Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Happy Birthday BookGig!

Today is a big day here at BookGig HQ as we are officially celebrating our first birthday –  we can’t believe it’s come around so fast (just like our personal birthdays in fact 😒 😒). But it’s true! BookGig was launched on 11th October 2016 as a unique platform designed to help you book loving folk discover the best literary events across the UK, covering a whole spectrum of different genres and events of all shapes and sizes.
From crime to celebrity memoir, cookery, children’s, poetry, to sci-fi and fantasy – BookGig has something for everyone.

A lot has happened in a year – we have featured more than 8,000 events across the UK, helping more authors reach their fans and more book lovers to find events they’ll enjoy.

BookGig’s new Facebook community might even have been partially to blame for some events selling out – there have been a few events we’ve promoted which reached over a half a million fans in under 24 hours!

And we’re only really just getting started! We’ve been working tirelessly behind the scenes on some new and exciting features that we think you’ll love even more.

We’re soon launching our new user recommendation engine – by generating a profile we can tailor the events you see on BookGig to make your experience unique to you. Hopefully, this means that you’ll have more free time to attend all the events that tickle your fancy. And that’s not all, we’re also going to be refreshing our website’s design to make looking for your next author talk or book signing even more easy and fun.

To our wonderful community and all of the venues, booksellers and publishers that have worked with us to bring bigger audiences together – THANK YOU! We appreciate your help and so do your attendees. Please keep letting us know about exciting events you have coming up, as we would love to help promote more amazing events around the country.

Keep watching this site and following us on social media for all the best of book based events near you.


Team BookGig

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Discussing Gender and Diversity

Here at BookGig we’ve been seeing a wealth of events based around the themes of Gender and Diversity this October. From the presence of women in politics and science to the importance of transgender and gay rights, there is something for everyone to open their mind and find strength in themselves and others. 

Sophy Ridge: Women Who Shaped Politics | 2nd October 6:30pm

What is it like to be a woman in politics today? Sky News presenter Sophy Ridge addresses this question in her new book chroniciling the efforts of British female politicians to be equal and be heard. From those who first penetrated the Westminster patriarchy to their modern counterparts, such as Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon, this is sure to be a thought-provoking and inspirational event. 

Interested in other events about women in politics? Why not try this event with MPs Rachel Reeves and Jess Phillips.

Gender Politics Today | 6th October 6:30pm

From the moment we are born, we are clothed in blue or pink according to what's between our legs. It is society's tendency to pigeon-hole unique individuals into restrictive gender parameters that transgender activists Juno Dawson and CN Lester aim to dispel. Both acclaimed authors in their own right, two voices at the forefront of the LGBTQ+ community lead a frank and eye-opening discussion about the need to strive for autonomy and authenticity.

Desperately want to see Juno Dawson but can't make this event? You'll find another opportunity here.

Robert Webb | 7th October 8:30pm

“Man up!” “Don’t throw like a girl!” “A real man would be drinking beer.” These are the gendered instructions actor and comedian Robert Webb addresses in his new book, ‘How Not to be a Boy.’ In the recent feminist wave, the role of men in gender discussions has been somewhat overlooked, but Webb’s book aims to denounce The Rules of masculinity and challenge the barriers put up by gender expectations. His candid coming-of-age story is honest, hilarious, and heartbreaking, and – as Robert says – you are completely allowed to cry.  

Feel inspired and empowered to revolutionise the gender imbalance in the world today with Baroness Shami Chakrabarti. In her manifesto for change, Shami outlines how we have not yet done enough to address global gender injustice and why now is the time to stand up and take action. This rousing ‘call to arms’ event is pertinent to men, women, young, and old. 

Full of strength and opinions? Share your feminist thoughts at this dedicated book club in London.

Inferior? Women and Science: Angela Saini | 15th October 4pm

The title of Angela Saini’s latest book may be ‘Inferior’, but its content is anything but. As an award-winning science journalist, author, and broadcaster, Angela provides well-researched evidence to argue that women have been misrepresented in Science. Challenge the view that both men and women’s brains and bodies are scientificially discrete, and develop new ways of thinking about females in scientific history.

