Featured Poem: ‘Aeroplanes’, by Rebecca Goss

Poetry is changing and the ways we encounter it are changing too. Friend of The Reader Organisation Rebecca Goss is trying out new ways of bringing poetry to a wide audience and ‘Aeroplanes’ has been turned into a film by eekfilms as part of Liverpool’s Poetry in the City Festival 2008. It is soon to be screened on the Liverpool BBC Big Screen. ‘Aeroplanes’ was a prizewinning poem in The Bridport Prize 2000. Judge George Szirtes described it as having ‘….intelligence, poignancy and sharpness of perception’. Here it is in glorious Youtube:


Shipping Lines Liverpool Literary Festival

Welcome to the first blog post for the Shipping Lines Liverpool Literary Festival. The programme has been confirmed and we have an exciting line-up of events and writers.

Philip Pullman, Roger McGough, Carol Ann Duffy to name but a few of the writers coming from across the UK and abroad to speak at the festival. For a full list of writers please see our website

As well as writer readings, panel discussions, lectures and workshops, we also have a variety of community events, and a family programme as part of the festival, to engage, entertain and encourage our young readers. All our family events are free to make it easier for families to attend the festival. We have a number of schools’ events also, so please do get in touch to enquire about any remaining slots.

Our website has a full programme of events, plus a complete list of writers with a brief biography. Please visit www.liverpoollitfest.org.uk for all information about the festival, including booking tickets, venues, and if you are not local to the North West, some information about visiting Liverpool.

We will be featuring specific events in future posts, so keep checking in for more information about the festival. Tickets have already been sold which is terrific, and events such as Philip Pullman and Howard Jacobson are going fast. We have ticket discounts available such as buy 5 for the price of 4, so take advantage of booking early. We also have discounts for The Reader Magazine subscribers. Please get in touch for details.

Please get in touch if you would like more information by emailing me at events<at>thereader.org.uk.

And don’t forget you can sign up for email updates on literary festivals in the North West by clicking this link right here.

FACT Bookgroup: The Book of the Film

Ella Jolly writes to let us know about the book group she runs at FACT in Liverpool and invites anyone interested to attend. The group is being ‘revamped’ from January 2009, to allow screenings of films to take place before the group meets, but the line-up in the coming months looks great too:

Monday 29th September at 6:30pm in the FACT cafe: ‘The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas’ by John Boyne

Monday 27th October at 6:30pm in the FACT cafe: ‘Brideshead Revisited’ by Evelyn Waugh

Monday 24th November at 6:30pm in the FACT cafe: ‘Quantum of Solace’ by Ian Fleming

Why not come along to enjoy lively discussion of the books behind some famous films?

Information about FACT is here.

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

Get all of our our Literary Festival News by Email Here.

Jane Davis: In Praise of Liverpool ’08

Is ’08 happening in Liverpool? Yes and yes, yes, yes. Taking the train home from London on a Friday night I see there are tourists heading to Lime Street reading guides to the city and our Capital of Culture events: young metropolitan couples staying with friends in Liverpool and planning to visit the galleries and clubs… and we make that journey in two and half hours now, thanks to the Virgin Pendolino. Liverpool ’08 is happening now. It began to feel it when the Tall Ships brought an amazing buzz to the city, the dock area teeming with visitors and locals alike. Wandering in the crowd you could feel that Liverpool still loves ships, they are part of us: we miss them. And this odd stirring to life feeling begins. For The Reader Organisation, ’08 has meant raising the game, making new working relationships, looking up.

We are about to deliver Shipping Lines Liverpool Literary Festival (website details available soon) for the University of Liverpool. It’s an amazing festival programme to have got up and running in one year – congratulations to everyone but especially Renee – and we wouldn’t have done it without the University’s desire to make something wonderful for ’08 and willingness to put hard cash behind that desire.

Wirral Community Shakespeare wouldn’t have happened without ’08. This amazing event got started in January when our Get Into Reading project started a weekly Shakespeare reading group at The Lauries Community Centre in Birkenhead. We forged a partnership with the Aspire Trust who brought in the wonderful Aspire photographic artists Joan Evans and Michelle Molyneux, Assistant Director Mandy Reevers-Rowe and Music Director, Ceri Williams – all new colleagues and people we will want to work with again. We wouldn’t have made these connections without ’08. Photos of the rehearsals and show can be seen here.

It was an utter delight to me to see so many people from Get Into Reading playing a part in the final production. I saw Louise striding across the huge and verdant stage, looking as confident as a catwalk model, with that beautiful and elegant dog – of course The Reader Organisation’s Shakespeare has a dog in it! Of course! – and I listened enthralled as Portia Sugarev of the Get Into Reading Leasowe group said her lines, and as the washer women scene unfolded… and I thought: we wouldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for ’08.

Many, many thanks to all our supporters, financiers, friends and relations for getting this show on the road and big thanks to Starbucks, for keeping the cast, crew and production team going in coffee and cake. We needed those refreshments!

As we struck set and decamped from Birkenhead Park I had a conversation with Park Ranger Paul Davies about how we might develop a project for the young people who hang out in the park (and who didn’t cause us a jot of bother during show week) so as to get them involved in Wirral Community Shakespeare next year (oh yes… there will be a next year). Ranger Paul, a martial arts instructor, is about to play the Soporific Argentinian in the production of Moulin Rouge. Now there’s a skillset. Watch this space for news of the project.

Then last night I was in the packed Philharmonic Hall to stand and cheer Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker playing Wagner Prelude and Liebestod, Tristan and Isolde and Messiaen Turangalila Symphony. This was an electrifying performance – and in the case of the Messiaen of a work I’d never have been able to concentrate on as recorded music. The double basses were superbly violent and heavy, like bloody great rhinoceroi at one side of the platform, the man with cymbals breathtakingly wide armed and Sir Simon himself, utterly mesmerising, as life and power and intelligence flowed through his body, down his arms, and out of his fingertips (and hair!) to irradiate the entire hall and audience with a burning energy.

