- Date: 10 October 2011
- Area: North
Superheroes of Slam, the search for spoken word artists with lyrical super powers. Peter Kalu, Director of Commonword measures up to the spoken word super hero. Credit: courtesy of Commonword
A trio of literature festivals spreads across the North West in separate but complementary celebrations of the written word. These three crowded programmes of readings, workshops, storytelling, talks and taking part turn the North West into the best-read part of the country for fourteen days from the 10-23 October.
The sixth Manchester Literature Festival starts on 10 October and runs through to 23 October. On 12 October Chapter and Verse kicks off at the Bluecoat in Liverpool and runs until 16 October, and Lancaster Literature Festival opens on 14 October and continues until 23 October.
Manchester promises a world tour of the imagination with inspirational authors as your guides to the Amazon jungle, the holy city of Mecca, 16th-century Italy, the land of the Viking gods and bohemian Manchester itself. There's entertainment for all the family at storytelling events and an enticing line-up of guests including Jean 'Binta' Breeze, Sarah Dunant, Jeffrey Eugenides, Antonia Fraser, Michael Frayn, David Lodge, Andrew Motion, Catherine O'Flynn, Claire Tomalin and Zhu Wen.
With genres from Nordic crime fiction to dub poetry, there's something to suit all literary tastes and ages. Events take place in a range of prestigious and atmospheric venues, including this year's festival hub, the new International Anthony Burgess Foundation. For a witty run down of this year's festival programme, watch this video of the specially commissioned poem Travellers Tales by Kate Fox. And you can read daily news and reviews on the Manchester Literature Festival blog.
Liverpool hosts the fourth Chapter and Verse festival at the Bluecoat, celebrating the power of the word - spoken, written, reported and performed. Writers become readers, and perhaps the other way around too, as 40 wordsmiths join the audiences celebrating novels, poetry, non-fiction, journalism, short stories, biographies, histories, children's books, and comic books. Over five days from 12-16 October, there are more than 35 events as well as offsite projects, making this year's festival as packed and diverse as ever.
Not limited to reading, Chapter and Verse covers the full spectrum of writing activity, including storytelling, poetry slams, journalism, book fairs, short story competitions, and even bookbinding workshops. There are celebrity readings, debates and discussions and an emphasis on writers who have challenged the status quo in their work. Liverpool-based Writing on the Wall offers readers a chance to ask questions of Alex Wheatle MBE, who spent time in children's homes and prison, and has emerged as a prize-winning author. A full diary of events is available on the website.
Manchester-based short story specialists Comma Press present their latest venture into science-literature collaboration. Writers were commissioned to recreate and semi-fictionalise real moments from the history of science, and to mark the publication of Litmus - Short Stories From Modern Science there are launch events at both Chapter and Verse (on 15 October) and at Manchester Literature Festival (on 23 October).
Other close links between the North West festivals include a quest to find the ultimate slam poet with spoken word superpowers - Superheroes of Slam, the Dike Omeje Slam Poetry Award 2011, presented by Manchester-based Commonword and Liverpool-based Writing on the Wall. With eight competition stages across the North, the Liverpool heat is taking place on 14 October as part of Chapter and Verse, and the top poet from each heat will be competing at a grand final on 20 October at Yard Theatre, Manchester.
In Lancaster, this year's Litfest is the 34th in its history, making it one of the longest-established literature festivals in the UK. There is a packed line-up of novelists, short story writers, poets, children's writers and storytellers, plus unique opportunities like the three free walk and talk tours of this ancient and literary town. In a headline event, Jon Ronson, filmmaker, writer, documentary maker and author of The Men Who Stare At Goats, talks about how he has explored the theme of madness in his new book The Psychopath Test.
Carol Birch, short-listed for this year's Man Booker prize and now a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, appears with Jo Baker, and Sarah Hall makes a welcome return. Helen Mort, outgoing poet in residence at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, is one of two Northern poets appearing on Litfest's Great Poetry Day. There are also events with Hugh Lupton, Nick Hennessey and Tim Ralphs, while Melvin Burgess, Adèle Geras and Gareth Thompson and other children's authors ask: how far can you go when writing fiction for children? Full details of the festival's programme are available at Litfest's website.