Looking Forward to The Anglesey Môntage Writing Festival

The Môntage Writers Festival Committee2A Guest Post Written by Joy Mawby (Chair of Môntage Writers)

“What shall we do next?”
“How about organising a writing festival?”
I remember this conversation during a Môntage Writers’ Committee meeting about eighteen months ago.

It had all started about five years earlier, when members of two Anglesey writing groups met to discuss how they might work together to publish some of their own work.    Continue reading

A Day at the Ledbury Poetry Festival

amali rodrigo

Amali Rodrigo

I couldn’t have picked a better day for attending this year’s Ledbury Poetry Festival – the sun was shining, the roads were quiet and the poetry was exceptional. I only wish I could have stayed for longer. My first event was an opportunity to ‘Meet the Poetry Editors’, followed by poetry readings from Suzannah Evans, Tom Sastry, Jacqueline Saphra, Katherine Towers and Amali Rodrigo, as well as a personal serenade from a blackbird in Ledbury’s old walled garden.    Continue reading

Looking Forward to the 21st Ledbury Poetry Festival

Phillippa SlingerThe Ledbury Poetry Festival is now well established, and 2017 will be bigger than ever, as they celebrate their 21st year. Described by Andrew Motion as “the best” poetry festival in the UK, it will be crammed full of events, including kids activities, free ’20 minute’ readings and writing workshops, alongside the big names in poetry. I interviewed the Festival Manager, Phillipa Slinger, to find out more.       Continue reading

Diary of a Hay Festival Steward – Illustrating Films, Tolkien, Skeletons and Hay Mela – the Last Day!

Hay Mela musicThe fun part of stewarding at Hay is that you never know what to expect. The venues change each day, some events get cancelled, and new events are organised. Day 6 began with another delicious cooked breakfast, and the discovery that two of our events had been cancelled – leaving gaps in the afternoon and an early finish, so I decided to try stewarding in a different venue…    Continue reading

Diary of a Hay Festival Steward Days 2 and 3 – Truth, Lies, Fake News, Fact and Fiction

Tracy EminMy second day of stewarding at the Hay Festival continued in a whirl of crowds, queues and high winds, with Lucy Worsley on Jane Austen and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, from Russian punk band Pussy Riot (both fascinating in different ways), followed by a late night traipse back to the tent and an early start the next morning for the hilarious Andy Hamilton, followed by a real mix of events including Tracy Emin…    Continue reading

Diary of a Hay Festival Steward – Days 1 and 2

hay festival flagsThere’s something unique about the Hay Festival, apart from its size and global reputation; it is such a mish-mash of culture, politics, literature, comedy and even some music – all concentrated down into something quite intense. I stewarded last year and found the experience addictive – the thrill of waiting for the next event to start, wondering how full it will be, discovering new authors you’ve never heard of… So here I am again, stewarding, camping and breathing in the literary air of Hay.    Continue reading

Poetry & Music at the Abergavenny Writing Festival

Rufus Mufasa (2)The Abergavenny Writing Festival began last year, but I wasn’t able to make it, so I was determined to get to at least one of their events this year if at all possible. Life is busy! But I managed to get to the grand finale – an event which combined music and poetry. It was a beautiful drive up into the Welsh hills, to the Kings Arms Hotel, where we sat in a cavernous room with unusual acoustics to hear from some talented local musician-poets.    Continue reading

Poetry – for loss, absence and bearing witness…

isobel dixonOn this – the final day of the Verve Poetry Festival, we have just been treated to a memorable showcase of four poets from Nine Arches Press, whose writing is both poignant and moving, unafraid to face up to the difficulties of life and the pain of loss. All the poets agreed, in their discussion afterwards, that poetry is an essential tool for “bearing witness” in the world, that it’s important to be truthful, allowing emotion to come through in your work…    Continue reading

The Hay Festival on a Budget – A Survival Guide for Stewards

hay festival steward lanyardHaving never been to the Hay Festival before, I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first visit in May 2016, but I decided to sign up for the stewarding role, as I had a very limited budget. It was an incredible, addictive experience and I will certainly be going back again this year.

