Ledbury Poetry Festival – Celebrating Diversity

Daljit Nagra reading poetry

A week after the UK voted to separate itself from the EU, people gathered in Ledbury to enjoy poetry from all over Europe and further afield. I attended the festival for just one day, and the highlight was a Versopolis event, which included poets from Britain, France, Germany, Croatia, Norway and Austria. Versopolis is an organisation which gives European poets the opportunity to reach new audiences, having their work translated and performing at festivals. The festival was, of course, planned long before the referendum took place, and yet it seemed like every aspect of it was designed to celebrate diversity, encourage cross-border collaboration and create links with Europe and other parts of the world.    Continue reading

Poets on Tour: Carol Ann Duffy and friends

Shore to Shore Poetry AnthologyWhen I discovered that not only Carol Ann Duffy (UK’s Poet Laureate) but also Gillian Clarke (former National Poet of Wales), Jackie Kay (Scottish Makar) and Imtiaz Dharker, were going on tour together, and would be in Monmouth (only a short distance from home), there was no way I could miss this incredible line up.    Continue reading

Celebrating Culture – Looking to the Future

Coleridge in Wales eventJust as the UK decides to divorce itself from the rest of Europe, the arts and culture scene in Britain has never been more international or multi-cultural. I know many artists and writers are horrified by the way this referendum has turned out, and fearful of yet more funding cuts, but I am sure that, no matter what happens over the coming months, they will continue to create work that shocks us, makes us think and helps us to make sense of the world around us.    Continue reading

An International Storytelling Festival

Performer at Beyond the Border Storytelling FestivalStorytelling is an ancient skill which dates back to the days before writing. And it is a dying art. I was fortunate enough to attend a three-day storytelling training workshop a few years ago, organised by Beyond the Border and taught by Jamie Crawford. I had totally underestimated the capacity of the human mind to remember. Previously, I had only ever told a story with a book in my hand, but Jamie Crawford taught us that storytelling is not as difficult as you might think.    Continue reading

Hay Festival Highlights From Days 4, 5 & 6

morpurgo at hay festival amy kerridge

Here are 7 highlights from my last few days at the Hay Festval…

Michael Morpurgo

I missed most of this event, just returning to catch the last few questions. He spoke about how the book which most influenced him was Poetry in the Making, by Ted Hughes, which is also one of my all-time favourites. He also described how he first began making up stories in order to entertain his class, demonstrating the facial expressions of boredom on the face of a Year 6 pupil.    Continue reading

Poetry at the Hay Festival – From Roger McGough to Sarah Howe

Roger McGough, poetry at Hay FestivalLast week I was stewarding in the Tata Tent, the largest of the Hay Festival venues, which meant that, whilst I got to see all the big names, I had to visit other venues for the poetry events, which unfortunately seem to attract a smaller audience.

One of these was Roger McGough, performing alongside the band LiTTLe MACHiNe. The event began with the band playing some classic poems to music including ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ by Yeats and Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’. Continue reading

The Hay Festival – a celebration of literature or fame?

Comedy store players at Hay Festival

The Comedy Store Players

It has struck me that the Hay Festival seems to be more about politics and ideas than books or literature. Out of the 26 events which I attended (mainly as a steward), only 12 of them could really be classed as having a focus on literature, and several of those were about Shakespeare. It seems much more to be a case of getting celebrities to come along and talk about their one book, which could be on any subject from dogs to politics. I do hope that this trend doesn’t get out of hand, and that the celebrity attraction will be balanced out, next year, with plenty of real literature.    Continue reading

10 Hay Festival Highlights from Days 2 & 3

Philip Ardagh - Is your beard real?

I’ve been stewarding and camping and generally thoroughly enjoying the Hay Festival so far. We’ve had sunshine, rain, wind, and everything in between.

Having never been before, I had no idea what to expect. I certainly didn’t think I’d get so much exercise, walking back and forth, and standing up whilst stewarding!

Here are my top ten highlights of days 2 and 3…    Continue reading

Writers at Work (at the Hay Festival)

Writers at work Hay FestivaYesterday I spent some time chatting to a group of writers who are attending the Writers at Work development programme, funded by Arts Council Wales. The programme helps young Welsh writers by providing masterclasses, workshops and networking opportunities with publishers, press and agents over the course of the Hay Festival.    Continue reading

Hay Festival Highlights – Day 1

Salman RushdieMy first impression of the Hay Festival was that it actually feels like it’s indoors, with only a few select squares of grass to remind us that it’s not. My second impression was that it is surprisingly easy to get lost, considering I’m someone who tends to be able to find my way around new places quite easily. I think perhaps that’s because it is so full of people that you spend half your time trying not to bump into anyone, rather than actually looking around you, but it’s certainly a great place for people watching!    Continue reading

The Return Of The Ancient Mariner

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ghost shipA Guest Post written by Dylan Moore

It’s not often that Cardiff Bay plays host to an actual ship. Since the barrage sealed off the capital’s inner harbour from the open sea, some of Cardiff’s maritime history has been forgotten. This year’s Coleridge in Wales festival is all about rediscovering aspects of life that have been jettisoned, downplayed or simply lost, and the arrival of the Matthew (a replica medieval ship) was a potent symbol of something old that is also a harbinger of something new.    Continue reading

