Researchers revisit writers' conference

Dr Angela Bartie and Dr Eleanor Bell have taken a look back to August 1962, when a five-day writers' conference took place as part of the Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama (as the Edinburgh International Festival was then known).

Organisers John Calder, Jim Haynes and Sonia Brownell pulled together a line-up that included American writers:

  • Norman Mailer
  • Henry Miller
  • Mary McCarthy
  • William Burroughs

The Scottish contingent included:

  • Hugh MacDiarmid
  • Muriel Spark
  • Edwin Morgan
  • Alexander Trocchi

While England was represented by:

  • Lawrence Durrell
  • Stephen Spender

The Austrian Erich Fried and Indian Khushwant Singh were also among the 70 or so delegates who attended the event.

National and international interest

The conference attracted a huge audience that filled the 2300-capacity McEwan Hall every day and was reported widely in the media, both at home and abroad. Each of the five days explored a different theme:

  • Differences of Approach
  • Scottish Writing Today
  • Is Commitment Necessary?
  • Censorship Today
  • The Future of the Novel

The week before the conference, John Calder told the press 'we are imposing no prohibitions on the free expression of opinion, however controversial or unusual'.

Reflecting on the event, the Strathclyde researchers said:

The debates at the Writers’ Conference were certainly lively – so much so that it is still talked about with great passion 50 years on."

The Scottish 60s

At Strathclyde, the two researchers have been working on the cultural and literary significance of the Scottish 60s for several years, and were pleased to launch their edited book The International Writers' Conference Revisited: Edinburgh, 1962 (Cargo Publishing 2012) at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August 2012.

Further information on the 1962 conference can be found in an edited history, which was prepared by the Strathclyde researchers.