PREVIEW: Durham Book Festival
Now in its twenty-second year, the Durham Book Festival is back in town between Saturday 13 and Tuesday 30 October, as always providing a wide range of events across the city for all the book lovers and writers out there. Organised by New Writing North, the North East’s very own writing development agency, it will come as no surprise to any bookish Northerner that the line-up features a generous helping of literary headliners, political heavyweights and a liberal sprinkle of the UK’s most original thinkers.
With events ranging from the world premiere of Rapunzel, a new ballet written by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, to a one-off conversation between two of the country’s finest crime writers, PD James and Ian Rankin, there really should be something to get even the most un-literary of hearts thumping.
But what about the region’s up-and-coming writers, those folks who dream of getting their name on the bookshelf alongside some of these literary superstars? Well, the festival also provides loads of interesting opportunities for would-be authors to gain advice and inspiration.
For wannabe writers under the age of 25, Sunday 28 October is a date for the diary. New Writing North’s scheme for young writers, Cuckoo, will be holding a Q&A session with Yorkshire lass Annabel Pitcher, author of My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece and the upcoming Ketchup Clouds. Annabel’s debut novel, published at the tender age of 26, was actually written in a notebook while travelling around the world – so if you’re a budding young writer, this is the perfect opportunity to quiz her about her life, inspirations and the journey her novel took from dog-eared notebook to publication. It’s also a chance to meet like-minded young writers and find out about joining a writing group in your area.
It will be a busy day for Annabel, who will also feature in the Read Regional Coming Of Age event, alongside novelists Michael Steward and Stephen May (authors of King Crow and Life! Death! Prizes! respectively). All three are part of this year’s crop of Northern writers promoted by the Read Regional campaign, which aims to bring up-and-coming authors from the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside to the attention of their local readers. They’ll be talking about how their novels came to be published, so if you are that way inclined, or if you’re interested in discovering new additions for your must-read list, this could be the event for you.
Also celebrating the North’s literary tradition is the lofty Portico Prize, one of the country’s leading literary prizes, awarded once every two years, to two authors whose books – one fiction and one non – are set in the North of England. It’s all about celebrating regional identity and cultural heritage, while at the same time promoting some really top-notch writing. The winner will actually be announced in November, but the Festival will be hosting a preview, as the shortlisted authors face off in a special event, slugging it out in a war of words to establish who might be taking home the prize.
If poetry is more your thing, don’t miss the launch of new biannual poetry magazine Butcher’s Dog, brainchild of some of the recent Northern Writers’ Awards winners. Their work will feature in the first issue, commissioned especially for the festival, but poets will be able to submit to the magazine’s upcoming instalments, so if you have an eye to publication, go ahead and scope out the territory.
Finally, for something slightly different, production team Northern Spirit are running a workshop for writers to come together during Durham Book Festival and discuss what it means to be a Northerner nowadays. If you’re a writer based in the North, this is a great chance to get your voice heard and your opinion counted. The workshop is in preparation for a theatre production, which will tour the North in spring 2013, so don’t miss your chance to contribute.
The Durham Book Festival is always on the lookout to help and encourage local authors, published or otherwise. Come support your friendly neighbourhood writer(s), or be inspired to follow in their footsteps – or ideally both.
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