Letters Live at Edinburgh International Festival

27th 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.

The full list of letters and performers are below:

7pm Show

Kelvin Jones

Love Letter

Sanjeev Bhaskar 

The spectacle sickened me

George Bernard Shaw to The Times

Harriet Walter

Fortunately, I had my new radio

Mary Grant to A. Walker

John Niven 

My muse is not a horse

Nick Cave to MTV

Kate Dickie & Grace McGregor

I will treasure your letter

JK Rowling to Sacia Flowers

Ian McShane 

God damn

Pete Muggins to Abraham Lincoln

Louise Brealey 

The story comes from within you

Laura Dern to her daughter

Clint Dyer 

My Dungeon Shook

James Baldwin to his nephew

Ferdinand Kingsley 

A frivolous note

Roald Dahl to his mother

Kate Dickie

I am to be executed

Mary Stuart to Henry III of France

Nick Moran

Come on, George. Loosen up. Swing man.

Frank Sinatra to The LA Times

Meera Syal 

Seat 29E 

Continental Airlines passenger

Sanjeev Bhaskar

To my ever-loving wife

Don to his wife

Louise Brealey & Ferdinand Kingsley

My Dear Bessie

Chris Baker and Bessie More

Clint Dyer

The Cat Ranch

Jack Lemmon to Walter Matthau

Harriet Walter

It’s up to you

Bette Davis to B.D. Hyman

Ian McShane

Kiss my ass

Bill Baxley to Edward R. Fields

Louise Brealey

My husband did not deserve this

Yoko Ono to New York State Division of Parole

Meera Syal 

An absurd accident

Dora Carrington to Gerald Brenan

Kate Dickie

Our Frank

The Connell family to the Ciulla family

Grace Bickmore, Oscar Bickmore, 

Stella McGregor, Malachy Harris & Xanthe Harris

Blueprint for the Future letters

Edinburgh school pupils to their future selves

Eddi Reader 

Dear John

10pm Show

Eddi Reader

AE Fond Kiss

Robert Burns 

John Niven 

  Thou Eunuch of Language

Robert Burns to a critic

Al Murray

This is quite true

Evelyn Waugh to Laura Waugh

Louise Brealey

AIDS is not a disgrace, it is a TRAGEDY

Patsy Clarke to Jesse Helms

Robert Webb

Thank you, I hope you choke

Beatles fan to Nike, Inc.

Nicola Sturgeon

Books are people

EB White to the children of Troy

Ian McShane & Harriet Walter

I admire your balls

Hunter S. Thompson to Carrie Neftzger

Richard Holloway  

We all make mistakes

Sheriff Anwar to Julie and Brian

Ferdinand Kingsley 

I have had my eye on you

Simon Fallowfield to Mary Foster

Meera Syal 

Thinking of you to the end

Rose Schlösinger to Marianne Schlösinger

Tam Dean Burn 

Let me have artists for friends

J.D. Fergusson to Margaret Morris

Sanjeev Bhaskar 

A string of veritable psychological peaches

Carl Jung to James Joyce

Nick Moran

Your end is approaching

The FBI to Martin Luther King

Clint Dyer

I’m still here, trying to make it

Jimi Hendrix to his dad

Louise Brealey

Meeting Picasso

Edith Sitwell to Cecil Beaton

Ian McShane

We were brothers long before you were

Groucho Marx to Warner Brothers

Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal

I am so close behind you

Leonard Cohen to Marianne Ihlen

Robert Webb

What do you want from life?

David Lavelle to The Telegraph

Richard Holloway

I do occasionally eat  

Lucian Freud to Lynn Barber

Al Murray

Tiger Oil Memos

Edward “Tiger Mike” Davis to his staff

Sanjeev Bhaskar

DO NOT be so bloody vulnerable

Noël Coward to Marlene Dietrich

Eddi Reader

The most beautiful work of all

Patti Smith to Robert Mapplethorpe

Tam Dean Burn

It’s a virus

Tom Waits to The Nation

Robert Webb

Five accidents in two minutes

Fred Allen to the State of New York Insurance Department

Harriet Walter 
Dear One 

Rachel Carson to Dorothy Freeman

Kelvin Jones

Message in a Bottle