You'll also find Angela Saini at this event with other inspirational female authors. 

The ‘Queers’ monologues have been featured onstage, on screen, and now in print – and here’s your chance to pick up a copy signed by the writers! This remarkable collection explores the evolution of societal attitudes in British gay history in the last century in a series of honest, tragic, witty, and heroic accounts. Curated by acclaimed actor and writer, Mark Gatiss, this is a rare event not to be missed. 

Interested in other events like this? You'll find something similar here

Monday, 18 September 2017

Hidden Gems - September Edition

With so many popular book events to choose from it can be difficult to find those hidden gems to tickle your literary taste buds. We've done some of the legwork for you with our pick of unique events happening over the next couple of weeks...

You can look forward to your alarm! Inject some creativity into your mornings by flexing your writing muscles at this interactive workshop led by Gemma Seltzer. Research shows we are more creative in the morning, and utilising this golden hour can improve productivity for the rest of the day! Suitable for all levels of creative writing experience, including those who just want to add a bit of imagination into their day. 

If you’re a ‘read the book before you see the film’ kind of person, this unique opportunity to meet the author will enrich your experience before seeing Judi Dench’s dramatic interpretation of the strong-willed Queen Victoria. Shrabani Basu’s ‘Victoria and Abdul’ tells the true story of an unlikely friendship formed between Queen Victoria and young Indian waiter Abdul Karim. Though their companionship is met with much fear and criticism from the royal household, Basu’s narration is a heart-warming tale of how friendship can transcend racial and social obstacles. There is also an opportunity to get a signed copy of the book. 

Can you tell the difference between prosecco and champagne? You’ll certainly be able to after this event with Britain’s youngest ever sommelier, Davy Zyw. As well as a fascinating talk on the history and production of champagne, there will also be an opportunity to try some of Zyw’s favourite selections. With a new-found appreciation for fizz, this event is sure to leave you bubbling with excitement for your next glass! 

An unmissable night of hilarity for any parent – this comedic duo’s hugely successful podcast series has lifted the lid on not-so-secret parenting fails, and championed wine and fish fingers as a fine dinner choice (no vino for the kids of course, Mummy needs it). Take a night off and join the ultimate Mum-crush pair for an unforgettable evening!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Literary Festivals - September Edition

There's a bold variety of fascinating Literary Festivals happening this September, and we've selected some of our favourite events. Be sure to check out each festival's full programme, though, who knows what other delights you will find?!

Chiswick Book Festival | 14th-18th September

An Evening with Jane Austen - 14th September 6pm
The Chiswick Book Festival opens with this event, celebrating the life of Jane Austen 200 years after her death. Featuring Austen experts and biographers Paula Byrne and Helena Kelly, curator of Chiswick House Dr Esme Whittaker, and Sense and Sensibility actress Imogen Stubbs, this will excite existing Austen fans and attract new readers! 

Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival | 14th-18th September

A chance for budding poets to receive some invaluable advice from award-winning poet Karen McCarthy Woolf. Bring along a line from a poem you admire and see what poetic magic Karen can help you weave from it!

Renowned poet and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen closes the festival with this discussion of his new memoir. Hear the compelling life story of the legend of children’s storytelling – from a childhood in the Communist Jewish East End to a life-changing trip to East Germany. 

Byres Road Book Festival | 22nd-25th September

Meet award-winning author of the heart-wrenching debut, ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’, Gail Honeyman. This wonderful Sunday Times bestseller will make you laugh and cry. Get reading now so that you can come armed with questions for its creator!

Love. It is the subject at the heart (pun intended) of all storytelling – whether it be the presence of it, the absence, the gain, or the loss. Join this eclectic panel as they discuss what love means to them, how it’s presented in their narratives, and how we can explore it in whole new ways.

