Open books, open minds. That’s the motto of Durham Book Festival, which will let audiences into the lives and writing of some of our leading novelists, poets and thinkers from 6th to 14th October.
Headline guests include Sarah Waters, David Olusoga, Sarah Perry, Pat Barker, Carol Ann Duffy and Alan Johnson. While we’re certainly looking forward to seeing these, we’re proud to be involved in many other events as well.
As usual, our Centre for Poetry and Poetics have organised the Festival’s poet laureate, who this year will be Jacob Polley. Regarded as one of the leading poets of the new British generation, he’ll be presenting a performance of Lamanby. This beguiling vision of boyhood in the North is filled with voices, monsters and magic, and combines poetry, music and soundscapes.
Other new voices in poetry will be showcased at Faber Poets, where Rachael Allen, Sophie Collins and Zaffar Kunial will share the stage. The more established voice of Simon Armitage will launch our Literary Birds conference, while Michael O’Neill and Jamie McKendrick can be heard at Hatfield College Chapel. From listening to other poets to speaking about your own favourites, there will be an opportunity to pass on a poem that has been a friend to you at the Poetry Exchange.
This year’s Book Festival particularly celebrates the centenary of the women’s suffrage movement, so writing by and about women plays a central role.
Claire O’Callaghan and Sophie Franklin will battle it out to put the merits of Emily Brontë and Charlotte Brontë to the audience. While the Brontës made a name for themselves, Annabella Milbanke and Ada Lovelace are probably best-known via their association with Lord Byron. However, Miranda Seymour will be emphasising their achievements in their own right.
From women who dared to be different, to people who dared to take on the mountains: a unique evening at the Oriental Museum will bring together the poet Helen Mort, historic Himalayan climbing expeditions, and the exhibition Scaling the Heights.
Books aren’t only written about dangerous feats; they can also be dangerous in and of themselves. Thrills and intrigue await with Claire Harman, who will introduce Murder by the Book. This is her gripping investigation into a crime that shocked literary London, which was inspired by one of the bestselling novels of its day. If that isn’t evidence enough that books matter, you can also come face to face with the Most Dangerous Books in the World at the Palace Green Library archive.
Speaking about the Festival, Professor Simon James notes that it’s an opportunity for the University, County and visitors to come together to celebrate “the power of the written, and the spoken (and this year, the illustrated) word”. From a novel that caused a crime, to women who used writing to break boundaries for their gender, the power of words will be apparent and enjoyed throughout.
These are just some of the many events taking place at this year’s Durham Book Festival, which runs from 6th to 14th October. We’ll be blogging, twittering and reviewing throughout, but in the meantime get your tickets soon to avoid missing out.