Blog by Luke Rogers – What happened when I went to the Rebus Festival in Edinburgh

Post date: 
Wednesday, 19 July 2017

On Thursday 29 June 2017, I went to Edinburgh to attend the Rebus Festival which was hosted by writer and creator of said character Ian Rankin. The festival spanned a period of three days. The first event took place on Friday 30 June at Queens Hall which involved an interview with Rankin about Rebus and also included live music from artists such as Blue Rose Code, Michael Weston King and Kirsty Law. This event was concluded with a book signing by Ian Rankin which I also attended. I did not have a book for him to sign as I have purchased his novels by way of audiobook files. But I just wanted to meet the man who in my mind is the creator of a fantastic, interesting and well-written series of books.

As it turned out, I spoke with him for more time than everybody else in the queue ha ha. It turns out that Rankin's son, like me, is registered blind though he does have a tiny amount of vision.

On Saturday July 1, I attended a crime writing workshop hosted by another Scottish crime writer called Doug Johnstone but this event was not part of the Rebus Festival itinerary. However, little did we know that Johnston had arranged a question and answer session with Ian Rankin at the end of the workshop! This gave all of us an opportunity to ask him questions about everything Rebus and of course, his writing style. Earlier in the creative writing workshop, we examined notes made by Ian Rankin which were used by him to help him put together the many plots included in his novels. In previous interviews, Rankin states that he does not plan much when writing his books. However, confronted with the prep notes, we disagreed up to a point. We later asked Ian about this and he said that his overall method of writing was just to write anything that popped into mind and then check over his work on completion which bizarrely mirrored a piece of writing advice given to us by Johnstone at the workshop. The notes he writes are merely ideas that popped into his head while considering a novel. This was very good of Doug Johnstone to have Ian talk with us and enabled us to glean insight into the world of writing from not just one professional writer but also from another writer who had been in the business for 30 years plus. This happened to coincide with my main reason for attending Edinburgh in the first place, oh and the fact that it's a wonderful city in which I had celebrated my 21 birthday and which I had vowed to come back to!

In the same evening, we attended another workshop hosted by Ian Rankin and Kirsty Wark. The first part consisted of her interviewing Rankin but the main event consisted of a talk between Ian Rankin, Kirsty Wark and two officers from Police Scotland. The main discussion was about the comparison between the police procedures in the novels and in real life. Attendees were a retired Police Officer and a Superintendent of Police Scotland based in Edinburgh. They also spoke of the advantages which were gained from the merger of the eight Scottish regional police forces. Also present was a forensic anthropologist, Professor Sue Black who provided details of the forensics aspects of policing. It turns out she was responsible for the identification of many of the victims of the Tsunami disaster in 2005. 

The final event took place on 2 July in the Caledonian hotel. This was hosted by Ian Rankin and Phil Jupitus. This was a quiz all about the character of John Rebus so I felt in my element for the first time in a long time.  I was involved in a quiz whose subject matter I had extensive knowledge and understanding of. Ask me any question involving sport or politics and I would be lucky to get a quarter of the questions correct, mainly because I have usually dropped off to sleep with sheer boredom by the time said subject matters are brought up in the news. Also to my advantage, was the fact that I had teamed up with another Rankin fan that incidentally I had met the night before while eating dinner at the Spoons pub. Even better, the quiz included listening to snippets of audiobooks and trying to identify which book each clip was from. And as I am an extensive listener of audiobooks, I got all but two of those particular questions correct. At the end of the quiz, we had to add up one another's score cards, I was shocked to discover that my team were only three questions away from winning the competition.

This too concluded with a book signing with Ian Rankin. Fortunately, they were not as many attendees to this event as they were at all the other events and so the queue for the signing was considerably smaller. So I decided it was worth meeting Ian again just to tell him how much fun it had been attending the Rebus festival and wishing him farewell.

All in all, The Rebus Festival was everything I expected it to be... and more. I never expected Ian Rankin to turn up at the creative writing workshop which had no real link to the festival and I certainly never expected to meet Ian Rankin more than the one time. The events were fun, exciting and very informative. But apart from the experience of the Rebus Festival, I had a wonderful time in the city of Edinburgh itself as the people and the overall culture seems at least to me warm, kind and friendly. Ian Rankin and said that they would not be another fest for at least another 10 years when the Rebus saga has lasted for 40 years. But rest assured, I will not be waiting another 10 years for the next Ian Rankin Festival to visit Scotland's fantastic Capital city. I may even visit other Scottish cities as I am sure I've only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to discovering Scotland’s atmosphere, culture and history.