This promises to be a truly inspirational and powerful event as two contributors, poet and writer David Constantine and writer Kit de Waal, reflect on their stories of racial and social injustice in British protests. Their tales are inspired by true events; the Oxford march in response to Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech and the 1964 Smethwick Campaign.

Do you dabble in creative writing? Do you love BBC Radio 4’s short stories? Be sure to book yourself into a fascinating workshop run by BBC radio producer Liz Allard, teaching the necessary skills for engaging with people who listen to fiction. Liz will lead a series of workshops on creative process, supported by radio writer Alison MacLeod.

Immigration and refugees are key themes running throughout this year’s Festival. Hear the stunning second volume of Refugee Tales: a personal insight of asylum, modelled on Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, which promises to be as insightful as the first. Retelling ‘The Mother’s Tale’ is prize-winning author Marina Warner, and re-imagining ‘The Soldier’s Tale’ is award-winning novelist Neel Mukherjee. 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Hidden Gems - August Edition

Team BookGig is great at sourcing popular events to take care of all your literary cravings, but we also prides ourselves on finding those lesser known gems! Take a trip off the beaten path and delve into these exciting August opportunities...

Sean Hugh’s Blank Book – 14th-24th August

Irish comedian Sean Hughes joins forces with Carl Donnelly, Hannah Norris, Joe Rowntree and special guests in an improvisation extravaganza as the comedians attempt to create a narrative for the audience to enjoy. Whether the improv works seamlessly and carries the narrative arc to its envisioned ending, or descends into narrative chaos, this is one event guaranteed to get you giggling.

The Beginners Guide to Writing a Novel – 15th August 

Love writing? Think you have what it takes to be the next bestselling author but no idea where to start? Tim Lott, author of The Scent of Dried Roses, has just the answer. Providing invaluable advice for novice writers, Lott aims to break down the classic story structure and share a number of helpful writing techniques to get first time novelists off to a roaring start on their debuts.

Join author Naomi Hamill at Manchester-Deansgate Waterstones as she celebrates the release of her new novel How To Be A Koskovan Bride. Learn about the little-known history of Albania, along with folk tales and the experience of modern Kosovan women, in this wonderfully engaging Q&A session.

If the science of the Universe, life and everything sounds like a complicated and vast topic then join Sam Kean and Helen Czerski in conversation, exploring and further expanding on their publications Caesar’s Last Breath and Storm in a Teacup. Uncover the science behind the air we breathe and the importance physics bears upon our everyday lives.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Hidden Gems June - July

Sometimes you want to take a break from the norm and try something a little bit different. With that in mind, these are just some of the hidden gems on BookGig, handpicked from lesser known sources of literary prowess and brought to your attention! So, take a look and attend an event, or two, or even three …

Send your imagination to Mars at this creative writing session in York that looks to lend some creative flair to Earth’s near-future mission to an off-world colony. Leading the workshop will be York St John University staff who will provide prompts and a topical sci-fi discussion on classic texts and ideas to stir the cosmic energy in the room. Attendees will be supported in producing their work, with the chance to join the Terra Two digital archive, which will collate contributions of writing, music, pictures, games and podcasts for the Terra Two website in time for its launch. Whether you want to take your sci-fi writing to the next step and be published with the support of editors, or simply want to get creative and have some fun proffering your version of a journey to the stars, this is an event not to be missed. 

At present, our only vehicle by which to travel back into the past or forward into the future is fiction. For a small fee you can peruse an abundant showroom of fiction’s time travelling vessels at Durham’s Palace Green Library. This exhibition of short stories will guide you outside of time with audio installations, music, film and literature that bend the rules of the space time continuum, and hopefully inspire you to produce your own story live from the fourth dimension. 

Most can’t see the wood for the concrete in London’s urban jungle. Thankfully though, Paul Wood is on hand (and foot) to show you the vast beauty of London’s urban Forest at this fascinating guided walk examining the beauty and history of London’s trees. 

