What’s On: North East Literature and Book Events in February 2020

This February’s North East Book Events listing is full of literary events in Durham, Sunderland, Newcastle, Teesside and beyond. If you’re an event organiser we can update this listing throughout the month, so please share with us. And if you’re reading this, get out and support some of these activities and the excellent cultural scene we have in our region.

Perhaps the particular regional highlight this month is the launch of the Book of Newcastle, a new collection published by Comma Press featuring some of the city’s best and brightest writing talent in celebration of this Northern powerhouse. The launch event is 6th February in Newcastle City Library.

Staying in Newcastle, the Newcastle Centre for Literary Arts spring season begins, with authors such as Aida Edemariam, Lars Iyer, Peter Bennet and Keith Hutson reading and in conversation. This month’s Newcastle Insights Lecture also sees Paul Burston ask the provocative question ‘Is the Gay Novel Dead?

Here in Durham we’re looking forward to an evening of Civil Insolencies with Bob Beagrie, learning about Holocaust survivors in post-war detective fiction, and welcoming back Durham University graduate Awais Khan as he presents his novel The Company of Strangers at Waterstones Durham.

These are just a few of the highlights. Be sure to subscribe to the newsletter or follow us here, on Twitter, or Facebook, to get the first word on next month’s events.


Sat 01
10:00 in Waterstones, WaterstonesDurham
Crime Book Group
with Will Shaw and Jo Spain
Link to event Very excited to welcome both Will Shaw & Jo Spain to chat to our crime book group, this will be brilliant! All Welcome, no tickets required, just turn up! Organised by Waterstones.

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Mon 03
19:00 in Waterstones, WaterstonesNewcastle
with Alice Oseman
Link to event To celebrate the release of Heartstopper Volume 3, Alice Oseman will be joining us in store to discuss the third instalment in her heartfelt queer graphic novel series about life, love and everything in between. Organised by Waterstones.

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Wed 05
17:00 in Elvet Riverside 149, Elvet Riverside 149Durham
Material Language in the Middle Ages: How Early Modern Printers presented Middle English
with Professor Tim Machan (Notre Dame)
Link to event Part of the Mothertongues Seminar Series. This illustrated talk will mainly focus on the ways in which Old and Middle English were represented in print into the nineteenth century, and what exactly Old English and Middle English were, in perceptual terms. Organised by Durham University Department of English Studies.

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Thu 06
13:00 in Barbara Strang Teaching Centre, Barbara Strang Teaching CentreNewcastle
First Thursday
with Tamsin Rees
Link to event Tamsin Rees is a playwright, Associate Artist at Live Theatre, and a Northern Bridge PhD candidate at Newcastle University. She has worked with the Royal Court, Northern Stage, ARC, New Writing North, ‘Bonnie and the Bonnettes,’ and co-founded the theatre company ‘Sticky Theatre’. Organised by Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts.

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Thu 06
17:30 in City Library, City LibraryNewcastle
The Book of Newcastle
Link to event Join us for the launch of The Book of Newcastle, a new collection of stories showcasing some of Newcastle’s best & brightest writing talents Organised by Newcastle Libraries.

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Thu 06
18:30 in Van Mildert College, Van Mildert CollegeDurham
What Shaped Me as a Writer
with Rachel Lynch
Link to event Funded by the Van Mildert College Trust and in collaboration with the Van Mildert SCR Book Club, the third SCR Word Sharing event focuses on influences in writing crime fiction.

Rachel, author of the DI Kelly Porter crime book series, grew up in the Lake District, read History at Lancaster University and taught History in London before marrying an Army Officer. They lived in 13 houses in as many years. Meanwhile Rachel became a personal trainer. Her husband left the army in 2013, so now they are trying to adjust to life as civilians with two teenagers and terrier called Poppy. The human capacity for compassion as well as its descent into the brutal and murky world of crime are fundamental to her work.

Free to attend, all welcome! Organised by Van Mildert College SCR.

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Thu 06
19:15 in Culture Lab, Culture LabNewcastle
Aida Edemariam in conversation
Link to event Aida Edemariam will be reading from, and in conversation about, her debut book, The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History (Fourth Estate, 2018), winner of the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize 2019 and Jerwood Award 2014. It recounts the story of modern Ethiopia – a nation that would undergo a tumultuous transformation from feudalism to monarchy to Marxist revolution to democracy – through the life of her remarkable grandmother. Edemariam has worked as a journalist in New York, Toronto and London, where she is currently a senior feature writer and editor for the Guardian. Organised by Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts.

