Manchester Literature Festival

Manchester-Literature-Festival-LogoSo Jackie Kay closed the main part of the festival at Matt and Phreds last night, and Manchester will now be a little less literary until next October. It’s a shame. For two weeks every year we’re treated to big literary names and  weird and wonderful events and then it goes away and I have to go back to speaking to people.

This was my second year as a volunteer and blogger for the event, and my fourth (I think) as an attendee. Over that time I’ve met some of my favourite authors and gained quite a few new ones. This year was no exception. Here’s my thoughts on the events I made it to:

Colm Toibin and Sebastian Barry – Martin Harris Centre 6/10/2014

Colm taught me when I studied for a Masters in Creative Writing in 2011/12. Admittedly, I mainly went to this event to catch up Colm-Toibin-001with him and see if he still uses all the dramatic hand gestures he used to, taking his glasses on and off every couple of seconds. I’m glad to say he does.

But this event exceeded expectations. It was clear that these two writers are close friends and not just colleagues. And as hard as compere John Mcauliffe tried, this was very much a conversation between two people who know each other inside out. Luckily, both of them were interesting, funny, and sharp. A great start.

Blog North Awards – Deaf Institute 8/10/2014

cropped-headerI volunteered at this event last year. It included a lot of fun, some great readings and performances, and a fair amount of free booze. There was a bit less complimentary beer this time around, but it was still one of the highlights of the festival.

As part of a two week event that includes huge literary figures and bestselling authors, it’s nice that this night is dedicated to those at an earlier stages of their writing careers. This time there was a tag team storytelling session from Flashtag, a mad and disturbing video which managed to make the Pringles man into some kind of sexual predator, and a great little story from award winner Lauren Vevers.

The show was stolen by Mollie Simpson, though, with her reading from her blog If Destroyed Still True. She’s blogging entries from her teenage diary. They’re hilarious. Follow her now. Bye.

Peter Blake – Martin Harris Centre 11/10/2014

I’ll be honest, I was pretty much dragged to this one.DTfrontcover

Blake has illustrated Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood and he was here to discuss the process. Given that I know little of Dylan Thomas and even less about illustration, I wasn’t exactly enthused.

It ended up being an entertaining and enlightening hour. If it hadn’t been £25, I’d have even bought the book.

Cynan Jones and Evie Wyld – Anthony Burgess Foundation 13/10/2014

Evie WyldI won’t say too much about this one as you can read my full post over at Chapter and Verse, the festival’s blog.

But if you can’t be bothered with that, I will say that this was an exceptional author event. Both writers read brilliantly, and the Q&A was almost a mini workshop. I left wanting to write more.

Oh, and I met Evie Wyld – the author of two of my absolute favourite books. So yeah, can’t complain.


The Manchester Sermon with Audrey Niffenegger – Manchester Cathedral 16/10/2014

Niffenegger was an interesting choice for this year’s sermon, and she was always going to have a lot to live up to following Ali niffSmith and Lionel Shriver in previous years.

I have to admit, she fell slightly shy of those two in terms of delivery. But she did have some interesting points to make, and I’m a big fan of her idea of art as an alternative to religion. The Q&A fell a tiny bit flat, though – partly due to the sound quality in the room, and partly due to Niffenegger’s slightly quiet voice.

Having said that, if this was the least impressive event I attended then that’s a sign of an extremely strong line-up.

You can read more of my thoughts at Chapter and Verse.

Kate Tempest – Contact Theatre 18/10/2014

KT-SquareWell. Kate Tempest. What can I say?

I only volunteered for this one because I’d heard her name a few times and I like to go to a few events that might surprise me.

She may be my new favourite person.

I’ve heard people argue that her poetry’s a little simple, but when you can command a stage the way she does I don’t think that matters. Yes, it might be poetry without the long words and complicated metaphors, but it’s accessible, intriguing, and from the reaction she got from the audience, it appeals to the masses.

Kate managed to be funny, humble, politically adroit, moving, and extremely entertaining. Can she play every year?



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