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Festival shines a light on the world of books and belief  

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Acclaimed authors, writers and speakers will explore belief from a range of perspectives at a literary festival organised by the University of Edinburgh’s world-renowned School of Divinity.

Speakers include award-winning authors, journalists, poets, playwrights, former bishops, and leading scholars who will share their life stories and discuss their work at the New College Festival of Books and Belief.

More than a dozen events are taking place at New College in Edinburgh from Thursday 3 November to Saturday 5 November.   

Many events are free and all are ticketed, booking is available on the New College Festival website.

The festival also offers a café, bookshop and book signing events with many of the authors.

The three day Festival will be opened by the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, Professor Peter Mathieson, followed by a talk by the eminent scholar and former Bishop of Durham, Professor N.T. Wright.

Events include acclaimed writers Dina Nayeri, author of The Ungrateful Refugee, and Chitra Ramaswamy, whose books include Homelands, in conversation with the University Rector Debora Kayembe about what it means to be a refugee, with a focus on issues of religion.

Journalist and award-winning author Howard Jacobson will discuss his life and work, including his recent Mother’s Boy: A Writer’s Beginnings.

American author Deesha Philyaw will discuss her latest book, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies – a debut short story collection which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, The Story Prize and was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award in fiction.

Celebrated authors Leila Aboulela, author of Bird Summons, and S.J. Parris, writer of five novels in the Giordano Bruno mystery series and an experienced critic,will discuss the impact of Islamic spirituality and humanism on their work at an event with University Chaplain Harriet Harris.

Scottish author James Robertson will join author Flora Johnston to share insights on their work.

Elsewhere at the festival author Cameron Wyllie – a former Principal of George Heriot’s in Edinburgh – and writer and publisher Jean Findlay will share reflections on their latest books with Professor Emma Wild-Wood. Wylie will talk about his new book Is there a pigeon in the room: my life in schools. Jean Findlay will discuss her new novel The Queen’s Lender set in 16th century Edinburgh and London.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, will talk about his life and the role art plays in his faith, in a lecture entitled ‘Seeing the light – Epiphany in visual art’.

A panel of award winning playwrights – Jo Clifford, David Greig, and Jaimini Jethwa – will share their reflections on the role of religion in Scottish drama today. The event is chaired by Michael John O’Neill, writer of This is Paradise.

Distinguished poets Kevin MacNeil, Alycia Pirmohamed and Alan Spence will discuss religious influences on their work with School of Divinity scholar Dr Linden Bicket.

Other Edinburgh academics appearing at the festival include Professor Devi Sridhar who will talk about her work on Covid-19, Preventable: How a Pandemic Changed the World & How to Stop the Next One, with Liz Grant, Director of the University’s Global Health Academy.

Professor Helen Bond and Professor Joan Taylor, co-authors of Women Remembered: Jesus’ Female Disciples, who will explore women in the New Testament.

Professor Alison Jack, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity and Creative Co-Director of the Festival, said: “We are delighted to open the doors of New College for this vibrant programme of events offering adventures, insights, personal stories and new perspectives.”

The festival is being presented with support from the School of Divinity, the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, the Scottish Network for Religion and Literature, the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, St Andrews Press and the Templeton Religion Trust.

Ed Baker
Ed Baker
Ed keeps the local news going in Edinburgh. To submit content that qualifies for free publication, or to enquire about guest posts & press releases, get in touch at Firefly Magazines.

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