Baillie Gifford Schools Programme 2019 Highlights

Now that the winter months are closing in, it’s the perfect time to take a trip back to sunny Charlotte Square Gardens to relive some magical moments from the Baillie Gifford Schools Programme 2019. We’ve combined some of our favourite memories with feedback from teachers, pupils and authors to show you what made this August so special.

“The Festival immerses our pupils in the printed word.  It’s building a reading culture, by word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book and festival.”

Favourite events


There’s so much in the programme it’s hard to pick favourites. Students particularly enjoyed the special spoken word event with Tongue Fu, where Chris Redmond and his band improvised brilliant music, comedy, stories and raps in front of their very eyes. One teacher said, “The pupils had never seen anything like them and were inspired by their directness and emotional material”. The ever-popular Darren Shan returned with a fantastic interactive event about his bestselling Cirque du Freak that involved some lucky students joining him onstage. Older students enjoyed hearing from feminist writer Laura Bates about her latest book The Burning. “The issues raised by the author were dealt with in an adult and non-patronising manner” said another teacher.

Costume characters

Meeting some of their favourite cuddly characters is always one of student’s favourite parts of their day at the Book Festival. This year the Gruffalo, Little Mole, Pip and Posy, the Very Hungry Caterpillar and Elmer all came to say hello, give out high fives and dance with new friends. Nursery and P1 pupils particularly enjoyed tickling Elmer’s trunk which made him wiggle his bottom!

Event for pupils with learning disabilities

We were delighted that two special schools joined us for a special sensory session with Philip Ardagh and Elissa Elwick to help them solve a mystery. Philip (who is well over six feet tall) came wearing an inflatable yellow duck costume which caused some giggles among the young people. It was great to see our work with PAMIS (Promoting A More Inclusive Society), ARC Scotland (Association for Real Change) and NIN (The National Involvement Network) produce another inspiring event. One class said, “It was wonderful to watch the reactions of the learners. Each one had the opportunity to experience the story at their own level – sometimes listening and looking, and sometimes one or the other.”

Gala Day

The Baillie Gifford Schools Gala Day is always one of the highlights of the whole Festival, with school groups taking over Charlotte Square Gardens and turning it into a land of other-worldly fun. This year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing the theme was space, and we saw some fantastic costumes from staff and performers from Circus Alba on huge stilts. A giant astronaut stood above the Gardens, who had been weaved from willow branches by students and teachers in the days leading up to Gala Day. Rocket Busk from the Science Festival ensured there were plenty of cosmic explosions to entertain and our team of face painters created beautiful galaxies to decorate visitors’ faces with. And what day in space would be complete without a visit from the intergalactic alpacas? They certainly looked out of this world and gave students the chance to stroke their fur and take pictures.

“For some pupils, it was the first time they’d ever been to Edinburgh! For some it was the first time they’d seen an author. It’s a great experience for them and every time I bring a group to the Festival I have pupils saying ‘Can we come again next year!?’”

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