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Fri 07
16:00 in Armstrong Building, Armstrong BuildingNewcastle
‘Romantic Afterlives: John Addington Symonds and Percy Bysshe Shelley’ and ‘Secret Print and the Public Sphere’
with Aalia Ahmed and Joseph Hone
Link to event We run a regular series of seminars across the year. All are welcome, so please come along! Organised by The North East Forum in Eighteenth-Century and Romantic Studies.

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Mon 10
18:00 in Lit and Phil, Lit and PhilNewcastle
Violence and Vengeance: the Untold Story of Odysseus’ Return in Popular Culture
with Dr. Sarah Miles
Link to event A free public lecture. Organised by The Lit and Phil.

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Tue 11
18:00 in World Heritage Site Visitor Centre, World Heritage Site Visitor CentreDurham
An Evening Salon
with Hugh Haughton, Jenna Clake, the Sassenachs
Link to event SPEAK is an irregular poetry salon, based in the North East. All welcome to come along.

The Anabase Nexus: T.S. Eliot, St. John Perse, Valéry Larbaud and ‘cosmopolitan lyricism’. Plus poems by Jenna Clake and music by the Sassenachs. Organised by SPEAK.

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Wed 12
00:00 in Waterstones, WaterstonesDurham
In the Company of Strangers
with Awais Khan
Link to event Organised by Waterstones.

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Thu 13
19:00 in Forum Books, Forum BooksCorbridge
with Matt Wesolowski
Link to event Join us as we welcome back award-winning North-East author Matt Wesolowski as he talks us through his new book Beast. Organised by Forum Books.

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Thu 13
19:15 in Culture Lab, Culture LabNewcastle
Lars Iyer in conversation
Link to event Lars Iyer, author of the Spurious trilogy and Wittgenstein Jr., revisits philosophy in his latest novel Nietzsche and the Burbs (Melville House, 2019). Iyer’s novel follows a group of students through their last few weeks of school, centering on a charismatic new student from a private school, nicknamed ‘Nietzsche’ for his brilliance and intimations of oncoming madness. Iyer is currently Reader in Creative Writing at Newcastle University, where he was formerly a Lecturer in Philosophy.

David Winters is Assistant Professor in American Literature at Durham University. He has written on literature and philosophy for the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and is the author of Infinite Fictions (Zero Books, 2015) and co-editor of The Digital Critic: Literary Culture Online (OR Books 2018). Organised by Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts.

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Fri 14
17:30 in St Mary’s College, St Mary’s CollegeDurham
Civil Insolencies
with Bob Beagrie
Link to event Civil Insolencies will be a 1 hour show by the poet Bob Beagrie. It will involve a selection of poems from the book set to accompanying live music, song and recorded sound effects. It will be introduced by Phil Philo of The Battlefield Trust, followed by a Q & A. Organised by St Mary’s College.

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Sat 15
10:00 in Waterstones, WaterstonesDurham
Crime Book Group
with Elly Griffiths
Link to event We are over joyed to host the most brilliant Elly Griffiths in our branch, all welcome she will be chatting to us for an hour. No tickets, so just turn up. Organised by Waterstones.

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Tue 18
19:00 in Forum Books, Forum BooksCorbridge
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line
with Deepa Anappara
Link to event Award-winning journalist Deepa Anappara is coming to Corbridge to discuss her extraordinary and highly praised debut novel, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line. Organised by Forum Books.

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Wed 19
14:00 in The Curve, The CurveTeesside University
English and Creative Writing Research Seminar
with Gwen Lester and Rachael Taylor
Link to event Gewn Lester will present a paper entitled: ‘Lacanian Imaginings in Late Victorian Poetry: Aestheticising the Venus as Scopophilic Object’. Rachael Taylor will present a paper entitled: ‘“I supply it for ‘em, but we keep the trick so,”: Cosmetics and Commodification in Charles Dickens Dombey and Son (1848) and David Copperfield (1851)’ Organised by Teesside University.