Spelunkers of independent thinking would be remiss to pass by this hidden gem of an event celebrating hidden gems themselves. Organised by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers, formed to raise awareness of literary indie-thinking, the London Radical Bookfair is a free event gathering the most unique and rebellious minds in the publishing trade. Over 130 exhibitors and 20 guest speakers will showcase the depth and breadth of radical publishing and unveil the new grass roots initiatives shaking the corporate foundations of the industry; witness the revolution. 

If a ‘psychedelic frolic through altered states and parallel realities’ is what you look for in a poetry reading, then A.A. Walker’s performance of erotic prose-poem Licentia is the answer to your mid-week lull! Accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Ozlem Simsek’s harp and theremin loops, this is a poetry reading like no other, where music and verse synchronise to experimental and enchanting effect. 

Purity, innocence, and light. The colour white has draped female characters in film and literature in these symbolic connotations throughout history. As part of the Lancaster Words three-day celebration of the written and spoken word, Dr Catherine Spooner provides an engaging insight into the women in white of gothic narratives.

There had to come a time when computers could create our art for us, and that time is now. Artist Naho Matsuda created live poetry for her ‘every thing every time’ exhibition by using a computer programme that interacts in real-time with information created and collected by CityVerve Manchester. The final product was a never ending, ever changing poem feeding off the city’s movement:

the sun rises
the streets are empty
today is the last day of the term
the car park is almost empty
the traffic light turns green
the cleaning shift starts
the bus is on time
and it is colder than yesterday

With Matsuda’s guidance and alongside the multi-award-winning Manchester-based live literature team Bad Language, you can have a go at creating utterly unique robot poetry yourself.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Interview with Abie Longstaff

Abie Longstaff is a children's author with a lifelong affinity to fairy tales and fantasy, whose highly popular picture books reinvent classical stories to teach children about cultural diversity, ethical approaches to life, and most importantly, to have fun. We caught up with her about what to expect from her upcoming appearance at Barnes Children's Literature Festival, what it means to reinvent the fairy tale, and what she has in store for the future...

You are heading to Barnes KidsLitFest this May, will it be your first time at the festival? And what do you have planned for the session?

It’s my second time at Barnes – I really enjoyed the festival last time, so I’m looking forward to coming back. I can’t wait to read the children the new Fairytale Hairdresser and Aladdin. I’m going to tell them all about how I make a book, and we’ll have a go at doing hairstyles on the different characters.

What is the importance of these events for you as an author?

In my normal life I sit at my computer, tap, tap, tapping away on my own. Events are a treat – a way of meeting children and listening to what they like about the books.

What difference do you think it makes for children to be able to meet authors and get interactively engaged with reading?

I think it’s great for children to realise we are not magical beings who came up with our books with a stroke of a wand. Writing books is hard work but it’s achievable. I like to show children all the mistakes I’ve made along the way and tell them they could be an author or illustrator too. Going into more detail in the text or pictures also makes children really focus and engage with the story – and want to read on.

You seem to not only use your events to have fun and connect with your audience, but also to engage them in discussion. What have you learnt from the children when they approach you with questions about your stories?

I try to create a relaxed atmosphere so children have the confidence in interact. I love hearing their questions! Children seem to pay a lot more attention to the illustrations than the adults, and spot all kinds of things Lauren Beard and I have hidden in the background. Children will identify and engage with the characters quite strongly and often ask very insightful questions about how they are thinking or feeling. Having said that, a little boy did once put his hand up only to say ‘I had pineapple for breakfast’.

Does your background in law and your work as a barrister and for the police influence the stories you tell? Or is your writing kept separate from your work life?

I can’t stop influences from my legal background creeping in! All my baddies go to jail – none of them are dancing to death in red-hot shoes, or having their eyes pecked out (like in earlier, more gruesome fairy tales). Mine all receive fair, proportionate, legitimate punishment. And, once they’ve done their time in jail, they are let out again to appear in later books.