Before going, I decided to do a bit of research online, to see if anyone had written about what stewarding was really like. But there was very little information out there, so here is my own survival guide for stewarding at the Hay Festival, which I hope will be useful for others…    Continue reading

Looking forward to Dylan Day 2017

dylan thomas paintingInternational Dylan Thomas Day (aka #DylanDay) takes place on 14th May each year, and it’s a fantastic excuse for celebrating the work of this renowned Welsh poet. The idea is that people everywhere (you don’t have to be in Wales) can organise their very own Dylan Thomas themed event, small or large. Last year there were 50 events all across the UK, as well as in New York, Milan, Perth, Sydney and elsewhere… Continue reading

Looking forward to the Verve Poetry Festival: An Interview with Cynthia Miller

Cynthia MillerThe first ever Verve Poetry Festival takes place next month in Birmingham (16th-19th February). It’s set to be an exciting weekend, with a strong emphasis on spoken word performance, as well as the usual poetry readings and creative writing workshops. I interviewed Cynthia Miller (Co-Director of the Festival and a poet herself) to find out more. She began by explaining how it all started…    Continue reading

Looking Forward to Literature Festivals in Wales – 2017

hay festivalWales is home to one of the most famous literature festivals in the world (The Hay Festival), but it is also full of other, quirkier literary festivals, in all shapes and sizes. So, to help you plan ahead, I’ve compiled a list of all the literary / book festivals taking place in Wales during 2017. I’m sure there will be other festivals that I haven’t come across, so please use the comments below to add information about anything I’ve missed out…  Some of the later festivals haven’t confirmed their details yet, so I’ll continue to update this post throughout the year.    Continue reading

Upcoming Literary Festivals & Events

Mark Curtis reading at the Square Writers Open Mic NightIt’s been nearly a year since I first decided to create a book blog (on 23rd January 2016), and what a year it’s been! I’ve read and reviewed some thrilling and beautiful books, interviewed some interesting writers, discovered some thought-provoking poetry and attended some fabulous festivals…    Continue reading

The Magic of Medieval Poetry – Simon Armitage Translating Pearl

Medieval Poem PearlSpeaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Simon Armitage admitted that, when translating the Medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, someone literally had to take it off him, before he would allow it to be finished. “Translation is addictive,” he explained, “and much easier than writing your own poetry, because you can concentrate on it for longer, and it’s far less open-ended”. He added that “working with poets from the past is like tracing family members or finding ancestors; it’s like harmonising, like singing along to the Beatles in the car, two voices together.”    Continue reading

Made in Roath – A Community Festival of Arts & Culture

The Bard of Ely

Made in Roath is a local community arts festival which began eight years ago and has grown into something not to be missed. Roath (aka The People’s Republic of Roath) is an ever-expandable quirky area of Cardiff which even has its own alternative ‘Actual History Museum’. The festival involves art in all its forms and this year, despite a nasty autumnal cold, I managed to get along to some of the spoken word / performance events, which were as fascinating and unique as ever.    Continue reading

Apples, Lyrics & Elves: Highlights from the Cheltenham Literature Festival

Tracy Chevalier book signingLast night I caught a fleeting glimpse of the magical white-tented world that is the Cheltenham Literature Festival. Passing through, from Coventry to Cardiff, I was only able to attend three events, but each one was thoroughly enjoyable. With a similar set up to the Hay Festival, including an almost identical bookshop tent, the same (though fewer) toilets, and extortionately priced refreshments, there was an air of familiarity that was somewhat comforting.    Continue reading

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

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

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

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

Book Review: Where My Heart Used To Beat by Sebastian Faulks

Book - Where my heart used to beat by Sebastian FaulksAt the Bath Literature Festival Faulks spoke about his earlier work as an attempt to discover “how we got to this point”, whilst his later books examine the question “What are we?”. He described Where my Heart used to beat, his 13th novel, as a way of “wrapping up all of that”, a culmination of all his previous writing.     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