Book Review: My Own Dear Brother by Holly Müller

My Own Dear Brother thumbMy Own Dear Brother is a powerful depiction of life in occupied Austria during the Second World War. But it is not a book about war, or a book about occupation. It is a book which makes you realise that anyone is capable of anything, that evil comes not only from outside, but also from within. And it also demonstrates the brutal and unfair treatment of the vulnerable members in society.    Continue reading

A Day At The Cheltenham Poetry Festival

Kevan Manwaring poet

Kevan Manwaring

My day at the Cheltenham Poetry Festival included everything from a thunderstorm to a talking parrot. The first event (which I enjoyed the most) featured Kevan Manwaring performing poetic pieces from his book Lost Borders, interspersed with a selection of traditional folk songs sung by Chantelle Smith. They began in Scotland, with poetry inspired by a walk along Hadrian’s Wall, and moved further afield to Ireland and then America, returning finally to the UK once again, exploring the borders between worlds.    Continue reading

Three Great Authoresses: Brontë, Austen and Eliot

austen eliot bronteCharlotte Brontë, Jane Austen and George Eliot are three of Britain’s greatest women writers, but which one is your favourite? Which one do you think is the greatest? You can add your own vote to the poll at the end of this post.

I attended an event at the Stratford Literature Festival last weekend, with a panel of three biographers. Paula Byrne (The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things), Val Dodd (George Eliot: An Intellectual Life) and Claire Harman (Charlotte Brontë: A Life) each presented the case for their favourite authoress.    Continue reading

The Power of Poetry on Prescription

Emergency PoetDo you read as a form of escapism? Or perhaps you read to calm yourself down at the end of a busy day? Stressed, Unstressed: Classic Poems to Ease the Mind is an anthology of poems selected specifically to help those who are going through tough times (a form of “bibliotherapy”). I attended a fascinating event organised as part of the Stratford Literature Festival, to hear more about this concept. Dr Paula Byrne (academic and founder of ReLit charity), Dr Andrew Schuman (a medical doctor and poet) and Deborah Alma (aka The Emergency Poet) discussed the growing trend in taking literature seriously for its medicinal value in relation to mental health.    Continue reading

Jacqueline Wilson at Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival

Jacqueline Wilson at Cardiff Children's Literature FestivalJacqueline Wilson is an impressive author. I read and loved her books when I was a child and she is still churning out brilliant (and fabulously illustrated) books, year after year, with 38 million books sold in Britain alone. The Story of Tracy Beaker has been turned into four different series on CBBC, and Hetty Feather has been adapted for TV and stage. She also has her own magazine and regularly speaks at events around the country. I should not have been surprised, therefore, to see a queue of families snaking its way outside Cardiff City Hall in anticipation of this event.    Continue reading

How Welsh is Roald Dahl?

Roald Dahl born in CardiffIf disaster strikes on the other side of the globe, the Welsh media always succeed in finding some Welsh person whose second cousin or neighbour’s son was present at the event. This habit of claiming everything for Wales can be amusing and ridiculous, but in the case of Roald Dahl, we (I count myself as Welsh now, after living here for seven years) can definitely claim at least a small part of him for ourselves. He was born here, baptised in the Norwegian church (his parents were Norwegian) and spent his early childhood living in Llandaff (which is now a suburb of Cardiff, although it pretends not to be).    Continue reading

Do we take children’s literature seriously?

book for childrenLast night I attended a lecture on this topic, which was organised as part of the Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival. I was unsure what to expect. My own opinion is that all literature should be taken seriously, including books written for children. At the age of ten I was regularly reading adult books and yet as an adult I am happy to re-read the books of my childhood. I even organised a Roald Dahl themed party for my thirtieth birthday. So what’s the problem?    Continue reading

Cardiff Book Talk: with authors John Harding and Gaynor Arnold

Lewis Carroll writer

Self Portrait of Lewis Carroll

Cardiff Book Talk is run by Cardiff University’s School of English, Communication and Philosophy. Described on their website as “a University book group with a difference”, it is certainly nothing like any book group I’ve been to before. I was impressed that their events are entirely free and open to anyone. Most seem to be discussion-centred, with academics from various disciplines addressing the literature from their perspective. However, this particular session was an opportunity to actually meet the authors in question: John Harding and Gaynor Arnold.    Continue reading

Bath Literature Festival: Part 3 – The Poetry Salon

Rebecca Perry - bookThe final part of my day at the Bath Literature Festival was a ‘Poetry Salon’ (a combined interview and reading) with Tim Liardet and Rebecca Perry. Neither of these poets were known to me prior to the event, but when deciding which events to attend, I had looked them up and thought their work sounded interesting.   Continue reading

Bath Literature Festival: Part 2 – Jane Austen

Jane Austen CentreAfter hearing Sebastian Faulks being interviewed about his work, I headed out into Bath to explore, excited to discover the famous sites as mentioned in Jane Austen’s novels. I headed North, up Milsom Street, where the Tilney family had lodgings in Northanger Abbey, and was pleased to discover that there is now a Waterstones there. I think Jane would have been pleased.    Continue reading

Bath Literature Festival: Part 1 – Sebastian Faulks

Bath Literature Festival bannerI set off early on Saturday morning, walking through a cold, empty city centre to Cardiff Central Station. The homeless were still zipped firmly into their sleeping bags and street-sweepers were doing their best to remove the detritus from the previous night’s Wales vs. France match. The return journey to bath cost just £20, and was well worth it.    Continue reading