Events at the National Library

National Library of Scotland events are free and take place in our George IV Bridge Building, unless we state otherwise.

Book online or phone 0131 623 3734. Places are limited, so we recommend that you book in advance. 

October events | November events | December events

List updated: 1 October.

For more information, or to join the events mailing list, email


October events

See also: Workshops and tours

'Lifting the lid' exhibition tours

'Lifting the lid' exhibition graphic

Manuscripts Curator Olive Geddes leads an hour-long tour of our exhibition 'Lifting the lid: 400 years of food and drink in Scotland'. In the exhibition we use the Library's rich collections to explore Scotland's changing relationship with food and drink. We show the diversity of Scotland's larder contrasted against some of the myths and traditions of the Scots diet.

14, 21 and 28 October
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



National Poetry Day at the National Library

National Poetry Day logo

Staff from the Library and guests lead an informal session of poetry readings on this year's theme, 'light'. Celebrate National Poetry Day by bringing along a favourite poem or send us one in advance by emailing Literature and the Arts Curator Andrew Martin at

8 October
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



An illustrated history of Scottish allotments

Photo of Jenny Mollison

Jenny Mollison explores the rich tradition of Scotland's allotments. As relevant today as 100 years ago, allotments have sustained communities through two World Wars and the Depression. Mollison is co-author of 'Raising spirits: Allotments, well-being and community', secretary of the Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society, and writes a regular column in 'The Scotsman'.

12 October
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Library: Folklore and fairy tales

Photo of Rosenna East

Violinist and journalist Rosenna East and guests explore how folklore and fairy tales inspired Jean Sibelius' only opera, 'The maiden in the tower'. Through live music and discussion, the event examines the themes that influenced Sibelius, along with the effect of Finnish culture on contemporary composer Lotta Wennäkoski. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra will perform works by Sibelius, Nielsen and Wennäkoski at Queens Hall, Edinburgh, on 29 October.

13 October
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



My life in poetry

Photo of Christine de Luca

Edinburgh's Makar (national poet), Christine de Luca, shares the story of her life through the lens of her favourite poems. De Luca talks with Scottish Poetry Library director Robyn Marsack for this 'My life in poetry' event.

14 October

Tickets £3 (concessions: £2). Book 'My life in poetry' with Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



Creative writing workshop with Catriona Lexy Campbell

Catriona Lexy Campbell

Novelist and children's author Catriona Lexy Campbell leads this dual-language workshop for anyone interested in improving their creative writing and Gaelic language skills. Campbell takes her inspiration from the Library's Gaelic collections. The workshop is open to anyone aged 16 or over, with at least a basic level of Gaelic. A partnership event with Moniack Mhor.

14 October
Venue: The Library, Oban High School

Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



Capital brewing: History of Edinburgh brewing

Beer barrels pulled by a horse and cart

John Martin from the Scottish Brewing Archive Association talks about Edinburgh's brewing history. At one time, the city had over 40 breweries and was famous for its beers. Martin outlines the interesting and largely unknown stories forming part of the city's history.

15 October
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



'The thirty-nine steps' at 100: Celebrating the centenary of John Buchan's 'shocker'

'The 39 steps' book cover

First published in 1915, John Buchan's 'The thirty-nine steps' has had enduring appeal. Literature and the Arts Curator Andrew Martin discusses this classic yarn of a man on the run. The centenary will also be celebrated by the Library's treasures display.

19 October
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



The collector: A lurch into the unknown

Detail from the 'Black Acts'

Colin Beattie MSP talks about social and political turmoil through the 17th century, on a journey through Beattie's own collections. Hear about the 1584 'Black Acts' — asserting the supremacy of the king in religious and political matters — along with the 1718 'clearance' eviction letters. Beattie also discusses the Civil War, the Commonwealth, and the Glorious Revolution.

20 October
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



'A deep-fried Mars bar?'

Deep fried mars bar

Food researcher Dr Christine Knight from the University of Edinburgh discusses how the deep-fried Mars bar captured the public imagination. It is a notorious emblem for Scotland's diet — and for many, a national embarrassment. But why does a deep-fried chocolate bar provoke such strong reactions?

