Past event

Edinburgh International Festival, 2017

27 August 2017

Letters penned by James Baldwin, Jimi Hendrix, Yoko Ono and Evelyn Waugh were amongst those brought to life at the Letters Live shows to close the 70th Edinburgh International Festival on Sunday 27th August 2017 at Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre. The star-studded line-up of actors, comedians, musicians, politicians and writers remained a closely guarded secret until the curtain went up for the first show at 7pm. In celebration of the art of letter writing, they brought to the stage live performances of correspondences from across the centuries and around the world.


Performers included actors Sanjeev Bhaskar, Ian McShane, Meera Syal, Robert Webb and Harriet Walter, comedian Al Murray and the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon for two performances of Letters Live.


The evening also featured readings of letters written by schoolchildren from Edinburgh who had taken part in Blueprint for the Future, a project that forms part of the International Festival’s year-round work with schools in the city. Inspired by Letters Live, the creative writing and visual art project asks teenagers from secondary schools across Edinburgh to consider how they might impact the future through writing imagined letters from their future selves. The five selected letters were read by Xanthe Harris, Malachy Harris, Stella McGregor, Oscar Bickmore and Grace Bickmore.


The Craigmillar Literacy Trust and Scottish Book Trust were the chosen charities supported through these shows.


7pm, Sunday, 27th August 2017


Clint Dyer

My Dungeon Shook

James Baldwin to his nephew

The Cat Ranch

Jack Lemmon to Walter Mathau



Ferdinand Kingsley

A frivolous note

Roald Dahl to his mother



Grace Bickmore, Oscar Bickmore, Stella McGregor, Malachy and Xanthe Harris

From your future self

EIF Blueprint Project



Harriet Walter

Fortunately, I had my new radio

Mary Grant to A. Walker

It’s up to you now

Bette Davis to B.D. Hyman



Ian McShane

God damn

Pete Muggins to Abraham Licoln

Kiss my ass

Bill Baxley to Edward R. Fields



John Niven

My muse is not a horse

Nick Cave to MTV



Kate Dickie

Our Frank

The Connell family to the Ciulla family

I am to be executed

Mary Stuart to Henry III of France



Kate Dickie and Grace Bickmore

I will treasure your letter

JK Rowling to Sacia Flowers



Louise Brealey

The story comes from within you

Laura Dern to her daughter

My husband did not deserve this

Yoko Ono to the New York State Division Parole



Louise Brealey and Ferdinand Kingsley

My Dear Bessie

Chris Baker to Bessie Moore



Meera Syal

Seat 29E

A Customer to Continental Airlines

An absurd accident

Dora Carrington to Gerald Brenan



Nick Moran

Come on, George. Loosen up. Swing, man!

Frank Sinatra to the LA Times



Sanjeev Bhaskar

To my ever loving wife

Don to his wife







Eddi Reader

Dear John


Kelvin Jones

Love Letter


10pm, Sunday, 27th August 2017


Al Murray

This is quite true

Evelyn Waugh to Laura Waugh

Tiger Mike Davies to his staff Tiger Oil Memos

Edward Tiger Mike Davies to his staff



Clint Dyer

I’m still here, trying to make it

Jimi Hendrix to his parents



Eddi Reader

The most beautiful work of all

Patti Smith to Robert Mapplethorpe



Ferdinand Kingsley

I have had my eye on you

Simon Fallowfield to Mary Foster



Harriet Walter

Dear One

Rachel Carson to Dorothy Freeman



Ian McShane

We were brothers way before you were

Groucho Marx to Warner Bros



Ian McShane and Harriet Walter

I admire your balls

Hunter S. Thompson to Carrie Neftzger



John Niven

Thou Eunuch of Language

Robert Burns to a critic



Louise Brealey

AIDS is not a disgrace; it is a TRAGEDY

Patsy Clarke to Jesse Helms

Meeting Picasso

Edith Sitwell to Cecil Beaton



Meera Syal

Thinking of you to the end

Rose Schlösinger to Marianne Schlösinger



Nick Moran

Your end is approaching

The FBI to Martin Luther King



Nicola Sturgeon

Books are people

EB White to Children of Troy letter



Richard Holloway

We all make mistakes

Sheriff Anwat to Julie and Brian

I do occasionally eat

Lucian Freud to Lynn Barber



Robert Webb

Thank you, I hope you choke

Beatles fan to Nike

What do you want from life?

David Lavelle to The Telegraph

Five accidents in two minutes

Fred Allen to the State of New York Insurance Dept.



Sanjeev Bhaskar

DO NOT be so bloody vulnerable

Noël Coward to Marlene Dietrich

A string of veritable psychological peaches

Carl Jung to James Joice



Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal

I am so close behind you

Leonard Cohen to Marianne Ihlen



Tam Dean Burn

Let me have artists for friends

J. D Fergusson to Margaret Morris

It’s a virus

Tom Waits to The Nation







Kelvin Jones

Message in a Bottle

Eddi Reader

Robert Burns – Ae Fond Kiss (letter leading to live music)

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