Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Festival Spotlight: Nottingham's First Festival of Literature

Powerful Messages from Over the Wall: Global Influences in a UNESCO City of Literature

The inaugural Nottingham Festival of Literature runs from 8th - 13th November, with more than 30 events taking place over those six days, including readings and discussions with authors Amit Chaudhari, Jack Monroe, Sheila Rowbotham, Gillian Slavo and Nottingham's own Jon McGregor. There will also be workshops with poet Wayne Burrows, poet and literary translator Jen Calleja, author Megan Taylor and bestselling crime writer Stephen Booth.

The Festival was inspired by Nottingham's UNESCO City of Literature status, re-imagining its vision for a contemporary literature festival with globally recognised authors and contributors. It aims to deliver a series of powerful messages, providing a welcome platform for voices that struggle to be heard. All genres of writing and literature are included, from novels, poetry, journalism and creative non-fiction to game poetry, graphic novels, stage drama and literature in translation.

Festival Programmer Sara Beadle says, "In 2016, it is possible to feel that there are real rifts and alienated groups in society who are fighting for recognition and the embrace of the wider community. Feminists, refugees, migrants, people with disabilities, people who identify as of non-binary gender, race, politics and religion all continue to challenge our thinking as a society and push us to re-imagine the world.

"Our aspiration is for the Nottingham Festival of Literature to provide a platform for these voices to be heard, without fear, in the spirit of greater understanding, deeper discussion, empathy and openness. It is the role of great literature to hold up a mirror and to reflect the world from all perspectives, and we embrace that idea and attempt to extend a 'culture of welcome' to both those who live here and those who arrive here."

Egyptian novelist and award-winning poet Omar El Hazek, the Festival's writer in residence, was arrested and imprisoned by Egyptian authorities for supporting the family of a man beaten to death in custody and is now banned from travelling abroad. Omar will join festival-goers virtually, taking part in several digital events such as a video conversation with Tunisian activist and blogger Lina Ben Mhenni.

Sheila Rowbotham has published several groundbreaking books on feminism and radical social movements. At the Festival, she will discuss her new book Rebel Crossings: Transatlantic Feminism, Free Love and Radicalism, offering fascinating perspectives on the historical interaction of trends between liberalism, feminism, socialism and anarchism, and alternative approaches to dress, health and sex in the late 19th century.

Writer and journalist Katharine Quarmby explores how disability writing conveys what it is to be human and to live with impairment. Her lecture 'A Message from Over the Wall' is inspired by the words of American author and disability advocate Hugh Gregory Gallagher, who wrote about the 'land of the crippled': "a great wall surrounds this place, and most of what goes within this wall is unknown to those outside it. What follows is a message from over the wall." Quarmby will explore the characterisation of disability as a message within both mainstream and emerging disability literature.

The Festival also draws upon the city's own rich literary heritage to provide a platform for regional authors and poets to talk about their work as well as offering inspiration and support for aspiring writers in workshops and networking events. The line-up includes the acclaimed writer Jon McGregor, named in 2014 as one of The Guardian's top 10 writers to see live.

Other Festival highlights include:


  • Tuesday 8th November: Wayne Burrows presents Writing Across the Meridian Line, exploring time as a subject and feature in poetry; Alison Moore's After Dark Workshop helps writers unearth eerie stories, practicing setting, atmosphere and suspense
  • Wednesday 9th November: In Voices of Jewish and Muslim Writers, four poets from four countries - Michael Mehrdad Zand Ahanchian, Yvonne Green, Shamin Azad and Amir Darwish - read from their work, giving insight into the complexity of identity
  • Thursday 10th November: Playwright and author Gillian Slovo talks about her writing, her career and her social and political influences; Ovid's Heroines with Clare Pollard rediscovers and brings to life a cast of women from Greek and Roman myths who are brave, heartbreaking and surprisingly modern
  • Friday 11th November: Reading from her new book, The Sex Lives of English Women, Wendy Jones shares the stories from 24 women from all walks of life, about their everyday lives, families, partners, bodies and sexual histories, what they have learned, how they have been hurt, what they enjoy and what they long for
  • Saturday 12th November: An evening of reading and discussion with Amit Chaudhuri, one of India's most significant literary figures and author of six novels
  • Sunday 13th November: Food writer, journalist and activist Jack Monroe presents Queer, Austere and Here, discussing overcoming austerity, how we should adjust our thinking around gender identity and what it means to try to live a peaceful life among the perils of modern society. 
For more information about the Festival, including full listings and booking details, visit www.notsfol.co.uk





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