Monday, 27 August 2012

Books on legs

Over the next two months, if you live in the north of England, the chances are that some great writers and poets will be appearing at a venue near you. Yes, autumn is the season of literary festivals in these parts so here's my top five guide to northern literary festivals, large and small:

1. Alderley Edge Community Book Festival (15-16 September)
This festival raises money for Oxfam and they've pulled in a host of talent including fine writers Elizabeth Baines, Erica James, Melvyn Bragg and Jackie Kay plus ex-MP for South Derbyshire Edwina Currie (as well as being John Major's ex-mistress, she has penned a number of titles). Hats off to the Oxfam bookshop in Alderley Edge for organising this.

2.  Prestwich Book Festival Autumn Taster (20 and 27 September)
For those missing literary magic on the north side of Manchester, the Prestwich Book Festival is back with its autumn taster, a warm up/homage to the Manchester Literature Festival in October. Come and have Cake and A Story at Time for Tea on Thursday September 20 with Alrene Hughes who will be reading from and talking about her debut novel Martha's Girls. There's also a really strong line up of performance poets on 27 September at the Church Inn: Longfella hosts guests Rosie Garland/Rosie Lugosi (before her appearance at the Manchester Literature Festival), Radio 4 poetry slam champion Ben Mellor and music from Quiet Loner. (Yes I declare an interest, I organised both of these.)

3.  Ilkley Literature Festival (28 September -14 October)
I love the Ilkley Book Festival because it manages to combine top name talent with genuine grassroots activities. It just seems thoroughly rooted in its locality - from promoting local authors to its well thought through Stanza Stones project where lines from poems by Simon Armitage have been carved onto boulders in the countryside surrounding Ilkley to form the basis of some great literary walks. This year the festival has more than 200 events: my personal top picks are the writing workshops with Michele Roberts (29 September) and Stella Duffy (30 September), the evening with Benjamin Zephaniah (be still my beating heart - also 30 September) and the new SI Leeds Literary Prize for unpublished Black and Asian women writers, with Bonnie Greer (October 3). Great programme of kids events too. I also like the look of Suzannah Clapp talking about her friendship with the late, great novelist Angela Carter (5 October). So it looks like I'll be camping out in Ilkley for a while... Do check out the programme.

4. Manchester Literature Festival (8-23 October)
To say I'm getting excited about this one would be an understatement: a massive literature festival happening a mere tram ride away. Hooray! Novelist Zadie Smith kicks off proceedings at an outrider event this very Thursday 30 August. I also like the look of Michael Chabon at the Whitworth on Sunday 7 October, the guided poetry walk with Anne Beswick on October 11, Glaswegian novelist James Kelman at the Anthony Burgess Foundation on 13 October, and Sarah Quigley with musicians from the Royal Northern College of Music players on 16 October. Here's an overview of what's on.

5. Essar Chester Literature Festival (14-28 October)
Oh my. Time to take a trip to Chester. Will Self's here with his new novel Umbrella on October 15, linguistics guru David Crystal talks about the history of spelling on 17 October and Andrew Motion will be sharing his sequel to Treasure Island on 24 October. A fascinating medieval strand exploring Chester's heritage of mystery plays features Tony Harrison amongst others. A special mention too for Chester's children's book festival Gobbledeebook which runs through half term (20-27 October) - loads on for kids here.

If there are other literature festivals across the north that you think are great, then let me know.

1 comment:

  1. Two more festivals have been brought to my attention since I wrote the above. Thanks for pointing me towards the Morley Literature Festival (6-14 October): And how could I forget the Lancaster Litfest (17-21 October) featuring a plethora of talent, including a friend of this blog, Claire Massey on 21st Oct, on a walk round Williamson Park, the inspiration for her new story The Stone King: