Literature Festivals: Spoilt for Choice in the North West

Cheltenham Literature Festival. Hay-on-Wye Literature Festival. Edinburgh International Book Festival. These are the ‘big’ names in British literary festivals. They are to literature festivals what Glastonbury is to music festivals. Yet like Glastonbury, sometimes the ‘big’ loses appeal and we desire something a little more intimate, a little more quirky, something a little different. As has happened with musical festivals, there has been a surge of smaller literary festivals appearing over the last couple of years serving up some engaging and intriguing literary events. In the North West of England we are spoilt for choice this autumn.

Coming up first is the Sefton Celebrates Writing Festival (22nd September – 28th September), boasting a line-up of top literary names. From readings by novelist Will Self, poets Carol Ann Duffy and Jackie Kay, to performance poetry by Luke Wright and the Potted Potter experience, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The festival also features a range of drama performances and free writing and publishing workshops within its programme.

Launching on National Poetry Day, is the new annual Chapter & Verse Literature Festival for Merseyside at the Bluecoat from 9th – 19th October (programme available very soon), featuring an exciting range of contemporary writers and performers from Merseyside and beyond. The Festival includes over 45 events and activities for lovers of words and the curious alike – from readings, book signings, talks, discussions, to performances and workshops – all under the Bluecoat’s historic roof. Amongst the writers appearing are: Tariq Ali, Jim Crace, Linda Grant, John Healy, Jan Morris,  Lemn Sissay, and Sadie Jones. Read more at ‘Poetry in the City’. The Reader Organsiation will be running daily ‘Reading and Discussion’ groups around the festival’s writer and book events; hosting poetry and prose reading ‘clinics’ to help solve life’s problems; and bringing stories to life in Children’s storytelling sessions.

From 6th – 24th October is the Shell Chester Literature Festival. Making the most of Chester’s myriad of small personable venues and spaces, the Shell presents an assortment of colourful and thought provoking events mainly within the city walls. Featuring an eclectic mix of national and local author events alongside innovative participatory activities aiming to capture the public’s imagination, headliners this year include Chris Patten, Esther Rantzen, David Owen, Michael Morpurgo, Martin Bell, Nicholas Crane and Ffion Hague.

 Manchester Literature Festival (16th- 26th October), now in its third year, attracts writers from all over the world and showcases plenty of local talent. With events ranging from Past Crimes to A Place for Romance and literature in translation to children’s fiction, the programme caters for all literary tastes. There are a series of readings, debates and workshops exploring the interplay between literature and science as part of the Big Science Read Weekend. The festival line-up includes: Patience Agbabi, Stephen Baxter, Ciaran Carson, Jim Cartwright, Mavis Cheek, Ramón Chao, Russell T Davies, Bernadine Evaristo, Laura Fish, Corsino Fortes, Jorie Graham, Adrian Mitchell, Jenni Murray, Sean O’Brien, Anne Perry, Posy Simmonds, Xinran plus many more!

There’s Shipping Lines Liverpool Literary Festival, held between 3rd – 9th November, brought to you by the University of Liverpool and organised by The Reader Organisation to celebrates Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture. The festival features some real movers and shakers from the local, national and international literary world: Philip Pullman, author of the astounding His Dark Materials, in conversation; Liverpool poets Roger McGough, Brain Pattern, Paul Farley and others for engaging and entertaining readings; novelists Malorie Blackman, Andrea Levy and Caryl Phillips who will read from and discuss their work; and much, much more. The official launch of The Reader Organisation, ‘Launching a Reading Revolution’ is being held at Bibby Line Group HQ on Friday 7th November. The full festival programme is available online and the paper brochure will be available from September 22nd. Email events@thereader.org.uk for more information. Or better yet, subscribe to our email update service to get up to the minute news and information direct to your inbox. Get Shipping Lines Liverpool Literary Festival news by email here. Or subscribe to the regular RSS feed here.

A brief mention of The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival though, seeing as last year it provided me with such delectable treats, a great deal of literary entertainment  and it’s also the place I call home. This year’s festival, held between 10th – 19th October does not disappoint with its array of award-winning writers, star names and celebrated thinkers, continuing to be recognised as the hub for literary debates and discussions. Janet Suzman, who is taking part in a panel discussion, ‘Becoming Cleopatra’, at the festival (Sunday 12th October), has an interview with editor Phil Davis in the latest issue of The Reader it is honest and witty, revealing the core of reality that she brings to her characters. Normally wary of reading such things, we know that she is plased with it (and has enjoyed reading the rest of the issue – so there’s a celebrity recommendation for you!).

We’ll be bringing you select news and reviews from events across the North West’s literary festivals over the coming months. Of course, what Festival Girl wants to know is which one will have the best cake?

Posted by Jen Tomkins

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