dance by Tamar’ and Lizzie’s wordsmithery with musical accompaniment from harpist, Dara Watson, as well as pre-recorded music and a slide show of images.

The performance told how John the Baptist – the maverick prophet who prepared the way for his more famous cousin, Jesus – has resonance today. John lived a wild, bucolic life, eating locusts and wild bees’ honey, but our modern way of life is putting bees in danger, and with it, the planet.

John was outspoken about contemporary issues and, as Lizzie’s words pointed out, his head was cut off as a punishment; his tongue, made still with a sharp fork. This was illustrated through the dance of the ‘seven veils’ (more Oscar Wilde’s Salome than the Gospels) as well as a famous painting from our own National Galleries.

Lizzie’s poetry then took us into the realm of nature – the birds, bees, and flowers – of today. Referring to the Song of Solomon (the most erotic book of the Bible) saying ‘the voice of the turtledove was heard no more in our land’ this led to a sequence of words, pre-recorded music blended with live harp, and finally a mesmerising combination of pedal-looped clarsach and dance.

The audience were left to their own conclusions about our planet’s future. In the dimly lit church of St Michael and All Angels, imbued with a fug of incense, the heatwave now dampened by rain and thunder, this was a thoughtful feast. Lizzie Smith's words moved with subtlety from Bible-contemplative to Nature-inspired without being preachy or evangelical in any sense.

For more sacred art, including work by other friends of the Salon, why not visit St Michael’s this week for the What! Art Collective Team Exhibition.

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