You mention that children in general, and more specifically your own (until they grew up) heavily influence your stories and ideas, how do you manage the balance between the childish, silly ideas and the serious themes of human rights?

The human rights and ethical points are just in the background – indeed some parents don’t spot them at all. At their heart, the books are simply stories, full of fun and adventure. I’d hate for the ‘messages’ to overtake that.

How did your children react when they saw your games with them had become fully developed picture books?

My sisters, in particular, love spotting the references to our childhood. I‘m the eldest of six girls and many games I played with my sisters have become stories. My kids think it’s funny too.

Adapting fairy tales is an increasingly popular genre, not only in children’s stories but also in adult fiction and cinema. Why do you think this is? Is it a cultural nostalgia trip, or is there a modern lesson to be learned from the fairy tale genre?

I think it’s because fairy tales are stories of struggle - they track the success of the underdog; the triumph of good over evil. Their pattern and structure is ingrained into storytelling and we see their motifs across different cultures and ages. They are the basis of ‘hero’ stories today, such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and others.

We read in your blog that you believe in bringing the world of fairy tales up to date to help children engage with the story better and also to tackle current issues such as class, gender and diversity, but that you steer away from the dark themes of the originals. How difficult is it to draw the line as to what young readers can deal with, or understand?

As an adult I like the darkness of the very old tales – although the themes (Little Mermaid’s suicide, Rapunzel’s pregnancy) aren’t always suitable for young children!
But, fairy tales can provide a vehicle for talking about difficult issues, so I do keep some of the darkness. You wouldn’t read a non-fiction book to a child about abuse, but you might read them Cinderella. Most modern books for small children avoid direct mention of death, cruelty, pain, hatred. Yet children do feel emotion very strongly. They get very angry or very upset, and they do not possess the control adults have learned. Fairy tales confront evil head on and, at their core, are about emotional problems such as jealousy, hatred, fear, separation or resentment. They help children realise that strong emotions are part of life and to understand and cope with them. They teach hope and patience and kindness, as well as the knowledge that, however bad things are, there is always a chance of something better ahead.

Do you target certain issues that you believe need addressing, or does the story take precedent and naturally involve specific topics?
I start by looking at the old tale – there are often lots of versions and I try to read as many as I can. Then, I think through which elements I want to change and which to keep. I tend to change the more old-fashioned elements, for example, I do like my royals and heroines to have jobs, and I like having the women make the marriage proposals sometimes.

What are you working on at the moment and what projects do you have for the future?

Lauren and I are working on more Fairytale Hairdresser stories, and finishing the last in our Magic Potions Shop chapter books, which have been a lot of fun to write, and a great follow-on from Fairytale Hairdresser for young readers. I also have more middle-grade books coming out this year – the second in my How to Catch a Witch series (Scholastic), as well as more in The Trapdoor Mystery series (Hachette). 

You can book a ticket to Abie's event and other excellent sessions at Barnes Children's Literature Festival over on BookGig.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Poetic Diversity: Poetry Translation Centre Q&A

In times of tension it often falls to the arts to strengthen community values, and poetry has always provided a vocal beacon. We are in a special position in the 21st century; while global tensions might force seclusion, global voices can be heard rallying against it in more places than ever before. Making the most of the world's access to an eclectic mix of voices here in Brexit Britain is The Poetry Translation Centre.

Established in 2004 by the poet Sarah Maguire, the Poetry Translation Centre began with the desire to introduce new audiences to the important work of foreign poets. The organisation champions diversity by bringing communities together for the love of poetry at workshops, live readings and discussions.

Their website is a free archive of international poetry showcasing the work of poets from Africa to Latin America. Each translation begins its journey at regular workshops open to the public, where poetry enthusiasts are instrumental in the translating process no matter their linguistic dexterity.

We spoke with the PTC’s managing director Erica Jarnes about the importance of foreign poetry in multi-cultural understanding, free events for refugees, the recent success of live poetry, and what’s next for the organisation.