22 October
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



Storytelling Festival: Stories and songs with Mrs Mash

Mrs Mash wearing a cloth cap and apron

Come and meet Mrs Mash, the storytelling cook, as she brings her very own recipe for food fun to the Library. Enjoy stories, songs, and joining-in for families inspired by the fascinating 'Lifting the lid' exhibition. Hear a tale about kale, a story about the princess who had to make her own sausages, and find out why Scottish children had to drink beer!

24 October
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



The Auchinleck Manuscript

What the boys in the backroom were up to

Detail from the Auchinleck manuscript

Derek Pearsall shares his insights into the story of the Auchinleck Manuscript — a treasured collection of poetry produced in the 1330s. A leading authority on the manuscript, Pearsall holds emeritus professorships at the universities of York and Harvard, and has published extensively on medieval English literature.

The Auchinleck Manuscript will be on display. A joint National Library and Edinburgh Bibliographic Society (EBS) event.

27 October
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734. EBS members should book by emailing



Storytelling Festival: Tales of the Jacobites

Portrait of Flora MacDonald

Master-storyteller David Campbell tells compelling tales and songs of Jacobite times. Hear of heroes and heroines like Flora Macdonald and Lady Anne Farquharson-McIntosh. Hear about dauntless clansmen led by Bonnie Prince Charlie, and the great uprising to restore the House of Stuart to the British throne.

28 October
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



Could Shackleton have crossed Antarctica?

Drawing of Ernest Shackleton

Robert Burton examines the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition — Shackleton's thwarted attempt to cross Antarctica. Was it possible? Burton looks at three perspectives: Shackleton's plans, his equipment (motor sledges, dogs, rations), and an examination of the route.

29 October
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



November events

See also: Workshops and tours

Storytelling Festival: 'Caller-ou!' — Fishy tales and feisty fishwives

Photo of Edinburgh 'fisher lassies'

The Newhaven Community Choir and the Thrive Archive provide an afternoon of songs, poems, and stories. Celebrate the lives of the fisher lassies, and the men who went to war at sea or by sea 100 years ago.

1 November

Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



Muriel Spark Lecture: Ronald Frame

Photo of Muriel Spark

Glasgow-born novelist Ronald Frame delivers the annual Muriel Spark Lecture — 'House-clearing: Scotland in a suitcase'. This lecture is one of the highlights of the literary calendar and is delivered on behalf of the Muriel Spark Society.

Image courtesy of the 'London Evening Standard'.

10 November
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



'Voices of veterans'

A Royal British Legion Scotland Armistice Day remembrance event

Detail from soldier's letter to his mother

Hear the 'Voices of veterans' at a special Armistice Day event, featuring veterans of conflict telling their powerful, personal stories of military service. You can see diaries, photos and other memorabilia. Chaired by author, broadcaster and historian Trevor Royle, the event is in partnership between the Library and the Royal British Legion Scotland (Legion Scotland).

11 November
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



The annual John Murray Archive Lecture

Reflections of a younger son — from Albemarle Street to Patagonia

Murray family watching a parade

Hallam Murray, younger son of John 'Jock' Murray VI, was born and brought up in the family home in Hampstead before making an independent career. He describes early encounters with authors, and life in publishing, including running the John Murray warehouse in Clerkenwell. He also outlines his 'bid for freedom' from publishing: cycling from North to South America over almost three years.

12 November
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



Stevenson on screen — Scotland's gift to Hollywood

Robert Louis Stevenson Day 2015

'Robert Louis Stevenson Day' logo

Robert Louis Stevenson died just before the birth of cinema, and never knew that his famous characters were naturals for the screen. Andrew Martin, Curator of Literature and the Arts at the National Library, explores the Alan Brecks, the Jekylls and Hydes, and the Long John Silvers of vintage cinema.

13 November
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



Heritage and identity: What makes you who you are?

Photo of Graham Bell

Graham Bell FRSA discusses the question 'Is cultural identity good for society or a form of parochial prejudice?'. Examine the innate link between human spatial awareness and memory, along with changes in values by decade and generation. Bell is North of England Civic Trust Director and Europa Nostra Council Member.

17 November
Free. Book 'Heritage and identity' online with Eventbrite or phone 0131 556 2015 (lines open 29 and 30 October, 09.30-12.30).