Live events, I thought, remembering last week’s production of The Winter’s Tale, are an altogether different order of experience. And here we are getting them, week in and week out, in Liverpool at the moment. Later this afternoon, to round off my week of eclectic experiences I’m going to go and seek out The Spider

Posted by Jane Davis

Front Row: La Machine

Tune in to BBC Radio 4 this evening between 7-7.45pm to hear Phil Davis, editor of The Reader magazine on Front Row talking about ‘La Machine’, a 50ft mechanical spider which is currently clinging to the side of a redundant office block near Liverpool’s Lime Street Station.

I have been following around La Princess – the Spider – for days now, waiting for her to wake up (she slept through her crane lift). Reporting on her awakening today…

The creature will then begin exploring the city, forming part of a huge piece of street theatre throughout the city at various landmarks, culminating in what organisers are calling a “spectacular finish” on Sunday. Creepy.

The Reader magazine, issue 31 is to be published on September 9. Read all about it here. Download a free recent back issue of the magazine here.

Mace and Jones Short Story Competition

Leading Merseyside law firm, Mace & Jones, is launching a short story competition to coincide with Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture.

Mace & Jones head of employment law and celebrated crime fiction author Martin Edwards [who edited the recent Crime Writers Association anthology M.O. which I’m enjoying at the moment–Ed.] said the firm is aiming to make a meaningful contribution to the Capital of Culture celebrations. “The short story is a marvellous literary form I am passionate about,” he said.  “The idea is simple. We encourage both amateurs and professionals to submit a story on the theme of ‘justice’. From the judging panel’s viewpoint the field is wide open.”

The competition has a maximum word count of 3,000 words and a deadline of August 31 2008. All entry fees of £10 go to Local Solutions, a charity supported by Mace & Jones. The short story competition is open to entrants of any age and background, whether they are published authors or beginners, with the prizes on offer being first prize £500, second prize £250, third prize £150 and fourth, £100.

All entries should be typed, indented, double-spaced and written in Size 12 Times New Roman font. Entries can be submitted by email via the Mace & Jones Website, www.maceandjones.co.uk, or by standard post to: Samantha Kinnear, Mace & Jones, Drury House, 19 Water Street, Liverpool, L2 0RP. Cheques and Postal Orders should be made payable to Mace & Jones and please include a Self Addressed Postcard with all postal entries to receive notification of receipt of entry.

Further details can be obtained from Mace & Jones’ Marketing Manager, Samantha Kinnear, on samantha.kinnear[AT]maceandjones.co.uk.

Mace & Jones, which has offices in Liverpool, Manchester and Knutsford in Cheshire, has long had literary connections. Two previous senior partners, Brian Fraser Harrison and Barrie Marsh, published books and, more recently, Martin Edwards has published non-fiction books, edited and contributed to short story anthologies and written highly acclaimed crime fiction novels, including his much loved Lake District Mysteries and the ever popular Harry Devlin series which is set to return in May with Waterloo Sunset (Alison & Busby).

Kitchen Table Lingo

You’re not going to get far just thingying your wotsit, madam, and, sir, I’m afraid the door policy means your whatchermightcallit is out of the question. Once upon a time you could have gained acceptance by gyring and gimbling in the wabe, but too late now. Time races fast in the fluid world of language.

It is of course virtually impossible to find passwords/usernames/email addresses that have not already been taken, but The English Project’s new initiative, ‘Kitchen Table Lingo’ takes the inventiveness of the English language’s resources even further, and is looking for your made up words. Words for your whatchermightcallit, for example, or baby words, or that grunting syllable that uniquely expresses bafflement in your close circle of friends. What do you shout instead of ‘Goooooaaaaal!”? Follow this link to read more and to register your new-fangles.

Their only stipulations are that words have to be new-coined, not included in the OED, or at least, not with the usage that you give to them, and your new words have to be currently used by three or more people, and have been used for more than a month. (Don’t just make them up for the occasion, for truly truly God is watching with Dr Johnson on his right hand side.)

They’ll start publishing contributions in their Databank on the 1st of July, and there is even the tantalising mention of an Award for some lucky contributor.

Here’s the link again.

Event: The impact of German-language culture in the UK

How receptive is the British public to the history and culture of its close neighbours in German-speaking Europe? Come and listen to 6 industry specialists from publishing, theatre and the art world discussing the practical challenges and cultural considerations in packaging German-language culture for a British audience. Have the fall of the wall, the increased profile of contemporary German-language film and literature in translation, and the successful hosting of the 2006 World Cup altered British attitudes to the German-speaking countries, or do representatives of all things German still find themselves battling against ingrained stereotypes? Is the dramatic decline in European language learning at British schools cementing intolerance and cultural indifference for generations to come, or might it actually increase the market for translation and specialist cultural mediation?

Featuring: Chair: Michael Schmidt, Professor of Poetry (Glasgow), editor Carcanet Press
Christoph Grunenberg, director of Tate Liverpool
Karen Leeder, Reader in German (Oxford), freelance translation and radio work
Walter Meierjohann, Associate Director at Young Vic Theatre, London
Rebecca Morrisson, Editor of New Books in German (London)

This event is a round-table discussion followed by questions from the floor. It is being held in The Auditorium at Tate Liverpool on Thursday 24th July at 5.30pm. The event is free but pre-registration is needed. Please email rebecca.braun [AT] liv.ac.uk or lyn.marvyn [AT} liv.ac.uk to book your place. To find out more information click here.