Every year Edinburgh undergoes a number of drastic changes. Buildings are put to very different uses for one month only and new venues appear around the city. In recent years people have started to get very excited by the appearance of the big purple cow in Bristo Square, seeing it as a very clear indication that the festivals are about to descend on us.

But what few notice is the miracle in Charlotte Square: the city that is the Edinburgh International Book Festival grows there in three weeks, only to be dismantled at the end of the Festival season… By the end of July it’s clear that something is afoot, although it’s yet a far cry from the finished product.

Something I hadn’t realised is that the placement of the many and varied buildings around the square is something that has evolved over the 28 years since the festival started. Each tent is squeezed up between the trees to make as much use of the space as is possible!

I had hoped to create a thorough series of the build this year but time, and the weather, foiled me. So instead I went on site on the day when the books were due to start coming in, a remarkable undertaking when you realise how many they have! When I arrived most of the buildings were there, it was only lacking the entrance, the Spiegeltent and the yurts which are used to house the authors, press etc. The bookshop tent was all but complete; the shelves were all there, all it needed were books!

The children’s bookshop tent was slightly further behind, with workmen still finishing the shelving, but this seemed a minor matter.

The site was a hive of directed activity, the displays were getting the finishing touches…

… the main theatre was getting the last bits of tech installed…

… there were chairs and tables just waiting to be placed…

… and the last of the walkways were getting covered.

At last the moment arrived and the first load of books arrived. The initial set up takes three lorries loads of books. Over the course of the festival some are taken away and replaced, as different events will cause demand for different stock. This is all rotated through a secure container on site and a huge warehouse out of town. Now there’s a timelapse I should do!

As each pallet of books was unloaded it was delivered to one of the bookshops and unwrapped.

The boxes are then taken to the appropriate section by the bookshop staff, where they mount up at a fair pace!

Book Festival build

Once the first delivery is in the unpacking starts and shelves start to fill up.

And then more boxes arrive…

… and are delivered to the bookshops…

… and the shelves fill up…

And all the while every box has to be painstakingy flatpacked for later – after all, not everything gets sold and they will need to get them out again in just a few weeks!

It was a dizzying thing to watch!

I’ll be going in again before the Book Festival starts but I expect it will be all ready to go. Then it’s time for the fun and I’ll try to keep you appraised of what’s been happening there.