How important do the live events prove to be in promoting your poets and their work?

Live events are perfect for poetry. It's a literary form that really works on a stage: people love hearing the musicality, the rhythm and the emotion. We find that bilingual events, where the poems are read aloud in English and in the original language, are especially successful. I'd guess that the fact that poetry works so well live is part of the reason for the recent boom in UK poetry festivals. In terms of promoting our poets, our events are where we sell the biggest number of books.

We're having a pretty turbulent time, whether you look at the environment, Daesh or the creep of far-right nationalism. At their best, poems reflect the state we are in, in a very immediate, direct way. They can also be written quickly and in response to unfolding events, in a way that novels just can't compete with. It's great that poetry is having a resurgence at this time.

How well attended are the events?  Are some languages more popular than others?

When we've taken our international poets to 'mainstream' venues we've encountered the same (often modest) audiences as other poetry presses and organisations. These are people who already know and love poetry, and perhaps have an interest in exploring other cultures. By contrast, when we've taken our poets to meet their 'home-away-from-home' diaspora audiences in community venues, we usually pack the room, and not everyone is already a buyer of poetry books. There are lots of sizeable communities in the UK for whom poetry is culturally very important, for example British Somalis and second-generation Urdu speakers, who aren't necessarily noticed by big publishers as potential readers but who are really enthusiastic when work is made available to them, and are willing to pay for books and tickets to events.

At present in the UK there is a real need for multi-cultural understanding. What can poetry translation offer to a Britain that wishes to seclude itself?

In some ways the UK is much more harmonious and integrated than somewhere like the USA, but it's dangerous to be complacent. Our current anxieties, in light of Article 50 and the refugee crisis, seem to be a lot about how the UK understands and relates to the outside world - and that includes the outside world that has become part of the fabric of this country, i.e. the generations of immigrants from around the world who have settled here.

Translation is about exchange, friendship and curiosity. It is about shared and different histories, and about finding common meaning in myriad messages. Our hope at the PTC is that by translating great poets from languages that are spoken by significant communities in the UK, who are neighbours to English-speakers but may inhabit different cultural worlds, we can both help to promote great contemporary writing from around the world and acknowledge and celebrate the UK's own diverse communities. The point is that everyone should feel welcome in British cultural life. Plus translation as an activity in itself is really fun and surprisingly easily to get stuck in to!

Can anyone join in with the translation workshops, without knowledge of the language being translated?

Yes! Anyone can join in. We have a great mix of participants in our workshops. Usually one or two people speak the language in question, and they bring their insights to the session. Others might know something about poetry, or have other tangential knowledge, or just have a really good ear. We always have really great, wide-ranging discussions. 

I notice you make an exception with fees for the unwaged and refugees who want to come along to your events: is this a successful way to attract those groups? And how popular are these events with refugees in particular?

So far we have reached some refugee participants but not a large number. Making things free is clearly not enough of a draw. We are working on how to get the message out through appropriate channels to let recently-arrived people know we exist and have our doors open. Watch this space!

What does the future hold for PTC events? Are you taking part in any festivals? Or have plans to hold one yourselves?

Our own festival? That is a pipe dream! For 2017, we are taking two brilliant Turkish-language poets - Karin Karakasli and Bejan Matur - to various summer festivals (kicking off with Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival on 21 June). Later in the year we will be touring the wonderful Somali poet Caasha Lul Mohamud Yusuf to Manchester Literature Festival, Somali Week London and other places with her new book The Sea Migrations, out in October with Bloodaxe Books. We're taking our translation workshops on tour to the International Agatha Christie Festival in Torquay in September, which will be really fun. And we've had invitations to Shubbak, Newcastle Poetry Festival... lots really. We're trying to strike a balance between big, high-profile events, and intimate events in schools and community centres, so that we reach as many different people with our poets as possible. It would be great to see you there!

If you want to be a part of the mission and give poetry translation a go yourself, don’t miss out on the PTC’s next round of workshops beginning April 25th.