THE Edinburgh International Book Festival has closed, with organisers reporting its best-ever year at the box office.

Festival director Nick Barley - photographThe event saw a hike of almost 6 per cent in ticket sales in the space of 12 months.

About 225,000 visits to the Charlotte Square site were recorded during the 30th annual event, roughly the same number as last year, while bookshop sales increased by 6 per cent.

Star attractions included the broadcaster Andrew Marr, making his first public appearance since suffering a stroke, American political pundit Nate Silver, who famously predicted a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum, artist Alasdair Gray, who tackled questions on his “settlers and colonists” views, and a tribute event to the late Iain Banks, hosted by fellow authors and friends.

This year saw the festival branch out into major comic book/graphic novel and music strands, while a series of events were held tackling issues around the independence debate.

Some 40 countries were represented in the line-up of 700 events. William Dalrymple, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman and Jeremy Bowen were among the final-day guests.

Other big names to visit Charlotte Square over the past fortnight include Hollywood actor Rupert Everett, Scotland’s national poet Liz Lochhead, political heavyweights Tam Dalyell and Ann Widdecombe, and Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Book festival director Nick Barley said: “In this, the 30th year festival, we have looked back over the explosion of culture and the arts in the last 30 years and looked forward to where we think we will be 30 years hence.

“It’s about so much more than the numbers. We have welcomed an extraordinary array of writers, thinkers, politicians and poets to discuss everything from the representation of women in the arts to the question of Scottish independence.

“We have enjoyed lively and informative debates, extraordinary life stories, and touched the heart of the Egyptian revolution by bringing the music and poetry of Tahrir Square from Cairo to Edinburgh with Amin Haddad and Eskerendella.

“It really has been a wonderful two weeks.”

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