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Wed 19
17:30 in Grey College, Grey CollegeDurham
The most beautiful book in Scotland: Regime Change, Reformation and Rebellion on Parchment
with Professor Wilson Poon (University of Edinburgh)
Link to event The collection of medieval manuscripts in Edinburgh University Library includes a 15th century book of hours (or ‘primer’) produced in the south of England ca. 1430 (listed as MS 39 in the catalogue). The early-20th century pioneering codicologist Catherine Borland, who catalogued all the western medieval manuscripts not only in EUL but also in the National Library of Scotland, opined that this was ‘perhaps the most beautiful book in Scotland’. Yet the manuscript, which was owned exclusively by prosperous medieval grocers for at least one whole century of its early existence, has remained little studied. Professor Poon gives a brief description of the sumptuous manuscript, and will then show how three iconic moments of British history have been ‘fossilised’ into its pages by marginalia and other material traces left by successive owners: the ousting of the Lancastrian Henry VI by the Yorkist Edward IV, the attempt by Henry VIII to erase Thomas Beckett from the English religious memory, and the only military victory scored by the Scottish Covenanters against Charles II’s Royal forces. Professor Poon will end by speculating on a possible link between this manuscript and the first great English composer of polyphonic church music, John Dunstaple (or Dunstable). Organised by Durham University Institute of Advanced Study.

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Thu 20
17:30 in Hallgarth House, Hallgarth HouseDurham
Mid-Century Reading Group: Samuel Beckett’s “Krapp’s Last Tape”
with Botsa Katara
Link to event This session will be led by Botsa Katara. The reading group is open to postgraduate research students, early-career researchers, and staff. Refreshments provided. Organised by Mid-Century Reading Group.

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Thu 20
17:30 in Herschel Building, Herschel BuildingNewcastle
Is the gay novel dead?
with Paul Burston
Link to event Last year, novelist Alan Hollinghurst declared that ‘the gay novel has had its day’. Nothing could be further from the truth. The political context may have changed, but the need to tell our stories is as strong as ever.

In this lecture, author and founder of Polari literary salon and the Polari Prize, Paul Burston, will argue that LGBT+ writing has never been more necessary, or in better health. Organised by Newcastle University Insights.

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Fri 21
19:00 in Waterstones, WaterstonesNewcastle
An Evening with Ben Aaronovitch
Link to event Ben will appear in conversation with Jeannette Ng, author of UNDER THE PENDULUM SUN, to talk fantastical worlds and magical mysteries. Organised by Waterstones.

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Thu 27
17:30 in Hallgarth House, Hallgarth HouseDurham
“What is your country, may I ask?”: Displaced Persons, Holocaust Survivors, and the Persistence of Fascism in 1940s and 1950s British Detective Fiction
with Dr. Victoria Stewart (University of Leicester)
Link to event The refugee, the displaced person and the former concentration camp inmate can all be caught sight of in British detective fiction during the 1940s and 1950s, and their presence prompts consideration of kinds of criminality that extend beyond the more usual domestic focus of the form. Such figures also provide scope for an assessment of how new understandings of Britain and its relation to Europe were being broached in popular writing at this period. Although the Holocaust survivor is a very particular type of incomer to Britain, this figure can be contextualised in relation to pre-war refugees who make an appearance in detective fiction throughout the later 1930s. These depictions are rarely nuanced, and the reasons why individuals have left their homelands are not always specified, so that an Austrian refugee, who may have fled anti-communist action in the early 1930s, may not be explicitly distinguished from a German-Jewish escapee from Nazi persecution, and the different experiences of pre- and post-war refugees are not always elaborated upon. This blurring is relevant to a broader consideration of mid-century understandings of Nazi war crimes. The economy with which characterisation and setting are typically evoked in detective fiction can lead to a reliance on stereotypes of either a positive or negative kind, but some authors do successfully use the detective form, with all its supposed limitations, to raise wider questions about justice, guilt and responsibility. I’ll consider a range of examples from authors including Agatha Christie, G. D. H. and Margaret Cole, and Cyril Hare. Organised by Inventions of the Text.

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Thu 27
19:15 in Culture Lab, Culture LabNewcastle
Poetry reading
with Peter Bennet and Keith Hutson
Link to event Two very different northern poets published by Bloodaxe come together for a lively evening of storytelling poetry and engaging repartee.

Peter Bennet, described by the Poetry Book Society as a writer of ‘bold imaginative strokes, subversive connections and dark wit,’ reinvents the world with linguistic resourcefulness and panache in his seventh collection, Mischief (2018).

Comedy-writer-turned-poet Keith Hutson’s debut collection, Baldwin’s Catholic Geese (2019), explores the delight and heartbreak of being human through the lost world of Music Hall and Variety entertainment. Organised by Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts.

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