From politics to poetry, and fiction to feminism, there’s something for everyone at this year’s Durham Book Festival, which brings over 70 writers to the city from 6th to 18th October.
This year’s highlights include acclaimed actor and writer Sheila Hancock talking about her debut novel Miss Carter’s War, a panoramic portrait of post-war Britain, and Jung Chang, bestselling author of Wild Swans and Mao: The Unknown Story. Other speakers include the broadcaster Kate Adie, playwright Michael Chaplin, and literary critic John Carey.
The Department of English is involved in several Book Festival events. In particular our Centre for Poetry and Poetics will be organising events on 18th October, dedicated to the art and pleasure of poetry. On this day the annual Festival Laureate, who this year will be acclaimed poet Paul Farley, will give his first reading from a poem commissioned especially for the Festival. Earlier on, the Centre’s director, Professor Stephen Regan, will be introducing one of the North-east’s most prominent poets, Tom Pickard, who returns to Durham following his very popular reading earlier this year. Lastly, from established poets to a celebration of new talent on 18th, one highlight will be a showcase of writers on the Faber New Poets scheme: Rachael Allen, Will Burns, Zaffar Kunial and Declan Ryan.
The Festival will also feature some of the Department’s own creative writers. Professor Michael O’Neill will be celebrating his new collection Gangs of Shadow on 16th October, when he will share the stage with the award-winning Jamie McKendrick. Two “Masters of the Macabre” will present their recent novels on 11th October. Lauren Owen’s gothic novel, The Quick, is set in Victorian England in the world of the mysterious Aegolius Club, while Dr Dan Vyleta’s thriller, The Crooked Maid, is set in Vienna in 1948, and was described by The Independent as ‘a thrilling tale of war crimes, family secrets, murder and blackmail’.
From fantasy to feminism, Professor David Herman will host the Costa award-winning authors, Bryan and Mary Talbot and Kate Charlesworth as they unveil their latest graphic novel. A tale of loyalty, love and courage, set against a backdrop of Edwardian Britain, Sally Heathcote: Suffragette follows the fortunes of a maid of all-work swept up in the feminist militancy of the era.
Looking at a similar time period but through the lens of children’s fiction, Professor Simon James will kick off the Festival’s big read by talking about the enduring appeal of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, The Wind in the Willows. What is it about Mr Toad, Badger and Ratty that has continued attract readers since the book was first published in 1908? The book will be celebrated at libraries and family events throughout the Festival. Simon James is co-curator of the related Palace Green Library exhibition, “Books for Boys: Heroism, Adventure & Empire at the Dawn of the First World War,” which runs throughout the Festival and beyond.
Finally, the Department is delighted to bring to Durham one of the leading critical and cultural critics of our time, Terry Eagleton. Well known for his brilliant studies of English and Irish literature, Eagleton is also a controversial and enthralling writer on religion, politics, and ethics. Join us on 11th October as he poses the provocative question, “Was Jesus a Revolutionary?”