'Abducting a general' — Patrick Leigh Fermor and the Second World War

Photo of Patrick Leigh Fermor

One of the greatest feats in Patrick Leigh Fermor's remarkable life was the kidnapping of General Kreipe, the German commander in Crete, on 26 April 1944. Chris White leads us through these wartime exploits, with archival photographs alongside photos of present day Crete. White is an historian, explorer, and the editor of Paddy's account of the kidnap, 'Abducting a general'.

18 November
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



What the soldiers read in WWI

A Book Week Scotland event

Soldiers in trench

Soldiers read a lot of books while on the Western Front in the First World War. But what did the ordinary soldier read? How was literary taste redefined by the conditions of war? Professor Bill Bell answers these and other questions relating to the role of print in what would come to be known as the 'Great War for civilisation'.

23 November
Free. Book 'What the soldiers read' with Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



Flora Sandes

A Book Week Scotland event

Flora Sandes in uniform

Flora Sandes was the only western woman to enlist as a soldier in the First World War. The Englishwoman became a heroine and a media sensation after she was wounded fighting in the Serbian Army. Louise Miller examines why, of all the millions of Allied women who undertook war work, only Sandes became a soldier.

24 November
Free. Book 'Flora Sandes' with Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



Scottish history through a wide angled lens

A Book Week Scotland event

'Scottish history' book cover.png

Dr David Allan explores how borders have influenced the course of Scottish history. Scotland is shaped by a multiplicity of divisions — not only the border with England, but also other boundaries that have separated the country's inhabitants. The creative forces unleashed by deep-lying diversity are a formative factor in the Scottish experience.

26 November
Free. Book 'Scottish history' with Eventbrite or phone 0131 623 3734.



Some bat-squeak echo of other time: A tour guided by fiction

Two people performing on a staircase

Take a journey through the Library, weaving together fictions, description and music. Within our collections are descriptions of fictional buildings which have only ever existed in the imagination. Explorations of the building, informed by staff and visually impaired participants, have resulted in this unexpected way to experience the Library. Created by Ken Cockburn and in collaboration with Artlink Edinburgh and Lothians.

28 November
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



Bruce, Meg and me: A St Andrew's Day event

Photo of Gregor Ewing

In 2012, Gregor Ewing and his dog Meg recreated Bonnie Prince Charlie's escape during the 1746 Jacobite rising. In his new book, 'Bruce, Meg and me', Ewing and Meg return to the hills, following in the footsteps of Robert the Bruce. This is a fun and informative afternoon with a possible guest appearance from a furry friend.

30 November
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



Favourite Scots words: A St Andrew's Day event

'Favourite Scottish words' book cover

St Andrew's Day is the perfect time to celebrate all things Scottish, including the language. Betty Kirkpatrick, lexicographer and writer on both the English language and Scots, shares some of her favourite Scots words. Many of the words will be based on her recently published book, 'Favourite Scots words', which casts an eye over treasured expressions.

30 November
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.



December events

See also: Workshops and tours

Museum of Childhood: Christmas past, Christmas presents

Santa image on Christmas card

Lyn Wall, Curator at Edinburgh's Museum of Childhood, explores the evolution of today's Christmas traditions. Wall shares examples of the Christmas presents, traditions, cards and treats represented in the Museum of Childhood collections.

1 December
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734. 



Poetry pamphlet fair

People reading books

Come along to our annual poetry pamphlet fair to discover new Scottish poetry, meet the publishers and buy the pamphlets. Independent Scottish poetry publishing is going from strength to strength, and this festive fair at the Library is always a popular event.

2 December
No need to book to attend. To book a stall at the event, email Graeme Hawley at



Christmas fair

Christmas fair logo

Our annual Christmas Fair has yuletide bargains and festive treats galore. Enjoy a 20% discount on everything in the Library shop, including exhibition prints, mugs, candles, hard-to-find books and children's favourites. Once you've shopped, relax with our tasty refreshments and festive entertainment. A delightful way to start the Christmas season!

3 December
No need to book, just come along on the night.



Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Library: Exploring Bach

Photo of Rosenna East

Violinist and journalist Rosenna East and guests examine the lives and music of the Bach family. Featuring live music and discussion, this event offers new perspectives and insights into this musical dynasty. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra will perform works by J S Bach, W F Bach and C P E Bach at Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, on 10 December.

8 December
Free. Book online or phone 0131 623 3734.

See also:

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